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Religious Liberty Issues in the Election

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Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty

October 20, 2004


Religious Liberty Issues in the Election

Maureen Dowd, a syndicated New York Times columnist,

recently wrote about the support some Catholic Bishops are

lending to Bush, sending slanted voter guides to churches,

and publicly contending that a vote for “a candidate like

John Kerry” constitutes knowing cooperation with evil, an

act that must be confessed or lead to eternal damnation.

These Catholic Bishops focus on issues like abortion

rights, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research,

while ignoring other Catholic concerns, like the death

penalty and war. Dowd observed that the Pope opposed the

war in Iraq.

Meanwhile, one Adventist pastor told his congregation that

he will not vote because he does not want the moral

responsibility for a candidate’s policies and actions.

Ellen White’s statements support exercising caution in

voting, but she also wrote in support of voting: “In our

favored land, every voter has some voice in determining

what laws shall control the nation. Should not that

influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance

and virtue?” Gospel Workers, p. 387.

Moral responsibility cuts both ways. As citizens, we are

morally accountable for the use of our vote, whether or not

we choose to vote. Therefore, it behooves us to give due

consideration to the issues.

Seventh-day Adventists can easily fall into the same moral

trap as the Catholic Bishops, making a litmus test out of

one set of issues, like abortion and gay marriage, while

ignoring other important issues, such as religious freedom.

Using a single issue, even religious liberty, as the litmus

test has the advantage of simplicity, but may be simply

wrong. Your Public Affairs & Religious Liberty Department

would not presume to instruct anyone how to vote. Yet we

have been asked to analyze the candidates with respect to

religious liberty issues.

Let’s identify the major religious liberty issues:

1. United States Supreme Court appointments. One or more

vacancies are expected during the next term. These

appointments will have the opportunity to shape the future

of religious liberty for the next generation. Right now,

the court is often divided 5-4. Even a single change in the

court could tip the scales for or against religious


2. Workplace Religious Freedom. The Seventh-day Adventist

Church has sponsored SB 893—the Workplace Religious Freedom

Act, the most significant civil rights bill in a


3. Faith-based funding. The expansion of federal funding

for churches and their ministries is a bad idea that

violates the constitution and distorts the mission of


4. Ten Commandments. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide,

but Congress has already considered various schemes to

support the public display of this religious text.

5. Court stripping schemes. In the wake of the Supreme

Court’s decision regarding the Pledge of Allegiance, a new

court stripping scheme has been hatched to deprive the

federal courts of jurisdiction over cases involving the

Pledge. These schemes are not only unconstitutional, but

hostile to religious freedom.

The greatest threat to religious liberty comes from either

party having a concentration of power. The right wants the

church to control the state, while the left wants the state

to control the church. A balance of power is needed.

If the Republicans gain control of the Senate and the White

House, the path will be clear for easy confirmation of the

most extreme judicial nominees. Bush has already declared

that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are his

model for future Supreme Court appointments. This is

downright scary, as these are the two justices most hostile

to religious freedom. This is because they have seriously

eroded constitutional protection for the free exercise of

religion, as well as undermining the wall of separation

between church and state. Conservative judicial

appointments can be expected to further erode religious

liberty protections. Conservatives support such judges in

the hope that if appointed to the Supreme Court, they will

overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal. Meanwhile,

such justices continue to erode the rest of our rights and


The Workplace Religious Freedom Act has strong support from

both parties. The lead Democratic sponsor in the Senate is

John Kerry. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has been

noncommittal, and has not provided any assistance toward

passing the bill. Kerry has supported this bill for several

years, and has actively worked to recruit other Democratic

sponsors, and to shore up support in the face of A.C.L.U.


The “faith-based initiative” was started under the Clinton

administration. Bush has taken it to new levels, and has

expanded funding opportunities to local churches, something

that is clearly unconstitutional. However, there are

multiple dangers here, including federal audits of

churches; distorting churches’ mission to serve the

government; muting the prophetic voice of the church; and

making the church into a welfare arm of the state.

Basically, your tax dollars are funding another church’s

proselytism. It is “sinful and tyrannical,” Jefferson once

said, to force a man to furnish contributions to support

another man’s religion, or even his own. It still is.

Congressional Republicans have supported Judge Roy Moore,

and are weighing various schemes to promote the Ten

Commandments publicly. There is danger whenever government

wants to promote certain religious texts or ideas.

Government lacks any authority, constitutional or biblical,

to meddle in religious affairs. It is a small step from

contending for the posting of the Ten Commandments, to

requiring the observance of them. The Supreme Court can be

expected to bring some balance to this issue, given its

past rulings on prayer and holiday displays. Meanwhile, the

Republicans in Congress advocate positions blatantly at

odds with our Constitution.

Court stripping has become a fashionable approach to

problems of an “activist” federal judiciary. The idea is

simple: restrict the power of the Federal courts to decide

a certain group of cases, such as those involving the

Pledge of Allegiance. Then, in this example, public school

children can recite the Pledge, including the phrase “one

nation, under God,” and the Federal courts cannot entertain

constitutional challenges. There are at least two problems

with this approach. First, the constitution does not give

Congress the power to do this. If Congress did have the

power to pick and choose which sorts of cases the Federal

courts could hear, then Congress could deprive the Federal

courts of the power to hear any First Amendment cases. The

government would be free to restrict our free speech or our

religious freedom, and no one could challenge such

oppression in court. Court stripping is an unusually

dangerous idea. It is supported by some Congressional

Republicans. It is unclear whether President Bush would go

along with such a plan.

What about the marriage issue? Both candidates declare

their support for traditional marriage. Clearly, Kerry is

more supportive of gay rights than Bush. The real action

concerns a constitutional amendment that would restrict

marriage to a man and a woman. Such an amendment failed to

pass the House of Representatives earlier this fall. I have

been publicly supportive of such an amendment. Many assume

that President Bush would be more supportive of a marriage

amendment. This is not necessarily so. Any constitutional

amendment must be adopted by a two-thirds vote of both the

House and Senate. This means it needs considerable

Democratic support. Bush publicly supported a marriage

amendment, but it is unclear that he pushed very hard to

pass it. A Democratic president who saw the political

advantage of supporting a marriage amendment would be in a

much better position to secure the needed Democratic

support. In any event, a marriage amendment is such a long

shot under the best of circumstances, that I cannot see

giving this issue considerable weight in evaluating the


Much has been made, in this election, of the candidates’

religion. The Bush campaign has appealed to evangelicals in

a blatantly unconstitutional effort to encourage making his

religious faith a test for the presidency. Meanwhile, the

Catholic Bishops have made a 180 degree turn from their

quiet support for a very secular John Kennedy in 1960, to

their vocal criticism of a much more religious John Kerry.

Adventists often ask whether a particular candidate is more

likely to bring on the “mark of the beast.” There are at

least two problems with this question. First, it is

impossible to answer, or to predict what a president would

do. Second, when we ask it, we are no better than others

who insist that candidates conform to a religious test,

which our constitution explicitly forbids. Whether that

religious litmus test is Catholic or Protestant, it is

simply wrong. When we put too much stock in a candidate’s

religious profession, we encourage the sort of cynical

public piety that Jesus condemned when he told us to pray

in secret, not openly as the hypocrites do. Matthew 6: 1-6.

When I go to the voting booth, I am going to ask myself,

whom do I trust to fight the war on terrorism, to adopt the

right policies with respect to Iraq and the rest of the

Arab world, to secure lower oil prices and pursue a sane

energy policy; to deal with domestic policy issues like

health care, employment, and yes, religious freedom. I will

also ask myself questions about the character of the

candidates, and about their capacity for compassion,

careful deliberation and sound judgment. No doubt, you have

other issues of concern that I haven’t mentioned.

So take a look at the broad picture, use your best

judgment, and exercise your right to vote. That’s how I see

it. I am bracing myself for your e.mails. Please be kind.

I am []ajreinach@earthlink.net.[/] I will answer your e.mails as

I am able.


These religious liberty newsflashes and legislative e.lerts

are published by the Pacific Union Conference Department of

Public Affairs & Religious Liberty.

For assistance with a religious liberty problem:

Alan J. Reinach, Esq., []ajreinach@earthlink.net;[/]


More information about religious liberty issues can be

found at www.churchstate.org.

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I think that it's impossible for a seventh day adventist to vote for Bush. He promotes war, threatens religious freedom, co-operates with the Roman Catholic church in a way as forecasted by Ellen G.White.

Last election the SDA voters brought George Bush to the White House, this time the votes of the SDA voters could be crucial again in the 50-50 race. Please don't support George Bush & the RC bishops, and their sunday laws, but vote for John Kerry. Don't support the illegal war in Iraq, vote for peace, support to the homeless and religious freedom!

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To be honest, I do not like either candidate. Who does God want to be in office? And does it really matter because his "will" will be carried out regardless. You say Bush does not stand for religious freedom, if that is true wouldn't the Second coming be sooner so we can go home.

I have a hard time voting for Kerry who says it's okay for homosexuals to have families and raise their children to accept it as okay. I'm confused and will pray hard before I vote because God is the only truth, you can not believe anything the media has to say. What does God say to you?

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I was having a conversation with a woman yesterday about this issue. She is a Presbyterian and does not much care for either candidate, however she can not see her way clear to vote for Kerry because of major moral issues that Christians simply should not support.

My view is simple and I have a tendency, like Bush, to perhaps over simplify by using an extremely analytical view of what I see to be the bigger picture. Kerry’s ideology has been shown to flow with the political wind. This alone, notwithstanding, he is Catholic, I see as a dangerous determent to religious liberty.

I have been following the campaign rhetoric on both sides and I have to say, in contrast to the article that was quoted in the beginning of this thread, President Bush has never, in any way, spoken against, or ever once made any statements other then supporting the right of religious freedom and his support for the idea of Muslim’s and Christian’s to live together in peace and worship as they each see fit.

The danger of Kerry on the other hand, is that his opinions are likely to change with not only the political winds, but with the winds that blow over at the UN. That is where I believe the real danger lies, because the loss of religious liberty will be a world wide movement, not confined to these United States.

In conclusion, I do believe we should vote, and we should pray long and hard for guidance. We should also keep in mind that God has the ultimate and final say with regard to world events and how events preceding His coming will come to pass.

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I responded to this article in the World Affairs column. Open Letter To Alan Reinach

When I first saw the article I was expecting it to be an objective piece showing the pros and cons of each candidate and then sending us off to the polls. The author states, "Your Public Affairs & religious Liberty Department would not presume to instruct anyone how to vote" and then he (the author) goes on to do exactly that.

I believe both candidates are good men. They have two different ideologies.

Bush is a man that believes in governing by principle. He stands firm on his principles and will not be moved. If he loses he will be disappointed but will accept that God's will is now for him to do something else.

Kerry is a man that believes in doing what the people want him to do. That is why he flip flops so much. He doesn't stand on his principles but rather tries to stand on what he believes to be the will of the people. This is very much like Bill Clinton.

In the wake of 9/11 Bush demonstrated beyond all doubt that he is a defender of religious liberty. Those that do not see that are prisoners to an ideology that blinds them. At this time Kerry's position on the separation of church and state does not threaten religious liberty either. However since Kerry is much more influenced by the will of the people, his current position is much more subject to change than Bush's position is.

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</font><blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr />

Kerry is a man that believes in doing what the people want him to do. That is why he flip flops so much. He doesn't stand on his principles but rather tries to stand on what he believes to be the will of the people. This is very much like Bill Clinton.

<hr /></blockquote><font class="post">

When the recent Osama bin Ladan tape came out Kerry had his pollsters take a poll to determine how he should react. What can I say? Did I call it or what? When I am right I am right. (Let's not talk about when I am wrong <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />)

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</font><blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr />

Maureen Dowd, a syndicated New York Times columnist, recently wrote...

<hr /></blockquote><font class="post">

I saw Maureen Dowd on NBC's Meet The Press this morning and she is nothing more than a partisan columnist. And she is very very VERY bitter right now. What bothers me is that our demomination's leaders are taking marching orders from partisan columinists and commentators.

How would you feel if our "religious" papers started quoting Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hanity or Oliver North? Should these bias partians shape our beliefs in regard to our religious liberty?

Alan J. Reinach has been exposed as nothing more than an echo of the National Democratic Committee. I hope not all our denominational workers are as bias and brain-washed as he is.

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