MassGOP Platform: Religion superior to government

Missed in the outrage over abortion and marriage, the just-passed MassGOP Platform has radical, sequential, statements on religion, which, taken together, reflect an angry desire to make religion superior to government: government can’t touch religious people, but religious people can put their values into policy when it chooses. This is a violation of even the most minimal view of the separation of Church and State, and cannot be tolerated. (And I am a devout Catholic Republican who wants only a minimal view, but a distinct separation, nonetheless.) Think I am exaggerating? Unlike the State Committee, which passed this secret document in 20 minutes, let’s look at the exact text together.

Calvin in Geneva

The platform document (link here) has the following section on “Values”:


VALUES

True to the spirit of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, Republicans believe that unalienable individual rights and the responsibilities that go with them are the foundation of freedom.

Informed by the essential guarantees of the Declaration of Independence, we affirm the inherent dignity and sanctity of human life. We believe that every instance of abortion is tragic. We advocate policies that will assist a woman during a crisis pregnancy.

We reject all forms of discrimination, intolerance and exploitation. We are opposed to modern-day slavery and human trafficking and respect the inherent dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom. We believe the institution of traditional marriage strengthens our society. There should be no infringement on the rights of the people of Massachusetts to vote on ballot initiatives.

Our Party vocally supports religious liberty. As a Party, we support the Constitutional guarantee of individual religious freedom, and we oppose judicial and legislative attempts to eradicate faith, whether in symbol or practice, from public life.

We affirm every citizen’s right to apply religious values to public policy and we support the right of faith-based organizations to participate fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, symbols, or hiring practices.

We support the First Amendment right of freedom of association for religious organizations, including the right of religious organizations to refrain from participation in public policies that violate their religious conviction.


Leaving aside the offensive section excluding the value of decade-old gay marriages and the sentence immediately after that social conservatives wanted to support a constitutional amendment to repeal gay marriage (I am 100% serious!), the language on religion is outrageous, and the fact that it comes immediately after the section on abortion and marriage is no accident. It is a dagger aimed at the separation of Church and State and mainstream Massachusetts values.

Let’s look at the three religious clauses:

Our Party vocally supports religious liberty. As a Party, we support the Constitutional guarantee of individual religious freedom, and we oppose judicial and legislative attempts to eradicate faith, whether in symbol or practice, from public life.

This sets the tone by using the words “vocally” and then “eradicate.” This sentence isn’t offensive in content, though you have to wonder where this eradication is happening in Massachusetts, which should be the focus of a state party document. (So much of this platform is federal in character. But that’s what happens when your politics are from Fox News, and not Massachusetts.)

We affirm every citizen’s right to apply religious values to public policy and we support the right of faith-based organizations to participate fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, symbols, or hiring practices.

Oh. My (Their?). God!  To put in language saying that you can apply religious values to public policy? An outrage and a violation of Church and state. (Aren’t we trying to appeal to libertarians these days?) Can I invent some harmless principles like, “love, understanding, and compassion” for the values they mean? Sure, but we know that is not what they mean and the sentences immediately preceding this section strip away all the harmless interpretations that will suddenly appear after I publish this article. Add to that: religious groups can participate fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, symbols or… hiring practices? What the hell does that mean? So a Christian can be elected to a government job and then refuse to hire a gay person for her staff? Imagine the potential abuse of civil rights! It’s one thing to say a Catholic School can deny someone a job because he’s married to a man (that actually did happen here recently in MA), it’s far more dangerous to say a religious group can deny employment to gay people while they are working inside any government program! (They could have been narrow, but they did the opposite, using the word “fully.”)

We support the First Amendment right of freedom of association for religious organizations, including the right of religious organizations to refrain from participation in public policies that violate their religious conviction.

It is in the last clause that we achieve the full thrust of the views of the authors. The first part is clearly, “No gays in our parades!” but the second section is the worst of all. That’s right: religious people don’t have to participate in any policy – not just a program – any policy – that violates any conviction they have. Truly breathtaking. Way beyond very narrow, court-approved exemptions for churches inside their own organizations, this means that anyone can avoid participating in anything! Can you begin to imagine all that could apply to this? What if someone doesn’t like Medicare? Can they opt out of paying that chunk of their salary? Can they, as justice of the peace, refuse to marry someone? It’s insane. (Yes, I know they may have been thinking of health care coverage for abortions. They should have said something specific like that. They absolutely did not.)

Putting all these consecutive sentences together results in what I believe is the following conclusion:

We are religious. You can’t use government to touch us in any way that we don’t like with your democratically-produced values. But, when we are participating in government, we can keep our symbols and practices and use our views to regulate others using government.

(Oh, and to be clear, those last two sentences were my summarizing words and not words from the platform.)

The platform did not say about religion, “leave us alone and we will leave you alone.” That still might violate some people’s civil rights, but at least it would have some respectability. This is very different. This one way street is exactly what the idea of the separation of church and state was meant to prevent. And for all of the uses of the generic word “religion” – this document was not approved by a diverse group of believers. It was drafted exclusively by Christians. While they will probably invent incredible examples, i.e. “No synagogue should have to hire a devout Muslim to work in their advertising department” – this was clearly, as shown in the sentences immediately above, primarily about how some Christians feel about gays, abortion, and the supremacy of their religious views. In fact, I can’t see a mixed group of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists approving any language like this. (One more reason our party leadership needs more diversity.)

This platform values section, with all its rage against gay people, women seeking abortions, and government, favors an all-knowing, untouchable religious population that can push its values upon others who don’t agree. It is an outrage and is yet another reason this awful document, which does not represent the thinking of the 440,000 registered Republicans in this state, must be repudiated and repealed.

 

P.S. I don’t really think many of the 52 people who approved this document thought any of this through, as our platform for the next four years deserved! Maybe this document should not have been drafted in secret, should not have been released to only the full state committee 48 hours ahead of time, should not have been voted in after 20 minutes of discussion, and then made public as a done deal. We can’t wait four years for our state committee to develop a better process, as some have promised me privately. Repeal this disaster now, and create an open process that will result in a document we all can be proud of.

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