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Mixing Religion and Policy
Author: BobR    Date: 02/03/2012 13:53:15

There's a common idea that people shouldn't discuss politics or religion in certain circumstances, lest the discussion become heated and contentious. Put the two together, and you have a real bomb with a lit fuse. This is why the first amendment in the Bill of Rights is so important: religion influencing politics and politics influencing religion are really bad for the country.

The reality, of course, is that it happens all the time. Churches will host political events (I've actually voted in a church on more than one occassion), and politicians will invoke their religion as the driving force behind legislative action (or inaction). When money is added to the equation, it gets really ugly.

Raine's comprehensive investigative blog yesterday laid out how conservative politics - driven by religion-borne anti-abortion ideals - pushed a pro-woman organization (SG Komen Foundation) to take an anti-woman stance. The anti-abortion movement is strong in political conservatives (almost exclusively), and SGK taking on a Republican politician and lobbyist seemed to forshadow this event.

It's also prompted people to dig a little deeper into SGK's doings, and the results are even more enlightening. The job that Karen Handel took was to head the lobbying arm of the SGK foundation. That position was previously occupied by a Democrat, who was ousted:
It wasn’t until 2008 that the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, a 501©3, founded the Susan G. Komen For The Cure Advocacy Alliance, a 501©4 non-profit that, under IRS rules, can spend unlimited donor funds on lobbying. It’s that arm of the Komen Foundation that former Secretary of State and failed gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel (R-GA) was hired to run in April 2011...
[..]
Before Handel’s hiring, Komen’s lobbying shop was staunchly Democratic — from its head to its hired guns, former Democratic aides did most of the heavy lifting on everything from the breast cancer stamp to breast cancer research to its advocacy on the health care bill. And when their lead lobbyist, former Democratic staffer Jennifer Luray, quietly left in 2010, she took with her a six-figure severance package not in keeping with an employee that just found a new job.
[..]
...according to lobbying disclosure records filed with the House of Representatives, Luray ended her tenure as a lobbyist with Komen in the third quarter of 2010, joining pharmaceutical device manufacturers Becton, Dickinson & Co. instead. IRS filings by Komen indicate she was given a $134,000 severance package upon her departure, which was almost a full year’s salary.
[..]
Savvy observers might recall that one of the women who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment during his tenure at the National Restaurant Association also got a year’s salary, equivalent to $35,000 — and a non-disclosure agreement prohibiting her from discussing the matter. Neither Luray nor the members of the Komen Advocacy Alliance Board responded to inquiries by press time. But American League of Lobbyists president Howard Marlowe told Raw Story that “usually [severance packages] don’t last that long,” even when people are offered them.

(bold-face mine)

The implication here of course is that Luray was pushed out to bring Handel in. That would signal an abrubt change in course in their ideology. Bring religion into the mix, and suddenly an organization ostensibly dedicated to eliminating breast cancer takes steps that will likely increase the number of breast cancer deaths.

Karen Handel was from Georgia. While the Deep South doesn't have an exclusive franchise on conservative religious zealots, it certainly has a lot of them. Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry is from Florida, Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell was from southern Virginia, Billy Graham was from North Carolina, Pat Robertson was also from southern Virginia. All of these organizations/people used religion as pretext for lobbying and trying to get legislation passed/blocked.

A state senator from Alabama is using "the Word of God" as a rationale for trying to pay teachers less, comparing teaching to preaching as a calling:
A Republican State Senator from Alabama claimed this week that keeping teacher salaries low is actually an order from the Christian deity figure, imparted in ancient texts written by Jewish tribesmen thousands of years ago.
[..]
“It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach. To go and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK?”

He continued: “And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ‘em..."

Forget economic realities - teachers should just sit on steps in robes, eking out subsistence on whatever food parents lay at their feet and teach children how to thrive in the modern world. It boggles the imagination.

As noted on the Rachell Maddow Show last night, the comparison between Republicans' use of religious rhetoric - vs- their actions compared to Democrats is pretty illuminating. I've written before that Republicans claim to be more Christian, yet seem to embrace an Old Testament fiery punising judging God, while Democrats quietly embrace the New Testament values of helping one's fellow man.

President Obama's speech at the National Prayor Breakfast showed exactly that. He used the Bible to show that Jesus wants us to tax the rich, as well as help the poor. While Santorum preaches doom and gloom and Republicans vote on bill after bill to reduce women's rights to Old Testament chattel status, the President is trying to push for a jobs program for veterans. While both Santorum and Obama have said they're personally against abortion, only Santorum (and other Republicans) would seek to make it public policy - THAT is the difference.

It seems that mixing politics and religion CAN do some good, depending on the religion. It is, however, a dangerous slippery slope. Better that people in power practice their religion in their personal lives, and work for the common good in their public lives. Mixing politics and religion cheapens both.

42 comments (Latest Comment: 02/03/2012 22:54:17 by livingonli)
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