Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed Tuesday with the notion that Americans should vote based on how politics impacts their lives, not their religion.
The question this raises is, how can the two truly be separated?
MSNBC host Joy Reid introduced the subject by referencing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, finding that the U.S. Constitution did not create a national right to obtain an abortion.
The opinion reflected “religious extremism” on the part of the justices, Reid argued.
The MSNBC host asked Pelosi for advice on how to convince Americans “to vote not on how politics will impact your religion, but how it will impact your life.”
“That’s right,” the California congresswoman responded, seeming to agree that Americans should keep their religion separate from their politics.
Concerning abortion, Pelosi said, “It’s a personal issue. It’s an issue of faith” that no lawmaker or judge should intrude on.
The problem with her statement is that all laws, in the final analysis, are a matter of faith: This is right, that is wrong.
At the federal level, the Supreme Court determined that the Constitution is silent on the matter of abortion, and that therefore it is up to individual states to make the call.
As Justice Samuel Alito succinctly wrote in his majority opinion,
“We hold that Roe [v. Wade] and [Planned Parenthood v.] Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely — the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Pelosi went on to cite then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy’s famous address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960 for the notion that people should keep politics and religion separate.
The issue Kennedy addressed was whether, as potentially the first Roman Catholic president in U.S. history, he would listen to the dictates of the pope or his church over the Constitution and the overall interests of the American people.
Pelosi summarized Kennedy’s remarks by saying, “It’s not important what religion I believe in. What’s important is what America I believe in.”
Kennedy spoke to the loyalty issue directly, telling the Protestant ministers,
“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish, where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source, where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”
“Contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters — and the church does not speak for me.”
That’s good and right. Religious institutions don’t have the right to dictate national policy, but that’s not to say they can’t express their views on issues.
No matter what topic came before Kennedy, he stated that he would act “in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates.”
Kennedy closed by saying that he would fulfill his oath of office faithfully, “so help me God.”
Therein lies the tension. There is no way to separate one’s religion — what one believes about life and reality — from the choices one makes as a politician or voter. Religious faith informs people’s consciences.
Indeed, the country was founded on religious faith.
The Declaration of Independence states,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Did you catch that? The only reason unalienable rights (those that cannot justly be separated from a person) exist is that they were granted by God.
That’s what the 56 signers of the Declaration professed they believed.
So, contrary to Pelosi’s assertion, Americans cannot separate their religion from their politics, because laws in the end are a reflection of people’s faith.
A version of this article originally appeared on Patriot Project.
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