Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Diocese of Philadelphia has written an eloquent column about the current presidential election. His article seems intended more to comfort than to prescribe, and serves mostly as a kindly exhortation to prayer and careful deliberation during a dark time. I recommend readers click through and read it here—it is full of very good advice.
But I respectfully disagree with one point the good archbishop makes: He writes that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both “so problematic” that “neither is clearly better than the other.”
In fact, the candidates differ immensely. Consider how they differ on just the issues of marriage, religious liberty, and abortion.
Marriage and Religious Liberty
Last year, in a speech to the Human Rights Campaign (the most moneyed and powerful LGBT lobbying group in the nation), Clinton proposed a “Lengthy Agenda for LGBT Equality,” according to the gay rights magazine The Advocate:
In her speech, Clinton promised that as president she will sign the Equality Act, which amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other parts of federal law to outlaw discrimination in housing, employment and everywhere in everyday life where LGBT people are still vulnerable.
Translation: The bill she promises to push through would be the last nail in the religious liberty coffin of Obergefell, criminalizing the rights of religious employers to, say, refuse to hire gay rights operatives as Catechism teachers.
While Hillary is promising to restrict religious liberty more, Trump has pledged to repeal one of the major restrictions that already exist: The Johnson Amendment. For an excellent analysis of the Johnson Amendment and what it would mean to repeal it, I recommend the article “Trump’s biggest religious freedom proposal is about 20 years late,” by Nate Madden at the Conservative Review.
“The Johnson Amendment is a change to the federal tax code in 1954 … that prohibits all nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations from engaging in political campaigns or even endorsing candidates,” Madden explains. To many of us this sounds familiar and harmless, but since the Amendment was passed “the government has muzzled houses of worship and stands to ruin them financially if they step outside the state’s prescribed bounds.”
Given the fact that the government has lately shown itself capable of overt hostility to Christian morality, the repeal of the Amendment would be more than timely: it would be, as Madden argues, “late.”
The first speech Clinton delivered as the official Democratic Nominee was to a roomful of Planned Parenthood staffers and supporters. Abortion magnate Cecile Richards stood at the podium to introduce the presidential candidate, and praised Clinton as “our friend” and “our leader” in her opening remarks.
NPR later reported that the “love was mutual — Clinton addressed the organization as ‘family.’” As Lifesitenews’s Ben Johnson reports, Clinton even went so far as to say her campaign “belongs to” Planned Parenthood: “It belongs to the staff, the donors, and to the providers,” she said:
[Clinton] specifically mentioned Dr. Amna Dermish, an abortionist in Texas who was caught on video laughing as she said that removing a baby’s skull and brain intact is a goal she would “strive for.”
Finally, the platform of the party Hillary will represent is universally hailed (or decried) as more radically pro-abortion than ever, written in unblushing language which is echoed in the Washington Post’s horrifying recent puff-piece on Cecile Richards:
Gone is the vaguely conciliatory mantra of the past, the ideal of keeping abortion “safe, legal and rare” once advocated by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Today’s activists are bringing the passionately debated procedure into the light, encouraging women to talk openly about their abortions and giving the movement an unapologetic human face.
And they aren’t stopping there. Heading into a high-stakes presidential election, Planned Parenthood’s political arm and its supporters are rolling up their sleeves to help elect Hillary Clinton — who has done an about-face on the issue with a party platform that is pushing, for the first time, for full Medicaid funding for abortions. [Emphasis added]
In contrast, the Republican platform is arguably the most uncompromisingly pro-life it has ever been—as indeed it should be in the year following the Center for Medical Progress’s historic video exposé of the abortion industry’s gruesome side-business of baby parts trafficking. As for the candidate himself, Mr. Trump has promised to appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court if he wins the presidency.
Also reassuring is Trump’s hire of Kellyanne Conway as his campaign manager. During the Republican primary, Conway actually worked to defeat the shifty Trump and ensure the nomination of the solidly pro-life Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Conway is a longtime friend of the pro-life movement. Of Trump’s simultaneous hire of Conway and Breitbart’s Steven Bannon, Pro-life leader and Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser remarked, “I have known and trusted Kellyanne Conway my entire professional life,” and “No two could be better positioned to help Donald Trump to take on and expose Hillary Clinton’s extremism in this general election.”
Even staunch “#NeverTrump” commentator Ben Shapiro, who has nothing but harsh words for the “sinister” Steven Bannon, seems impressed with the direction of the campaign in the last week, sharing several of Conway’s insights with his followers on social media. Washington Examiner’s Jim Antle went so far as to comment that, while everyone is “focused on Bannon,” the last two “Trump speeches feel more influenced by Kellyanne Conway.” Shapiro retweeted the remark.
Not Only About Character
I could go on to address the candidates’ competing visions of immigration, educational, economic and other areas of policy. But the chasm of difference that exists between the two campaigns on these fundamental questions of life and liberty is enough to demonstrate my point.
In his column, Archbishop Chaput remarks that in 2016, good people may vote third party or not vote at all, but adds that it’s doubtful any Christian could arrive at “some mysterious calculus that will allow them to vote for one or the other of the major candidates.”
If voting in the upcoming election were merely a way of expressing our opinions about the candidates’ personal character, Chaput’s assertion might hold up. There is little evidence that either Trump or Hillary is deeply devoted to loving and serving God and neighbor. But in fact the election has to do with how the candidates’ respective political machines are likely to help or hurt our Church, our fellow citizens, and our nation.
The Archbishop is right not to judge third party voters and abstainers too harshly. But for those choosing between Trump and Hillary, the “calculus” is anything but “mysterious.”