Monday, December 24, 2007

Does church guidance on issues voting push the "no electioneering" envelope?

In an opinion piece in Monday's USA Today, columnist Mary Zeiss Stange says that while federal tax law may bar churches from endorsing candidates, churches nonetheless "provide powerful and sometimes-threatening nudges to the faithful."  She argues that "[w]hen salvation is dangled as an incentive, some voters could feel they have no choice at all."

Stange points to a document by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to guide Catholic voters. In this document (p. 15, no. 34), the bishops assert that "A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil." The bishops acknowledge that a voter may decide to vote for a candidate who holds an "unacceptable position" but should do so "only for truly grave moral reasons," (pp. 15-16, no. 35) and knowing that the vote "may affect the individual's salvation." (p. 16, no. 38)  Stange observes that "This is not quite to say, "If you vote for a pro-choice candidate, you risk going to hell." But it comes reasonably close."

Jewish Republicans do sometimes get told to "gay gehenna"  (Yiddish for "go to hell!"), but somehow that seems different.


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