Saturday, August 30, 2008

Joe Biden's Views on Church and State

With all of the excitement surrounding the Republican and Democratic V.P. selections, I thought our readers might enjoy this. We have already seen a surge on the "blogosphere" with regards to the religious beliefs of the Republican V.P. candidate, Sarah Palin. It is likely that she will continue to be the focus of attention for the next week or so. As a result, I thought it might be beneficial to switch it up a bit.

The following comes to us from the personal blog of Melissa Rogers, which was linked to Ed Brayton's blog, Dispatches From the Culture Wars. It is an excellent summary of some of the public statements made by the Democratic V.P candidate, Joe Biden, in regards to his views on the separation of church and state, along with his overall opinion of religion in America. Enjoy:

In light of the big news of the day, I thought I'd post some excerpts from various statements and stories that reflect Senator Biden's views regarding religion's role in public life and church-state issues. Here are a few noteworthy excerpts:

From "The Fourth R: Conflicts Over Religion in American Public Schools" by Joan DelFattore (Yale University Press 2004):

At a 1995 Senate hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment that would have re-introduced school-sponsored prayer, among other forms of state-endorsed and state-subsidized religion, Senator Orrin Hatch argued that] [t]he government should foster spirituality . . . as an antidote to moral decay. Biden replied, "The coin of religious freedom, we must never forget, has two sides."

America is one of the most religious nations on Earth, he maintained, precisely because the government has stayed out of religion. In his view, the issue before the Senate was not whether religion was good but whether all Americans, including religious minorities, would benefit from increased government involvement with it.

From The Christian Science Monitor (August 2007):

"The animating principle of my faith, as taught to me by church and home, was that the cardinal sin was abuse of power," he said in an interview with the Monitor. "It was not only required as a good Catholic to abhor and avoid abuse of power, but to do something to end that abuse."

By the way, that statement helps shed some more light on an answer Biden gave at a Democratic presidential debate in September 2007 when he was asked what his favorite Bible verse was. (I thought this was a poor question for a presidential debate, by the way). Biden's answer to this question was: "Christ's warning of the Pharisees."
From the Associated Press (June 2006):

Calling the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks a greater shock to the American psyche than Pearl Harbor, U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden said Saturday that Democrats must demonstrate they can provide for national security to win back the presidency. . .

"The next Democrat, whether it's me or Sen. Clinton or John Kerry, whomever -- the Democratic nominee -- they'd better be able to ante up right in front of the American people two things: security and faith," he said. . . .

Biden also criticized Democrats for their sometimes patronizing approach to religion, saying believers of different faiths don't expect everyone to join them. "They just want to know we respect them," he said. "If we can't negotiate the faith issue, forget it, we won't win."

From an October 2007 interview with The Chicago Tribune:

[Senator Joe Biden:] How was it that in '92 and in '96, Bill Clinton could get a majority of the Catholic vote, and 40 some percent of the Christian vote and 78 percent of the Jewish vote, and how was it that that Al Gore and John Kerry couldn't do that? Because I think Democrats have it wrong. They think in order to get that vote, you have to demonstrate you're born again, or you have to quote the bible or you're a religious person. I don't believe that. I think the reason why Bill Clinton won that vote even though they knew he wasn't a paragon of virtue--and Al Gore was--was because when Bill Clinton sat in that fundamentalist pew, that Catholic cathedral, that Jewish synagogue, the guy sitting next to him believed Bill Clinton respected him, and respected his views.

The Democratic Party has become elitist. At fundraisers with wealthy guys, they are uncomfortable when I say that. I say let me ask you a rhetorical question: Do you think it's possible for someone to go to a fundamentalist church tomorrow, make an altar call, profess he's born again, and have a high IQ? They all smile. The truth is we have communicated--the elite in our party have communicated--that we really don't respect that.

Now theres a reason for that. They are so angry about the polarization of religion by the Christian right that they've said any talk of religion is bad. Well, I think it's about respect and I don't think that we should shy away from counterpunching. Saying hey, wait a minute, you want to talk about values? I'm your guy. Let's talk about values.
I really believe with every fiber of my being the vast majority of Americans agree with us-- about how to treat children, about the elderly, about the whole issue about dealing with the environment. We act like these people in the red states oppose us? They don't!

From the Associated Press (August 2007):

Biden, a practicing Catholic, acknowledged that he rarely has talked about religion in his 34-year Senate career, but suggested that would change if he wins the Democratic presidential nomination.

Let me also add a quick summary of Senator Biden's record on some major church-state legislation that ultimately became law and some other church-state issues. Biden supported the Equal Access Act of 1984, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. As the first excerpt listed above indicates, Biden opposed the Istook amendment, a proposed amendment to the Constitution that was designed to reintroduce school-sponsored prayer and to allow other forms of government-endorsed and government-subsidized religion. The Istook amendment was defeated in 1998.

Biden criticized a court decision that held that the Pledge of Allegiance with the words "under God" violated the First Amendment. He has spoken against teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in public school science classrooms, and he supported Clinton administration efforts to help public school officials, parents, and students to better understand religion's place in public schools under the First Amendment.

From a Christian Science Monitor piece on how Biden's faith informs his public work (August 2007):

"The animating principle of my faith, as taught to me by church and home, was that the cardinal sin was abuse of power," he said in an interview with the Monitor. "It was not only required as a good Catholic to abhor and avoid abuse of power, but to do something to end that abuse."

The issues that have most engaged Biden in public life draw on those teachings, from halting violence against women to genocide. At a personal level, his faith provides him peace, he says. "I get comfort from carrying my rosary, going to mass every Sunday. It's my time alone," he says. . . .

But Biden believes he can bridge much of that divide. "My views are totally consistent with Catholic social doctrine," says Biden, a six-term Democratic senator from Delaware. "There are elements within the church who say that if you are at odds with any of the teachings of the church, you are at odds with the church. I think the church is bigger than that.". . .

"My idea of self, of family, of community, of the wider world comes straight from my religion. It's not so much the Bible, the beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, the sacraments, or the prayers I learned. It's the culture," he writes. . . .

Biden was one of the first Catholic politicians of the Vatican II generation. From 1962 to 1965, the Vatican Council II produced documents that opened the door to ecumenical dialogue, freedom of religion and conscience, and greater involvement of the laity in affairs of the church, including saying the mass in English and more emphasis on individual Bible study.

"I was raised at a time when the Catholic Church was fertile with new ideas and open discussion about some of the basic social teaching of the Catholic Church," Biden says. "Questioning was not criticized; it was encouraged."

"[A Catholic teacher] led me to see that if you cannot defend your faith to reason, then you have a problem," Biden says. . . .

On the Senate floor, the tough votes also came early and often. In his first term, Biden faced the first of many votes on whether to curtail abortion rights for women. As a freshman Democrat, he was approached by all sides. He told them that while he personally opposes abortion, he would not vote to overthrow the US Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that gave women the right to terminate a pregnancy. Nor, however, would he vote to use federal funds to fund abortion.

"I don't think I have the right to impose my view – on something I accept as a matter of faith – on the rest of society," he writes in his autobiography. . . .

"Joe Biden is one of the most sincere Catholics I've known in my 40 years as a priest," says Monsignor William Kerr, executive director of the Claude Pepper Center at Florida State University. The two men met by chance outside Biden's Senate office and began a conversation on faith and politics that has continued nearly 30 years. Monsignor Kerr recounts a conversation with Biden on Pope John Paul II's efforts to discourage President Bush from going to war in Iraq. He says that Biden told him: "I just have to tell you the pope's wrong on this, I'm going with the president. That was morality, this is politics."

Looking back on this decision, he writes, "I made a mistake." He had "vastly underestimated" the incompetence of the Bush administration in its conduct of the war. The "fantasy" of remaking Iraq in the US image was a goal that could not be imposed on a "fragile and decimated country," he writes in his new book. Instead, Biden proposes a partition of Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines to help restore security for Iraqis – and more robust international diplomacy to help sustain it.

Without taking a position on how Catholics should vote, Biden makes a case for staying connected to the church and its culture. "If I were an ordained priest, I'd be taking some issue with some of the more narrow interpretations of the Gospel being taken now," Biden says. "But my church is more than 2,000 years old. There's always been a tug of war among prelates and informed lay members."

Democratic Candidates on Religion, Denver Post (July 2007):

In 2005, Biden told The News Journal (Wilmington, Del.): "This is a nation founded on the idea of the separation of church and state. After 200 years, why the hell would you want to start messing with that?" Biden also stated that his religion is "part of my spirituality, part of my identity." However, Biden supports abortion rights and federal financing for embryonic stem-cell research, stances that run in opposition to those of his church.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), on separation of church and state:

"It was not written to prohibit the government's acknowledgementof God. In my opinion, the court's decision is dead wrong."

Joe Biden on teaching intelligent design in public science classes (The Hotline, August 2005):

Pres. Bush's comments last week "supporting the teaching of'intelligent design' alongside the theory of evolution in publicschool science classes has fueled concerns among some of thewall between religion" and gov't ";; could be breached. This is a nation founded on the idea of these paration of church and state. After 200 years, why the hell would you want to go messing with that?"

This is only a sample of the wonderful work done by Melissa Rogers. To read the entire piece, visit Melissa's blog here.

8 comments:

Pinky said...

In retrospect:
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Check it out:
 According to some reports, Palin attends church at the Juneau Christian Center, a congregation affiliated with the Assembly of God. As many of you know, the Assembly of God is the largest pentecostal denomination in the world. It is known for speaking in tongues, healing, and an emotional and contemporary style of worship with a lot of hand-raising

Do you think she might speak in tongues in her debates with Biden?
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bpabbott said...

Pinky: >> Do you think she might speak in tongues in her debates with Biden?<<

She's a politician, of course she speaks in tongues ... a forked one ;-)

Pinky said...

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Come on, Brian, you have to make a comment here.
.

Goodness, gracious.

Brad Hart said...

Pinky states:

"According to some reports, Palin attends church at the Juneau Christian Center, a congregation affiliated with the Assembly of God. As many of you know, the Assembly of God is the largest pentecostal denomination in the world. It is known for speaking in tongues, healing, and an emotional and contemporary style of worship with a lot of hand-raising."

And does anyone think that the mainstream media will hit on Palin's faith like they did Obama?

Pinky said...

Sorry about that last quote. I thought I had given the reference.
It came from this site: http://digg.com/2008_us_elections/Does_Sarah_Palin_speak_in_tongues

HumanRights101 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pinky said...

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Geez...
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Couldn't you figure out another way of dealing with people who appear to be crackpots than to delete them?
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HumanRights101 makes some comments I'd like to see proven. That is just the kind of stuff that needs to be exposed. It's either a twist of the imagination or it is a falsehood.
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Deleting it, doesn't answer any questions.
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But.....
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Biden:7):

"The animating principle of my faith, as taught to me by church and home, was that the cardinal sin was abuse of power...It was not only required as a good Catholic to abhor and avoid abuse of power, but to do something to end that abuse."

I was raised in the Catholic tradition, and in my view, this representation of Catholicism is sheer nonsense, if not complete fabrication.