The Democrats' 2012 platform is an interesting document.
It is full of the usual political bromides one would expect. It's heavy on its support for the right to abortion, fawning in its adulation of unions, and full of paeans to other key party constituencies. What it doesn't do, however, is talk very much about God.
As reported Tuesday, the original document left out the words "God given" from a section having to do with hard work and human potential. As late as 2008, however, the words were there, leaving more than a few people wondering what happened.
No official explanation had been given; indeed one may not even be warranted. Most likely, say people who have been involved with writing platforms at conventions before, is that whoever was responsible for drafting the particular section in question likely rewrote what had been used four years ago, took the words out, and no one noticed. Of course, once this was pointed out, in a political face-saving move, they decided drop "the almighty" back in.
The Democrats, however, are not the only ones who have to deal with religion in the fall campaign. The Republicans have an issue of their own, arising from the fact that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the first Mormon to ever been nominated for president by a major party.
It is undeniable that religious conservatives, particularly religious Christians, are the bulwark of the party's political base. For many of them, it is a nonissue. Indeed the available polling data suggests strongly that this is the case. There are some Christians, however, who do not consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to be part of the Christian faith and for whom Romney's religious beliefs are a matter for concern.
For the Republicans, this is not an issue that should be overlooked. It has already been established that some operatives supportive of Barack Obama's re-election have attempted to start "a whispering campaign" among Christian conservatives to make Romney's religion an issue. Hank Hanegraaff, who is also known on Christian radio as "The Bible Answer Man", has just released a DVD that purports to tell the story of Latter Day Saints founder Joseph Smith's "life and his campaign for president of the United States."
From the text of the message, it is reasonably clear the portrait it paints of Smith is unflattering. "Of course, the issue of a Mormon in the White House is in the spotlight today, and that's why I want you to have these important resources right away," Hanegraaff writes in an E-mail advertisement. "I want you to be informed and equipped to use the current political discussion as a springboard to share the gospel as you point out the discrepancies between Mormonism and Christianity."
Each of us has to decide for ourselves what the relevance is of an individual's personal faith to their qualifications to hold the nation's highest office. Those who thought this particular issue died with Jack Kennedy's election in 1960 may have been mistaken. The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, thought enough of it to include a ban on religious tests in the U.S. Constitution. As Hanegraaff himself says in his E-mail, "And of course our own choice must depend not on the religion of the candidate but on who we feel will best advance the common good, as that common good is defined by Scripture: to love our neighbors, help the less fortunate, promote justice, and follow God's plan for society."
We must each reach our own conclusions, conclusions hopefully based on the values that each candidate for president expresses, their belief in a Creator who endowed us all with certain rights that are unalienable, and what those candidates would do once in office to allow each of us to express fully our own beliefs and who would respect the dictates of our individual faiths.
On this point there is little to guide but what is there is instructive. As part of his much vaunted reform of the nation's healthcare system, President Barack Obama is forcing religious institutions to provide health insurance that includes coverage for abortion, sterilization, and abortifacients even though these are in violation of church teachings. And, upon coming into office, Obama ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to rescind regulations enacted late in the Bush administration to protect the freedom of conscience for doctors and nurses who did not want, by reason of their own religious beliefs, to perform or assist in abortions.
There are no doubt other examples but the message is clear. One candidate, Romney, stands for the proposition that religious freedom is paramount to American liberty. The other, Barack Obama, seems to believe it is subservient to the desires of the state. For most of us, this would seem to be the more important issue upon which to base a vote for president.