Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mixing Religion And Politics

A post at Fort Wayne Observed recently drew my attention to a MySpace site, which Republican mayoral hopeful Matt Kelty has set up to promote his campaign up in Fort Wayne. I don't know much about Kelty other than he's the guy who came within a whisker of defeating long-time state representative and former Fort Wayne mayor Win Moses a few years back. I was impressed that Kelty was using the MySpace site as a new medium to reach voters, and I was also impressed that he had a professionally-done video message to voters uploaded to the site and recorded from what appeared to be his living room, complete with burning logs in the fireplace and a sleeping dog at his feet. The purpose of his first video was to send a Christmas message to voters.

Now, I know a lot of Christians have increasingly become upset with many department stores, such as WalMart, because they refer to the holidays rather than the specific secular holiday (i.e., Christmas). That's because they don't want to offend their non-Christian shoppers by singling out only the Christian holiday. Their sensitivity to this concern should be accepted by Christians in a country where we celebrate our religious freedom. There is even greater concern, however, when it involves a public official or a candidate for public office.

Kelty's message on his MySpace site has a Christmas greeting to fellow Christians without reservation. His message is peppered with references to the Christian holiday only. He refers to the "Great promise and great hope represented by the birth of Christ, our Lord and Savior" and ends by saying "May Christ bless each of you." While I believe Kelty is sincere in the expression of his religious faith, it really should be an irrelevant consideration in his bid to become mayor, not to mention the excluding impact of his message.

What Kelty and so many politicians forget is that under our constitutional government, religious tests cannot be imposed as a condition to public service. By invoking their personal religion in the fashion Kelty has done, it has the effect of excluding anyone who doesn't subscribe to those particular set of religious beliefs. With a population over 220,000, Fort Wayne is Indiana's second-largest city. The vast majority of the city's residents are no doubt Christian, but I suspect a city of that size includes among its citizens a variety of non-Christians as well. If he becomes mayor, he is expected to represent all citizens, not just those of his same religious faith. But when politicians like Kelty invoke their religion in this fashion, people of other faiths have reason to worry about whether they will be treated equally as citizens.

This was the crux of the whole debate this past year in the Indiana House of Representatives over the use of Christian-only prayers as part of the House's official proceedings each day. In striking down the prayers as delivered under the leadership of Speaker Brian Bosma, the federal courts found it ran afoul of the Establishment Clause. There's no harm in allowing prayers so long as they don't prefer one religion over another. It's often more politically expedient to argue the other side, but at some point we need to accept this long-established constitutional tradition and move away from these divisive debates.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

It matters not, AI.

Mayor Graham Richard will coast to another term in FW.

It won't even be close.

Win Moses almost lost four years ago to this Kelty guy, because Win did in that year, what Ed Mahern did in 2006: nothing.

Advance Indiana said...

I thought Richard had announced he wasn't going to seek re-election.

Anonymous said...

You are correct, Gary. Anon 8:01 might want to occasionally look at FW media so that his/her prognostications make sense.

Joh Padgett said...

Color me impressed with the use of MySpace by a Hoosier pol to launch a campaign, that's quite savvy if you ask me. It also draws attention to something I began to suspect a while ago, it certainly seems the people of Ft Wayne seem to be less technophobic than the people of Indianapolis. Has anyone else noticed the plethora of blogs and people online from Ft Wayne vs. Indy? I have.

I have to agree with your points about the religion mixing with politics issue, its one that has had me uncomfortable for some time. I am a believer myself, but the "liberaltarian" in me cringes when I hear the public officials and candidates making with the church friendly talk.

Anonymous said...

Myspace. Campaign blogs. YouTube.

Amazing stuff, no?

Anonymous said...

"By invoking their personal religion in the fashion Kelty has done, it has the effect of excluding anyone who doesn't subscribe to those particular set of religious beliefs."

To me it does not matter what religion one is or how they profess it just like it does not matter what race or sex a person is - they do not make me feel excluded if I am not of their religion or race or sex.

Hoosier Pete said...

"By invoking their personal religion in the fashion Kelty has done, it has the effect of excluding anyone who doesn't subscribe to those particular set of religious beliefs."

That's why those people should VOTE for another candidate that makes them feel comfortable.

I usually agree with these sorts of arguments, but this one has me baffled. Now we are disallowing candidates to profess their religion? Since that is a major part of his belief system, I'm glad he has the guts to tell me.

Now this admission has become part of the debate: Mr. Kelty, How do you plan to use your religion in office?

This is a big bag of nothing.

If the guy wants to alienate people, that's his right. My guess is that in Indiana, admitting you're a Christian is plus in the campaign.

Squarefinger said...

Last I checked, the Establishment Clause did not apply to the free expression of religion on a candidate’s webpage or website www.mattkelty.com.

The Kelty Christmas message is less about alienating voters more about demonstrating the candidate has a moral compass and core, believes in something that defines good and evil, and has the courage of his convictions to present them. A novel characteristic in a politician these days. It is disappointing to me to see folks writing to divide based on faith rather than unify based on the common religious principals on which this Nation was founded and many of its laws are based. We tend to forget that.

He said Merry Christmas for Christ’s sake, literally! What better way to exercise the freedom of religion, practice and express one’s faith than to extend the blessing and hope of God to all, regardless of their religious affiliation. That is a long way from the establishment of a theocracy from the seat of power at the City-County Building in Fort Wayne as the author would has us believe.

In 1960, the noted author Norman Vincent Peale vigorously opposed the presidential candidacy of then Senator John F. Kennedy. Based on Kennedy’s Catholic faith and some selected writings of St. Paul, Peale posited that Kennedy would be more likely to represent the interests of the Vatican and the Pope than those of the people of the United States. When asked to comment on Peale’s position on Kennedy, religion and politics, Adlai Stevenson replied to reporters, “… I find [St.] Paul appealing and Peale appalling!”

As then, so is it now.

tiredoldguy said...

Wow, what a lot of crap! This person has obviously never met Matt, spoken with matt or interacted with Matt in any way. As a Jew I find this blog repugnant! To know Matt is to know that he is committed to Fort Wayne, and while religion form the basis for his moral compass, (something decidedly missing in most politicians), there is absolutley nothing wrong with that! If he is not allowed in this "free" country to express his religious beliefs, then how can anyone else be allowed Freedom of religion. If you are uncomfortable with the concept of freedom of religion you might want to check your own moral foundations. If you are unhappy with Matt Kelty as the next mayor of Fort Wayne, then I suggest that rather then hiding behind a faceless blog and throwing bombs, you move to Fort Wayne, become a resident and get actively involved with and opponents campaign!

Northeast Indiana said...

Gary, I guess the comment from "tiredoldguy" ties this post and your earlier one ("do I want to keep doing this?") together.

Certainly there are people who might disagree with your reaction to Kelty's ad. Anon 10:35 makes that point in a completely appropriate way. But tiredoldguy is just, in my opinion, over the line in his anger/hostility.

So, on behalf of your many fans throughout the state and perhaps even the universe, please let me take on the task of saying to tiredoldguy the following:

Please try to respect the philosophy and tenor of this blog by keeping a more civil and balanced tone while you express yourself. If we wanted to go to a food-fight blog, there are plenty to check out. We like Advance Indiana because it is a reasonable place where rational people can discuss things, and we invite you to join in the discussion.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Bravo to this man for having the courage to express his faith. Ultimately, the voters will decide. But there is no reason as Christian can't represent all the citizens of Fort Wayne. Christ's message was one of peace, love and service to the needs of the poor, the elderly, the ostracized, the sick. Gee, isn't that what you would want in a mayor?

tiredoldguy said...

Northeast Indiana saidPlease try to respect the philosophy and tenor of this blog by keeping a more civil and balanced tone while you express yourself. If we wanted to go to a food-fight blog, there are plenty to check out. We like Advance Indiana because it is a reasonable place where rational people can discuss things, and we invite you to join in the discussion.

Ok, I did not realize that stating my opinion strongly on a clearly left leaning (yes I have read prior posts) blog is irrational, un-civil, and not in line with the philosophy or tenor of this blog.

I am always amazed that while it is ok for the author to be snide, sanctimonious, sarcastic, and hide in the weeds throwing bombs, it is considered irrational and un-civil when it illicts a strong response. Gary, If you can't stand the heat of debate, then do get out of the kitchen! And, this is a balanced, rational, civil, response!

Anonymous said...

The earlier post regarding Mayor Richard's re-election was mine. The subsequent post was news to me, so I retrieved some mail from the holiday stack.

There, clear as a bell, was a fund-raising letter from good ole Graham. I read it twice. He never mentions he's running or not running for anything.

I had scanned it quickly and assumed he was running for re-election.

The postmark was Dec. 19. I opened it originally last week some time, read it fast and moved on.

What is he running for, complete with a return envelope for contributions?

Hmmmmm...

And, as for expression one's faith in a campaign, it's not smart politics, but if this guy wants to extoll the virtues of the Lord, let him.

It's his political funeral. Ft. Wayne is a fairly intellegent town. His views are blatant, but...we don't have to read them. "Click."

If he resorts to it repeatedly on the campaign trail, which I'm betting he won't, that's another story altogether.

Anon 8:18 said...

Dear Anon 8:01 & 1:49:

Very interesting - and certainly understandable that you "jumped" to the conclusion that you did which is what any person would do if we received a fundraising letter. So I apologize for my comment.... and am VERY curious about what Richard is raising money for. (He announced in early October that he was not running for mayor.)

Anonymous said...

...and am VERY curious about what Richard is raising money for

Perhaps wanting to ensure he doesn't get one-upped by Tom McDermott the younger in the "Race to kiss Bart Peterson's a$$" ???

Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard that he was foregoing another term. He is 61, and has been in public life for 25 years or so. Maybe he's just burned out.

He has been a good mayor and was a good senator, from most accounts.
Smart man, kind, decent...rare in public service.

Besides, internal Demo rumor mill has it he and Win Moses hate one another. Which makes him a hero in my book.

If he's raising money maybe he is truly contemplating a run for governor. Then again, he may have leftover campaign debts. Who knows?

Nick Metel said...

It was suggested that Kelty's faith should be irrelevant in his bid to become Fort Wayne's mayor, and this may seem to ring true to those who do not truly grasp the Christian message and the importance of faith in Christ. For those of us, however, who do understand the Truth, it would be a horrendous inconsistency to allow faith to be irrelevant in any aspect in our lives.

ch said...

It is curious that anyone would object to a candidate who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. Everyone benefits from a leader who is committed to the principles Jesus taught - Christian and non-Christian. What teachings of Jesus about how we are to treat each other and conduct our lives are offensive or exclusionary or harmful to the citizenry? I appreciate Matt sharing honestly his core values so voters know who he is. I'd rather know our leaders have core values than find out too late they lead according to the changing whims of public opinion.
ch

Kevin said...

As a lifelong church goer, who accepted Christ as my savior at age 12, its been my experience that a LOT of those who go out of their way to flaunt their Christianity are the ones who practice it the least.

chinadoll said...

Knowing Mr. Kelty but not living in the city, Id vote for him if I could. He is sincere and lives what he speaks. If he chooses to express what is in his heart then more power to him. As the old song goes..."underneath a bushel, my little light wont shine"...The problem is too many Christians bury their heads in the sand rather than have the wherewithall to take part in a mostly corrupt political system and try to right it. Kelty is trying which is more than I can say for a lot of people.

Squarefinger said...

... and I'd agree the MySpace.com approach to reaching out to new and future voters is a master stroke.

The kind of inclusiveness and out of the box thinking the City needs.

Schwabby said...

Your political garbage is exactly what people are tired of. Kudos to Matt Kelty for being proud enough of who he is to take a stand. Any good Christian is going to be concerned with people of all faiths not just their own. You have dealt with too many people who call themselves christians but are that only in name not in action. Jesus did not deal with only Jews, he dealt with all people of all walks, greeks, helenistic Jews,and pagans. A good Christian is a person who lives their faith, has compassion on all peoples and I believe that is who Matt Kelty will be. I admire a man who can stand up for what he believes in a society that would rather ostracize you when you stand up for your beliefs. If more people would stand up for their morals in this society we might have a whole lot less crime, then again, we might have less politicians too. Remember Teddy Roosevelt, carry a big stick....well I think Matt Kelty is carrying a big stick on the homefront, and not letting people boss him around for what he believes in. I for one as a Native Fort Wayne resident, will be casting my vote for someone who is not afraid to take a stand, because it is that very person who I want in our government, because if he can take a stand on his beliefs then he will take a stand in all areas of leadership.

Anonymous said...

Matt is not an honest guy. He promisses people this and that and never deliver. I have tried to work with this before but it is all about money for him not the vision. He does not even give a chance to the small guy.