Abortion and the Role Catholicism Plays in a Candidate’s Political Position

During the vice-presidential campaign, Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan were asked to discuss the role of their religion in their personal views of abortion.  Ryan responded by stating: “Faith informs us in everything we do.”  He continued by arguing that while he  “respect[s] people who don’t agree with [him],” the “policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exception for rape, incest, and life of the mother.”  Biden responded quite differently.  He said that while he embraces the Catholic position on abortion in his personal life, he refuses to impose his belief on women, and people of other faith.  

Even though some argued that such a question is too personal, it must be acknowledged that religion affects the lives of candidates and their political positions.  Ironically, Ryan appears to dismiss the notion of church and state.  The irony stems from the fact that Ryan is a Republican, where their political views are dominated by the idea of religious freedom, and of limited interference into the personal lives of people.  However, Ryan seems to immerse himself into peoples’ personal lives by stating that abortion would be acceptable only in the case of rape or incest. Obviously, a candidate’s personal opinions may not always align with the ideologies of their political party. Therefore, more questions regarding the personal beliefs of candidates should be posed to obtain a more accurate understanding of those in positions of attaining political power.



Keeping the Faith – “Civil Religion in America” (Bellah, 1991)

This 2012 presidential race is about religion. In 2008, it was about race. The candidates know religion is on the minds of every American going to the polls.  

America was founded upon Christian core principles. Nearly all the American presidents were Christians or had close affiliations. Romney’s political strategy therefore is to show Obama’s policies, especially on issues of contraception, as not in line with fundamental Christian values.

But America was built upon religious diversity and as such Americans have been socially conditioned to religious tolerance. This may be because politicians, since America’s founding fathers, have kept the Union together with rhetoric that is inclusive of all religion.

“… civil religion was able to build up without any bitter struggle with the church powerful symbols of national solidarity and to mobilize deep levels of personal motivation for the attainment of national goals”(Bellah, 1991, p.9).

But does this solidarity extend to the president of the United States? The possibility of a Mormon president in a Christian dominated nation might stir up fundamentalists’ fire, bearing in mind that “Religious diversity is apt to cause social and cultural division…”(Stowers, 2007, p21).

Can the 2012 poll results slice a deep cultural and social division in the Union? Is the American populace ready to extend the principle of civil religion to their president?


The Catholic Church has long been a guiding force in Filipino state politics. With over 80 percent of the population adhering to the Church, it doesn’t come as a surprise that elected officials must reflect the values and beliefs of their Church-going electorate if they’d like to stay in power. But with a rapidly growing population, the Filipino government under President Aquino has been pressured to implement a family planning policy that would reverse decades of state policy directly modeled after Catholic Church values. The new policy is yet to be pushed through the two houses of Congress but is expected to pass as polls are showing a surprising 70 percent public approval rating.
Family planning is a sensitive subject particularly for President Aquino whose late mother, Corazon Aquino, was instrumental in eliminating existing family planning policies following the revolution that ousted Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. Corazon Aquino grew in power through support by the Catholic Church and was thus deeply pressured to eliminate policies conflicting with Catholic beliefs. Her son, now President Benigno Aquino, is equally pressured instead by an increasingly growing population and overwhelming poverty to abandon the Catholic abolition of birth control and allow the population free access to family planning mechanisms.
A group of 30 economists from the University of the Philippines, have argued that “the Church’s persistent opposition has been the most important factor influencing population policy” in the country since the revolution of 1986. Catholicism has long infiltrated Filipino state politics and in turn developed into a politicized religion greatly influencing state policy. President Aquino is a surprising contender to lead the shift away from the Church, especially considering his mother’s close adherence.

A Unification of Beliefs in the 2012 American Presidential Campaign

Evangelicalism was introduced into American politics when Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976. Since then, the majority of American presidents shared similar religious beliefs. Presidents who were Catholic needed to convince the American population that they were “not too Catholic to be president” (Gibson 2012). The historic tensions between Catholics and Evangelicals now seem to be disappearing. What has encouraged this change and compromise between political leaders and voters with conflicting religious beliefs?
The cohesion of religion and politics in the United States has continued to make the US an “exceptional” nation; however this campaign is different. Through the formation of a coalition between Catholics and Evangelicals, the political and religious opinions regarding issues of abortion, conceptions of life and death, and equality of marriage have changed. It seems that Santorum, Ryan, and Romney (all Republicans) would be united with each other and voters regardless of religious backgrounds. This coalition allows for the unification of conservative Catholics and Evangelical Protestants despite differences in opinion regarding certain issues. The right-wing views of Santorum were overlooked because of his religious association with conservative Catholic theology appealing to not only Catholics but important Evangelical voters. It seems as though there is a merging of beliefs between Catholics and Evangelicals that allows for traditional Catholic leaders to appeal to the masses. Historically this would be hard to believe due to tensions and conflicting attitudes regarding several important political issues, such as divorce, between these two religious groups.  
This article suggests a more secular American nation in comparison with other nation-states around the world. However, the beliefs of many of the republican leaders still involve religious aspects in terms of issues about marriage equality and abortion. Perhaps this open-mindedness in terms of Catholicism and Evangelism is a new start for America; one that is not as committed to a “protestant only” theology but influenced by a variety of religious beliefs.

Contemplating freedom of speech during a breakdown of borders

The American directed anti-Islamic film “Innocence of Muslims” seems to have caused quite a disturbance. The short film has incited international riots and violence, and even caused the US to temporarily close their embassies and evacuate Muslim countries. In the president’s passively indifferent “not my problem” approach to a half-witted apology, he graciously explained that he condemned the film but could not stop its distribution by law. To interfere infringes on individual freedom of speech in the American constitution. Since there were no major riots or acts of violence in the US upon the release of this film, one must ask what’s this really all about. Surely one film created by an individual doesn’t prove America has a hatred for Islam. In fact, there are many Muslims in America that didn’t riot in the wake of this film. Taking into account that the Internet allows for a seamless transportation of information and ideas across international borders, shouldn’t a nations government be responsible for the actions of their citizens? If one single film can incite international riots and violence, shouldn’t we ought to pay more attention? While most Americans recognize this as extremist propaganda, apparently several non-Americans see a different picture. This begs the question, whose job is it to promote and protect religious tolerance when there are no clear agencies that transcend international borders? Who is really at fault?

A recent study shows that for the first time Protestants now make up less than 50% of the population in the United States. This changes is in part due to non-denominational Christians no longer claiming to be protestant as well as an increase “in the number of American adults who say they have no religion.” Until now Protestants have always made up a majority of the population in America. Pew Forum, the researchers behind the survey, stated that most of the people unaffiliated with religion “were not actively seeking another religious home”. This is interesting in regard to Civil Religion in America where for hundreds of years people were able to have a common attribute in that there was some general belief in a god amongst the majority of the population. While this survey shows that the majority of the population still has some religious belief, a continued pursuit of Civil Religion in America amongst the politicians and other public figures could in fact alienate large percentages of the population. If people no longer want to be committed or tied into a religion, they will likely not appreciate the overtone of religion in their country. In turn if the percentage of people who are not affiliated with religion keeps growing, America will likely have to reinvent itself in regards to the concept of Civil Religion.

The Fusion of Worlds

The rise of National Socialism in post Great War Germany has often been described as a direct consequence of the Treaty of Versailles. The extreme adversity for the people of Germany, effects of the treaty and the Great Depression, resulted in a vacuum that a pseudo religious political party was able to fill. This may seem a stretch, but with the current conditions of European economies, is there a risk of another rise of fascism? Recent Georgia elections were directly influenced by the real religious influence of Georgia’s Orthodox Church and their refusal to endorse the former president. This is a dangerous line to be walking for both politicians and church leaders because the fusion of politics and religion can lead to fascism. An interesting connection here is that Georgia as a country has been making the transition from communist regime to a democratic one, but this appears to be a new indicator in the direction of the country since the end of Soviet occupation in 1991 and Rose Revolution of 2003. Germany in the 1920’s was trending from and against the communism of the Russian Revolution itself and combined with economic hard times this led to the rise of a fascist regime. This church involvement is dangerous not because religion is bad or dangerous in itself, but because of the hierarchical and absolute power that religion holds over people. While the church demands obedience, politicians can only ask. That is until the two become a single identity and ideology.

– weston6949


According to the recent Pew Report, 1 in 5 Americans have no religious affiliation today (Kaleem, 2012, para. 4).  These Americans are being titled “the nones” (Kaleem, 2012, para. 4). The nones may have certain religious beliefs but prefer to not be labeled by any particular religion. John Green, a political science professor at Univeristy of Akron, suggests that the nones “may be becoming the single largest faith-based or religious group, larger than African-American Protestants, larger than Catholics… it may be in the near future that the unaffiliated vote will be as important to the Democratic Party coalition as the traditionally religious are to the Republican Party coalition”  (Kaleem, 2012, para. 19).

With much controversy in the headlines regarding the presidential candidacy and their respective religious beliefs, this article discusses the potential influence a group of religious unaffiliated people may have in future elections. According to this article, the unaffiliated may be just as important as the affiliated in terms of their vote. This article demonstrates the relationship that religion and politics share. They can both be extremely influential. Religion and politics also target beliefs and moral systems. If candidates can relate to the beliefs of the majority, they can likely gain more votes. Many are arguing that the religious affiliations of the presidential candidates should be of no importance during the election. Others feel that this knowledge will help them decide whom to vote for. Religion still has importance to Americans as it helps determine how their future will be shaped. It is clear that religion can potentially influence the decisions for a nation.



Kaleem, J. (2012, October 9). ‘No Religion’ is increasingly popular choice for Americans: pew report Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/09/no-religion-pew-report_n_1949598.html?utm_hp_ref=religion-and-politics

The shooting of young Malala Yousafzai in Peshawar has sparked a large response from people around the world, as it is both a political and religious issue. The article points out that even though she is a young girl, Malala received a national peace award in 2011, and has posted politically active propaganda on the Internet. Being a national figure, it is surprising that Malala was not under surveillance or protection. Knowing that her views were against the Taliban, the government neglected to ensure her safety, a large problem particularly because she is so young and vulnerable.

The danger of blending religion and politics is demonstrated in the existence of the Taliban, and this act of violence. By blending Islamic views with radical political action, there are many people to look at for the responsibility of the shooting of Malala. With the Taliban being known as an extremist Islamic group, tension has grown within the religious community as the group’s actions reflect on their beliefs. There is a need for clarity when it comes to the actions of the Taliban. While they claim that their actions are in following with Islamic law, others Muslims disagree.

Malala’s shooting uniquely shows politics and religion colliding, and how they are unable to co-exist. Based on the ideas Malala supported and spread, shooting her was a political action, as she became a threat to the Taliban ideology. However, the attempt at justifying the shooting under Islam only leads to confusion about what religious acts exactly are, and how harming a child could possibly be acceptable as one.


There is a war is being fought within the U.S. revolving around the First Amendment rights of freedom of religion.  This is exemplified by the growing number of calls by non-Christian and atheists, for government organizations to suspend traditions deemed to be Christian. Like in the article, the removal and equalization of the association between religion and government has brought considerable public backlash.  Generally the United States has been considered to be a Christian nation, founded on Christian ideals but with no specified state religion that must be adhered to.  The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights outlined this idea by allowing freedom of religion.   The concept of civil religion helps to support the freedom, creating an “understanding” between people of different faiths, but also supports the Christian heritage that is engrained in American history.  In theory, the idea of a shared belief in God, yet different interpretations and religious background to this belief should yield a positive and less anti-Christian movement in the U.S.  If people are to recognize that shared belief, they should recognize that Christian faith is part of the history of government in America and has become tradition.  That history in turn is the one that offers them the freedom to personally oppose Christianity or promote and adhere to their own faith or religious movement. Instead of attacking the Christian traditions, those opposed should be thanking the government for allowing their freedom of belief.  There are many nations out there that don’t offer that.