Stop using the ‘but’
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, November 30, 2006
As college students, we have the new and often unappreciated privilege of being able to vote. We can have much influence on the future, and as moral, religious people we can influence the character and morality of those who we chose to rule our country. One thing we need to watch out for is politicians who claim to be personally opposed to some moral wrong, yet do absolutely nothing about it politically or even encourage that wrong through their political decisions. This position is called the “I am personally opposed, but …” position and was popularized for our generation by the antics of Senator John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election with his position on abortion. Bear in mind I am not discussing abortion, so you avid pro-lifers or pro-choicers can calm down. I just find the “I am personally opposed, but …” position invalid and completely inconsistent. A politician who discovers moral norms that are not often justifiable when broken should be willing to rally support for those issues. Being personally opposed and politically in favor means you are supporting and cooperating in what is wrong.
My problem is the misconception of private opposition and public support. I believe Catholics and all politicians need to stop hiding behind “privately opposed,” speak the truth, be honest about their beliefs and stop what I see as the cynical appeal of votes from their party members by faking a strong and unwavering faith. Our friends the Catholic bishops have made noise on this topic and a few threatened to deny communion to presidential candidate John Kerry. You may ask, what gives the bishops the right to do this? What about separation of church and state? In fact, the free exercise clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution allows this. Both bishops and politicians are completely free to persuade the public to the moral truth they discovered, not created. Religious freedom is no excuse for the inconsistencies of the “I am personally opposed, but …” position. A politician cannot support publicly what he knows is wrong personally. How can you support something you find wrong? It is unnatural to not be in line with your personal beliefs.
The evil of slavery was ended by consistent politicians who were morally opposed to slavery and actually did something about it to try to end a wrong to so many innocent people. The “I am personally opposed, but …” position prevents the spread and clarification of debatable moral truths of our time such as torture, stem-cell research, nuclear war and even abortion.