#46

GOVERNMENTS CAN`T LEGISLATE MORALITY

We`ve all heard it time and time again from Christian politicians: "I`m pro-life and personally opposed to abortion, but I can`t imposed my religious views on others." This leading slogan of fence-sitting legislators would probably be followed closely by this other mantra as the most often used (misused) expression in both Canada and the United States: "WE CAN`T LEGISLATE MORALITY!"

"Imposing one`s private morality on others" is a cliché we often hear voiced by otherwise sincere Catholics and even, sadly, by too many members of our Knights. Because of this widely prevailing attitude, our governments are indulging and pandering to morally flaccid, self-loving interest groups who are tearing us down.

It would appear that only Christian people are put on the spot for their beliefs when they run for political office. Would the newsmedia publish the same sort of story if, let`s say, Sikhs, Hindus or Jews were seeking high office in any governmental bodies? One can imagine the outrage if a reporter were to shove a microphone into a Jewish candidate`s face, for example, and demand that the person answer whether he or she will "bring his personal beliefs into public education." In fact, Joe Lieberman`s vice-presidency is touted as an important vote-getter for the Democrats, exactly because of his alleged strict Jewish orthodoxy. Go figure!

Cagey political figures usually refrain from giving a straight answer, especially on subjects such as abortion. They see it as a media path to political suicide. Diversion from the hard truth is perceived to bring more positive results at the polls and is better received by the liberal media. How often have we witnessed the squalid spectacle of politicians claiming to be practicing Catholics who insist that it would be wrong to let their faith affect the manner in which they perform their public duties. Even Pope John Paul II appears puzzled by this attitude and the adverse media reaction to committed Christians political leaders: "Should citizens whose moral judgements are informed by their religious beliefs be less welcome to express their most deeply held convictions. When that happens, is not democracy itself emptied of real meaning?"

Many Catholic politicians today, alas, are only too willing to leave aside their religious convictions when they take part in public life, and it seems not a few of our episcopal leaders have been willing to permit them to do so, thus leaving them untroubled by any fear of rebuke on their part. Can politicians who do nothing while evil triumphs be considered good? Evil has triumphed throughout secular countries like Canada and the United States in great part because Catholics led by their bishops were inactive, because they were perfectly willing to relegate the teaching of the Church to the realm of private opinion.

This secular mindset permeating our governments is now being countered by a new breed of political leaders who want to defer to their God-given moral compass. In Canada, that new breed of "social conservatism" is embodied to a large extent by the Canadian Alliance, a new political formation which has now assumed opposition party status and stands a chance of supplanting the ruling Liberal government.

This potential change in the secular nature of governance is giving fits to the mainstream media, as well as to those traditional parties which have dominated politics in Canada from time 
immemorial. It explains the demonizing of Stockwell Day, the popular newly elected leader of the Alliance, attacks that have now reached a fever pitch among media columnists and the self-proclaimed Canadian intelligentsia. These pundits` diatribes reverberate - partly for ideological reasons ("Canadian Alliance reformers are bigots") and partly for elitist cultural reasons ("Canadian Alliance reformers are hicks") - the Toronto-centered liberal media`s visceral contempt for the Canadian Alliance and their social conservative supporters, whom they also view as a bunch of Christian weirdos. Seemingly unaware of the inanity of their objections, which insultingly insinuates ethics and morality aren`t eastern Canadians` strong suit, they condemn Day for being too ethical and moral to attract voters east of the Manitoba-Ontario border. In their closed mind, the Canadian Alliance is like the guy from the wrong side of the tracks showing up at your daughter`s prom. 

What this Alliance-hating coalition of columnist and writers resents and fears most about the Alliance - one senses even worse than Armageddon - was well capsuled by feminist Susan Riley, writing in the Ottawa Citizen: "The Canadian Alliance leader offers a...chilling vision...a return to political fundamentalism" wherein "marriage is reserved for one man and one women... Government policies would take into account the rights of the unborn after a divisive and unwanted referendum... Bogus refugee claimants would be sent home with dispatch... The Charter (of Rights and Freedoms) would be circumvented by frequent use of the 'notwithstanding' clause."

The academic liberals dread that Day would impose his beliefs on Canadians. How many times do we get to chew this cud? Is it still needed to show the extraordinary shallow thinking behind the fear expressed by these intellectual gurus? A society that does not allow some people to impose their views (i.e. morality) on others would have no laws at all. Our Criminal Code is a veritable anthology of imposed moral values: restrictions against stealing, murdering, cheating, lying under oath, etc. Its main purpose is to force people to conform to the moral values imposed by all the non-thieves, non-murderers, non-cheaters, non-perjurers, etc. Rapists and pedophile must also endure the restraint imposed by a country intolerant of their sexual orientations.

Toronto Globe & Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson, horrified at the prospect of ethics and morality invading the Canadian Parliament, admonishes: "Leave the prayer book at home, Stockwell." Previously, in a reference to former leader Preston Manning, Simpson warned us that "... a lot of Canadians (sense) that, given half a chance in power, his religious beliefs would shape his public behaviour." God forbid!

The morality of a great many Canadians (including politicians) is rooted in their religion. To insist that the religion of these people must not determine their views on public policy, means that they can have no views on it. This infantile reasoning would effectively disenfranchise about 60% of the Canadian electorate. In the view of most right-thinking people, it is hypocritical for politicians or any other people to separate themselves from their deeply held beliefs.

The opinion makers above who also ridicule the Alliance`s chances of forming the next government of Canada deliberately ignore that it wasn`t fiscal conservatism that unexpectedly brought Premier Mike Harris to power in Ontario. It was a campaign framed in moral rather than economic terms. Social conservatism is in fact what won Ontario for Harris. And if the current polls are any indication, it could accomplish the same thing for Stockwell Day at the national level.

The materialistic politicians and bureaucrats who have dominated Canadian and American society for the last 35 years have made citizens believe that it is moral and noble for people of faith to stay out of the village square. But politics and public policy are nothing more than the practical application of the values we believe in. These values need to be carried out of our churches and into our culture. How scandalous, therefore, it is to see the evidence of Catholic votes supporting those who deny the Gospel of Life. Politicians who are firmly anchored in Christian values and ethics should have the courage to educate popular opinion until it agrees with the rightness of decisions to stop abortion, euthanasia and the homosexual agenda.

Pro-lifers are often charged with being "single-issue" when it comes to voting. And so we should be. If you believe that the killing of innocent human beings is a serious wrong, your conscience will not permit you to vote for someone who is pro-abortion - regardless of that person`s stand on other issues.

Thaddée Renault
Fredericton, New Brunswick


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