2004-11-19 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

I am worried.

Not necessarily about the reelection of George W. Bush as President, because I have lived through many presidents since I became a voter in 1960 and have lived through some real disasters.

Take Richard M. Nixon. Please!

Take Jimmy Carter!

Party affiliations do not matter. What a person does in office does matter and how those actions impact on the citizens matters even more.

Despite the fact that Nixon publicly said, “I am not a crook,” he was. Just the fact that a sitting president had to say that proves the point that he was.

He tried to steal the election and he got away with it.

He tried to steal the Constitution and was not successful. One out of two ain’t bad.

Carter was weak. His religious beliefs and his upbringing did not allow him to do what had to be done to free the hostages in Iran or to govern this diverse nation.

Come to think of it, the one thing that Carter and Bush have in common is their religious upbringing and the impact their religion had on the decision-making process that ruled their actions.

Upon hearing of Bush’s reelection, one Congressman was quoted as saying “God is finally in the White House.”

That worries me. I don’t want God in the White House. He (or, she) has no place there. The Founding Fathers were quite explicit about the separation between church and state because they knew first-hand that a close connection between church in that case, The Church of England/ Anglican Church and the national government created a hostile environment for those who did not believe in the particular religious tenets exposed by the nation’s leader. In fact, many of our first inhabitants came here to escape various forms of religious persecution by state-based religions.

I know that this position will not enamor me to the religious fundamentalists who live in Rockaway, but this is America and no single religion is supposed to rule the political decision-making process.

Don’t say that religious beliefs will be kept out of the process, because it has already begun.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted in September to block federal funds from local, state and federal authorities if they make health care workers perform, pay for or make referrals for abortion, even though, under Roe v. Wade, those abortions are perfectly legal.

The American Pharmacists Association, emboldened by the legislature, has set a policy that its 50,000 members can refuse to fill prescriptions if they object on moral grounds, but they must make arrangements for the patient to get the pills elsewhere.

For some pharmacists, even that obligation taxes their religious and moral indignation over birth control.

Jullee Lacey recently stopped into a CVS Pharmacy in Texas. The female pharmacist on duty refused to refill the prescription because she was morally opposed to birth control. The pharmacist ripped up the prescription, forcing Lacey to miss taking her pill for a day.

“I refuse to dispense a drug with a significant mechanism to stop human life,” said Karen Brauer, the president of the 1,500—member “Pharmacists For Life International.”

Mississippi, South Dakota and Arkansas have laws that allow health care providers to not participate in procedures that go against their conscience.

Personally, I think that those who refuse to do their job because of their religious beliefs should be fired. Or, perhaps they should look for another line of work. Religious beliefs have no place in the health care area any more than they do in national government.

Raymond J. Keating, a Conservative columnist for Newsday, is one of those who looks forward to the increase in “Moral Values” that the nation will experience during Bush’s second term. He argues that the voters gave Bush a mandate on the values question and perhaps he is right.

“Exit polling indicated that the top issue for voters was ‘moral values’, which barely edged out the economy, terrorism and the war in Iraq,” Keating wrote. “This is profoundly encouraging. After all, society’s moral decay has been particularly stunning over the past three to four decades. The line between right and wrong has blurred. The value of life has been cheapened, most obviously through wide-spread abortion. A coarseness in our culture has desensitized many to violence. Marriage and the family have been shaken by sexual permissiveness. And it’s no mere coincidence that all of this has occurred while religion was being pushed out of the public square.”

There are many who would agree with Keating.

I understand that my fellow New Yorker’s and I are no longer in the mainstream. We are a portion of those “blue” voters who hold on to the old values of religious freedom and helping the poor and downtrodden.

It is the “reds” who control the nation, who are convinced that if only the “blues” would come to understand their religious beliefs and embrace them that everything would be right in America once again.

The “reds” don’t understand that our Constitution allows “blues” not only to be different, but provides protection from some of the “values” that the “reds” want to push so assiduously on the rest of us.

The Democrats, however, seem to be coming to terms with the dichotomy. “We need to be a party that stands for more than the sum or our resentments,” said Senator Evan Bayh from Indiana. “In the heartland, where I am from, there are doubts. Too often, we’re caricatured as a bicoastal cultural elite that is condescending at best and contemptuous at worst to the values that Americans hold in their daily lives.”

Byah is right in his assessment.

Exit polls on the day of the November 2 election show that more than half of those who voted for Bush did so for “moral issues.” In contrast, nearly half of those who voted for Kerry said they did so because of the economy.

Do “blues” have inferior morals to “reds?”

Many “reds” think so. This is getting like Dr. Seuss and his “Star-Bellied Sneetches.” If you don’t understand what I am talking about, read the book.

It is hard being a “blue,” but that is what democracy is all about.

I will not join those running to Canada to get away from Bush and his religious fundamentalism. I certainly will not kill myself because of Bush’s reelection, as did one man at the World Trade Center site recently. I probably will not grouse too much about the election, but I will continue to fight those who use that election to push a religious agenda on the rest of us.

One headline blared on November 3, “Bush Won – Get Used To it.”

Perhaps that’s what we “blues” will just have to do. Perhaps, that is what the religious right would like us to do – just get used to it. We should, however, keep religion out of our public schools, out of our health care debate, out of our most personal rights. Religion is personal. So is a person’s vote. A person can’t be either right or wrong about his or her vote nor about his or her religion.

But nobody has the right to make political decisions that impact everybody based on religious beliefs, even if those beliefs are held by the majority of people.

That is why people came to America in the first place. That is why our Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment and that is why we fought the Revolutionary War to assure that separation between church and state.

We should not lose it now just because of the reelection of a president.

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