MORAL AND RELIGIOUS ASPECTS OF
THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION:
"I am sick and tired of others constant criticizing our believed
America. We voted for who we wanted! And incidentally, family values was the
big winner." Marsha Bodary, Utica NY.
"The irony that the further right the U.S. leans -- i.e. the more
conservative, the more isolationist, the more certain that the Almighty is
on their side, etc -- the more it resembles the so-called 'enemies' seems to
be lost on the majority of Americans." Carla MacDonald, Salt Lake City,
The most important factor: How the U.S. Supreme Court will change:
For the past few years, there have been many very close decisions of the U.S.
Supreme Court in which the justices have voted 5 to 4. The two most justices who
are arguably the most conservative, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, have almost
always voted together; some more liberal justices have regularly voted in
According to the People for the American Way, (PFAW) "....three or
four justices are expected to retire in the next four years." Candidate
Senator Kerry said that, if elected, he would have appointed justices who
supported abortion access. President
Bush repeatedly said that he does not have an abortion "litmus test" in
his selection of nominees for the court. However, he has cited Scalia and Thomas as his models
when choosing his future appointments. They are unalterably opposed to abortion
access. It is expected that he will nominate strict constructionist -- extreme conservative
-- justices. After perhaps the most
argumentative confirmation sessions in Senate history, they will be confirmed by
the Senate, and will radically change the philosophy of the court. The balance in the court will experience a major shift to the
right for decades to come. Many of the close decisions in the past may be
revisited and overturned.
The Supreme Court has ruled on hundreds of cases over the past four
decades on matters as diverse as abortion access, equal rights for gays and
lesbians, keeping the state out of the bedrooms of the nation, and freedom of religious expression. One of the most significant
was the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which
guaranteed women the right to an abortion early in pregnancy. Although it is
difficult to predict future changes to the culture, the court's 2003
decision in Lawrence v. Texas -- which legalized
private, consensual same-sex activities among adults -- would have probably produced
long-term changes in American culture that are similar in magnitude to Roe
v. Wade. Both Lawrence v. Texas and Roe v.
Wade will probably be reversed as additional conservative justices
join the Supreme Court during President Bush's 2004-2008 term.
The Court is split along philosophical lines:
More conservative justices, such as Justices Scalia and Thomas, are
often referred to as "strict
constructionists." They tend to look upon the U.S. Constitution as
a static, enduring document. It is to be interpreted literally in terms of the
values and beliefs of the public and the authors when the document was written.
More liberal justices
tend to look at the Constitution as a living document. They view it as evolving with
society; new principles can
be inferred from its wording which were not specifically stated in the
In 1973, the
liberal majority on the court determined that the Constitution inferred that
a right of privacy exists for every citizen in the area of abortion. That is, governments cannot pass laws
that excessively intrude into personal medical decisions. They determined in 1973 that women had a right to obtain a legal abortion if
it is performed sufficiently early in pregnancy, or if it was necessary to
preserve her health or life. In 2003, they revisited this privacy principle and
decided that adults had the right to engage in private, consensual sexual
activities, whether they be same-sex or opposite-sex couples.
The PFAW concluded before the election: "Voters may have different views on these specific
issues, but it's clear that the next President will help determine the
rights and freedoms of Americans for decades to come by his appointments to
the Supreme Court. Urge your friends and neighbors to think carefully about
the Supreme Court when they vote in November."
The effect of religion on the 2004 presidential vote:
ReligionWriters.com had predicted four ways in which religion may be a
determining factor in the 2004 elections for president:
Voters have expressed concern about the religious identification and
involvement of candidates.
Many religious groups have been actively lobbying their members to
register and to vote.
The Democratic and Republican campaign organizations have been
aggressively wooing various faith groups.
Several swing states include concentrations of voters of particular
Other developments include:
Conservative Protestant organizations: Many of these portrayed
the presidential election in terms of a cultural war. The Center for
Reclaiming America, for example, has identified five key fronts
among current concerns over "morality and values:"
"Religious liberties" which include:
The right of tax-exempt groups, like local congregations, to
promote political candidates. IRS
regulations currently prohibit this.
The right of parents to continue to use spanking as a method
of disciplining their children.
The "sanctity of life," which means limitation or
elimination of abortion access, and an end to physician assisted
The "homosexual agenda" which seeks employment and
accommodation security, protection from
hate-crimes, same-sex marriage, and
the public acceptance of homosexuality and bisexuality as normal and
natural sexual orientations for a minority of adults.
Religiously liberal groups: Some groups attempted to:
Register large numbers of Black and poor voters, who
traditionally vote Democrat.
Raise what they consider to be major moral issues:
A reduction in poverty levels: The U.S. has a larger
percentage of people in poverty than any other developed country
in the world.
Universal health care: There are in excess of 40 million
Americans without health insurance, and tens of millions more
who are under-insured.
Roman Catholic bishops and organizations: Some focused
on Kerry's support on abortion access for women and civil unions or marriages for
same-sex couples. The official stance of the church is to oppose both. Four
bishops have indicated that they would refuse Kerry's participation in
communion because of his pro-choice beliefs. Austin Ruse, head of Culture of
Life Foundation, is one of a number of Roman Catholics who authored an
anti-Kerry ad published in five battleground states in late 2004-OCT (PA, IA,
NH, WI, FL). Ruse wrote: "Sen. Kerry says he is a believing and practicing
Catholic yet he fundamentally not only rejects but he actively works to
undermine one of the core teachings of the church." 3 Supporters of Kerry have pointed
out that his beliefs on abortion access are reflected by a large percentage of
Roman Catholic laity.
The main political parties:
The Democrats seem to have been promoting what it considers to
be serious moral issues -- like poverty and health insurance -- in
secular, rather than religious terms. This may have been a
fatal error in judgment.
The Republicans promoted what it considered to be
serious moral issues -- reducing abortion access, restricting or eliminating
stem-cell research, prohibiting the marriage of committed same-sex
couples -- in religious rather than secular terms.
This may have struck a chord with Evangelical Christians and other religious
conservatives and caused the vote to be tipped in favor of the
What motivated voters?:
The massive religious
divide within the U.S. was evidenced by the vote for president. An Associated
Press poll of 13,531 voters indicated that their largest single concern were
"moral values:" probably reduction of access to abortion, prevention of equal
rights for gay and lesbian couples, prohibition of research into medical cures
and treatment using embryonic stem cells, not extending hate-crime protection to
gays and lesbians, etc. The five highest priorities found were:
22% moral values,
15% the war in
In an apparent reaction
to the strong showing of "moral values," Rev. Robert Edgar, general
secretary of the National Council of Churches (a group of mainline and
liberal Christian denominations) said: "We need to work really hard at
reclaiming some language...The religious right has successfully gotten out there
shaping personal piety issues - civil unions, abortion - as almost the total
content of 'moral values.' And yet you can't read the Old Testament without
knowing God was concerned about the environment, war and peace, poverty. God
doesn't want 45 million Americans without health care." 9
According to exit
polls, 20% of the estimated 120 million voters defined themselves as Evangelical
Christians. Of these, three out of four backed President Bush.
President Bush inherits
a profoundly divided nation. Most North American newspapers demonstrated this
division with a graphic showing which states and counties voted for the two main
parties. Kerry/Democratic support is isolated to Hawaii and two
strips of states, most of whom are heavily populated and urban:
One consists of the states which border Canada, from New England to
Minnesota, plus Illinois and minus Ohio
The other consists of the three contiguous west coast states:
Washington, Oregon, and California. A majority of voters in the entire
middle of the country and the South voted Bush/Republican.
The presidential vote was divided along sexual, sexual orientation, racial,
educational and other lines. According to exit poll interviews conducted by the
Associated Press at randomly selected precincts across the US: 6
Gay or lesbian
In a gun owning household
High school graduates
Ballot measures with a moral/ethical component:
Measures by state:
Alaska: Two measures were rejected: the decriminalization of marijuana
and the banning of bear baiting.