Two thoughts on the nexus between religion in politics in the abortion debate:
Keep an eye open on this. When religious leaders speak out against abortion from the pulpit, they’re said to be “getting involved in politics.” Meanwhile, politicians who advocate against abortion are said to be forcing their religion on people. Apparently, being pro-life is too religious for politics, and too political for religion… so it can’t be advocated by anyone in positions of authority, ever.
This, of course, massively perverts the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause was never intended to separate faith and politics, and the Free Exercise Clause expressly permits the co-mingling. It’s worth remembering that the fear the Founders had was that the US was going to install a state religion of the sort Anglicanism was in England. Attempting to establish a state religion in the US would be against the religious principles of many of the colonists, and would almost certainly have started an immediate religious war of the kind that the Maryland Colony had already experienced (the Northeast was solidly Puritan and Congregational., while the South was still very Anglican, and these two camps had already caused enough bloodshed in England… see Cromwell, Oliver). The Establishment Clause today is almost archaic, in that the notion of the US attempting to create a state religion is almost comically absurd. One of the major reasons that the Founders felt the Establishment Clause was so important was so that everyone, including public officials, could practice their own religion freely and openly. For this reason, they tied it with the Free Exercise Clause, which permits people to do just that: practice their religion freely. And the Founders plainly had public officials in mind, too: they forbade religious tests for public officials in Article VI, para. 3 of the Constitution. So it’s a perverse irony that the people most undermining the First Amendment freedom of religion now do so in the name of the First Amendment. In trying to force religious poticians to act like atheists in public life is both preventing free exercising, and de facto establishing non-religion (which the Supreme Court has also condemned as impermissible).
The hypocrisy doesn’t end there, either. Pro-choicers have formed the “Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice,” so it’s apparently okay to legislate based on your morals, but only if your “morals” are pro-choice. Even more tellingly, look at the second graph from this Gallup poll result, which found that 54% of those practicing a non-Christian religion favored abortion-on-demand, compared to only 39% of atheists. So religion influences voters on both sides of the divide.
To be clear, it’s fine by me if pro-choicers base their support of abortion-on-demand off of their religion: the view itself is what’s the problem, not where the view comes from. People make decisions based on what they think is right or wrong, and much of what we think is right or wrong comes from what we believe religiously. If you’re a devout Quaker in Congress, you’re probably not going to vote for war, and it would be insane to expect you to be adamantly anti-war on Sunday and pro-war the rest of the week. If I were to say, “I support your right to be a Quaker, but not your right to legislate based on those beliefs when it comes to voting on whether we go to war,” I would be saying something mindless and internally contradictory. Either people are free to believe or they’re not. When people claim someone is “pushing their religion,” they usually just mean, “that person treats their religion as if it’s true, not just a fun delusion!” And Amen to that! As long as the person isn’t attempting to establish their religion as the state religion (mandatory Society of Friends meetings on Sunday, to continue the Quaker example), they’re acting exactly as the Founders clearly intended that they would.
Another argument pro-choicers like to advance, similar to #1, is that being pro-life is a “religious” belief. This is plainly wrong. The graphs I mentioned earlier (available here) show atheists as more pro-life than non-Christian religious, and a full 10% of atheists are against abortion in all cases (compared with 20% of the US population). The pro-life argument boils down to two beliefs:
- Human life begins at conception;
- It’s wrong to intentionally end innocent human life.