Is the GOP the party of God?

Frank Yonkof

From time to time, I pick up the local newspaper to read the letters to the editor to see some conservative complain about how the Democrats are godless people.

“What foolishness,” I think to myself. “Since when did being a Democrat mean that you are an atheist?”

But the undeniable truth is that many people in this nation link faith and religion to the Republican Party, while the Democrats (with their liberal ideas) are associated with everything anti-religious.

This became increasingly clear to me back in 2004. At the time, the priest at the Catholic church I attended gave homilies that stopped short of endorsing President George Bush by name. It was made clear to everyone in the parish just who they had the moral obligation to support. And to this day, I still feel like that priest took advantage of his position and our parishioners.

We’ve since joined a Catholic church in the next town over.

But this indirect endorsement of Bush was nothing exclusive to my former parish. All across the country, many priests and bishops made clear which party their parishioners should vote for.

Bishop Raymond Burke even came out publicly to say that he would refuse John Kerry, a Catholic, communion if he were ever in his diocese.

Back in 2004, the pro-life movement was at the forefront of the election. But in reality, this was nothing more than a clever name for the anti-abortion movement. It seemed the pro-life movement no longer included issues about the death penalty or war.

In fact, a church near us tried to calm growing questions about how war could be justifiable “in some circumstances” with a special topic seminar.

How can it be that the Catholic vote is the biggest swing vote in the country? Yet the Catholic church is practically linked to the Republican Party?

To understand the reasoning behind this, it is necessary to understand the current structure of the church. At the lower level of the clergy, priests are rarely outspoken. While some make it clear which party their parishioners should vote for, the majority of priests are much too dignified for that sort of thing.

When it comes to a national level, American bishops tend to be more pro-Republican and more vocal in their disapproval of Democrats.

Over the summer, the University of Notre Dame gave President Barack Obama an honorary degree while almost 80 American bishops publicly disapproved. Their rationale was simple: He is pro-choice.

The crazy thing is that the high-ranking clergy at the Vatican have a favorable view of President Barack Obama and his policies (albeit excluding his pro-choice stance). Over the summer, the Holy Father and others in the Vatican had a great anticipation for Obama’s visit.

While social conservatives often play into the idea that liberals cannot be religious, the fact is that many liberal views go hand-in-hand with Christianity.

Issues of health care reform, capital punishment, poverty and corporate greed, and the war in Iraq are all issues that the Catholic church and the Democrats share common ground on (I cannot speak for other religions, though).

In my opinion, neither political party is fit to receive the Catholic church’s endorsement, nor any other church for that matter. In the realm of faith, there is no such thing as the “lesser of two evils,” and no political party is going to be completely in-line with an entire religion’s beliefs.

Therefore, it is not the church’s place to endorse political candidates or parties. Religious institutions should not have to lower its standards to agree with a set platform.

With that said, it is important for Catholics to use their own judgment to decide which candidate best lives up to their own values.

Religion in politics is important. People should use their faith to decide on candidates and issues. But religion should never use politics.

Frank Yonkof is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at[email protected].