A Bishop’s Political Judgement

Recently an over-zealous LDS bishop wrote an op-ed piece which sparked some debate in the Mormon progressive community. Given the man’s position and the use of political questions as a litmus test for temple worthiness, a discussion has emerged around the separation of politics and LDS Church doctrine. Instead of writing an unproductive response to the bishop calling into question conservative platforms that are blatantly anti-Christian, I am instead addressing one of the article’s attacks; Democrat’s pro-choice position. As a proud progressive, I also feel the discussion should center on facts, data, and historical significance, and not arrogantly challenging people’s religious worthiness due to disagreement.  In defense of Democrat’s pro-choice position, here are some points to consider:

  1. The abortion rate has declined faster under Democrat Presidents than Republican Presidents. Currently under the Obama Administration abortion has declined 14% (19.7 to 17 per 1000 women). Under President Clinton’s administration the abortion rate fell almost 20% (25 to 20.5). Abortion Rates in the USThis is partly due to the abortion rate having a strong tie to the economy. Somewhat unknown and undiscussed, 25-30% of abortions are among married couples. When finances are tight, children become a liability. With the U.S. economy making significant progress under both Clinton and Obama, the abortion rate responded accordingly.
  2. Access to healthcare drives down the abortion rate. When Governor Romney passed the Massachusetts healthcare bill a positive correlation was discovered. Harvard published a study which concluded that greater accessibility to doctors resulted in higher efficacy of birth control. The state-wide abortion rate fell 6% in the years following Romney’s expansive healthcare legislation. With 10 million additional Americans now covered under Obamacare and an additional 10 million by 2016, the impact to the abortion rate should be easy to measure.
  3. Republicans use abortion as a campaign tool, but do not introduce legislation. When Republicans had control of the White House, Senate, House, most Governorships, and the Supreme Court from 2002-2006 the only legislation passed was a late term abortion ban carrying strong bipartisan support. Republicans also tried to pass a federal traditional marriage amendment which couldn’t even garner universal support from their own party members. Republicans currently have full control of the House and yet no additional abortion legislation has been brought to the floor. Such inaction begs the question how Republicans actually prioritize this issue.
  4. Roe vs. Wade has not been challenged by Republicans. The argument has been made that resolving abortion rests with the courts. Since the passage of Roe vs Wade, very little judicial activism has transpired even though the Court has sustained a majority of conservative judges. If Republicans can push Obamacare to the High Court within two years, why haven’t they pushed abortion challenges through the system.
  5. The only abortion legislation signed by President Obama RESTRICTED abortion. Known as the Stupak compromise, a Michigan Democrat worked with President Obama to ensure Affordable Care Act funding would not be used for abortions. Upon passage of the law, President Obama followed through by signing an executive order which banned any public funding to be used for abortion. Even Ronald Reagan, Republican’s conservative icon, signed California’s “Therapeutic Abortion Act” making access to abortion possible for millions of women.
  6. Republicans ignore the consequences of banning abortion. Even with a lawful ban, individuals with means will always be able to find doctors who will perform the procedure. A disproportionate number of lower income mothers and fathers will not have such resources, and responsibility for their children will be abandoned. The burden will then be transferred to the state, which will require resources and funding. Given the recent push of Republicans to cut food stamps, half of which benefit children, it’s not unreasonable to assume the party will punt the consequences. Adoption as a universal solution is also unrealistic given demographics, cost, and demand.

I am sure this outspoken Bishop feels he has the right to express his opinion on such complicated matters, and I agree. However, by stereotyping Democrats in his congregation he crosses a very fine line as a leader of our faith and a perceived spokesperson for the church. Instead of ridiculing what he feels is a conflicting position; he might be better served to look at the broader picture. Through their support of expanding healthcare, education, and economic reform, Democrats have proven more effective reducing the rate of abortions. Democrats also have a track record of supporting resources to care for unwanted children, which will be a significant issue if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned. Waiving the moral flag is good for political theater, but if this bishop really cared about reducing abortions, he might consider voting Democrat.

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For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, you know our organization’s stated purpose is, “To foster data-based discussion around current issues while driving awareness for the progressive Mormon community…In essence, our content should not only educate fellow members of the LDS community, but appeal to persons of all political persuasions across our readership. Our articles bring a different point of view by re-framing the issues and driving constructive debate.”

We take quite literally the Church’s stated mission “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians.” We also take solace that the church has publically declared “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics. This applies in all of the many nations in which it is established.”  The Bishop’s handbook, one of the Church’s governing documents, provides specific direction in political matters:

(1) “While affirming the right of expression on political and social issues, the Church is neutral regarding political parties, political platforms, and candidates for political office. The Church does not endorse any political party or candidate. Nor does it advise members how to vote.”

(2) “Only the First Presidency can speak for the Church or commit the Church to support or oppose specific legislation or to seek to intervene in judicial matters. Otherwise, stake presidents and other local leaders should not organize members to participate in political matters or attempt to influence how they participate.”

(3) “Church leaders and members should also avoid statements or conduct that might be interpreted as Church endorsement of any political party, platform, policy, or candidate.”

Also, the Church’s official position on abortion is the following, “The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.”

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Matthew

Author / Editor
I am passionate about politics. What I find the most interesting is the theater, strategy, and positioning. My writing revolves around political process and impacts of policy decisions. I completed my undergrad at Arizona State and MBA at University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, MN. I have worked in the consumer products industry for the last 12 years for Gillette, P&G, and Henkel. I am a husband of twelve years and father to four daughters (11,9,5,4).

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33 Responses to A Bishop’s Political Judgement

  1. dee says:

    I remember the floor debate over ACA in 2010. I have shared Mr. Stupak’s actions in obtaining the redundant amendment to the bill., as there was already legislation that federal funds could not be used for abortion. He was a strong Catholic, and he wanted to be sure before he and his bloc signed on to put the legislation over the top @219 or greater. He then did not seek reelection in fall 2010. I am utterly amazed at the nerve of that bishop to make such statements as to a democrat’s worthiness. I also would not be surprised at his release. As a bishop, it is not his place to be opinionated in front of his congregation, a judge in Israel, of course,but though he wrote a disclaimer saying he doesn’t speak for the church, that’s exactly what he did, as far as the public is concerned. That for your facts, many appreciate them.

  2. drrue says:

    #5 is absolutely not true and a shell game with money. I work for one of the companies that administers the “Obamacare” insurance plans. Abortions are paid from a fund “separate” from that for all other benefits, but that money is derived from premiums. It’s a way of saying your tax money isn’t going to fund abortions, but guess what? $1 of each of your monthly premiums IS paying for abortions. Since a large portion of those signed up receive a subsidy towards their premium, its all one big pot of money that $1 is extracted from. Its a very blurry line to try and say federal dollars don’t fund abortions. In the case of fully subsidized premiums, it absolutely DOES fund abortions. Despite your attempts to haze it over with statistics, abortion is still murder.

    • The Stupak amendment was designed for plans purchased with Federal money — meaning the expansion of medicaid. For plans bought by the consumer from private companies on the exchanges, the Stupak amendment does not apply. Either way the fact still remains that the only legislation Obama has signed on this issue, in some method or manner made abortion more restricted, not more accessible.

      • Ephraim says:

        You democrat Mormons delude yourself into calling evil good and good evil. Sad that you give the rest of us God fearing Christian Mormons with your embrace of such patent evil as the killing of the innocent and unborn. Furthermore, the embracing of gay marriage by you all also demonstrates your disregard for the Proclamation to the World. You all delude yourselves into believing that you are supporting the needy and the helpless, when in fact, you facilitate their victimization in the forms of increased access to abortion, and the destruction of the family by supporting feminist agendas. This entire article is rubbish and could easily be refuted for the “facts” that your purport to be the truth. (Ex: the economy improves due to democrat policies- the economy improved under Clinton in large part because he only had a democrat congress for two of his years in office. The rest of those years were with a GOP controlled congress. Welfare reform was only passed by a GOP congress and signed by Clinton into law. It wasn’t the Dems that did that. Furthermore, the economy has been stagnant for years under Obama, look at the terrible job growth numbers.) The rise of radical Islam is another failure of this regime as we failed to finish the job in the middle east and now more people are suffering from evil men spreading terror, death, and rape in the form of ISIS. (yeah, that was the Lord’s will alright!!)

    • TTS says:

      Abortion may well be murder in your interpretation, but a reading of the general handbook does not support you. A woman who has had a prior abortion can be baptized. A person who has committed murder can never be baptized. In addition, as others noted, the Church allows abortion in specific cases. I cannot think of any cases in which the Church would condone murder. My reading of the guidance in the general handbook leads to the conclusion that as revealed up to now, the Lord has not deemed abortion to be the equivalent of murder. A serious matter, and in the case of elective abortion, a serious sin, potentially incurring ecclesiastical punishment.

      But not murder.

      • Stephanie says:

        Not true- an investigator on my mission murdered her boyfriend, and she was able to get baptized. We had to work with the first presidency, and it took a long time to get the approvals, but she was able to be baptized.

        • Stephanie says:

          *She had been convicted of murder and served time in prison.

          • I think there are exceptions to every rule. Unless a person who has committed murder fulfills his punishment to society, they cannot be baptized. However, I had a couple investigators on my mission who had abortions that were welcomed into the church with no delay.

  3. Ryan says:

    I’m going to go to the doctrine here: the right to moral choice (aka agency) is a vital aspect of the plan of our Heavenly Father. This one principle was so valuable to our Heavenly Father that He cast out one third of the hosts of heaven, drew a veil over our understanding, and sent His Only Begotten Son to sacrifice his perfect life to redeem us all from the consequences of our individual choices. Mandating that individuals make a choice on the basis of our beliefs is exactly the plan of Lucifer for which he and the one third previously mentioned were sent out of the presence of God for failure to keep their first estate. All of these things argue, in my opinion, that God is “pro choice” no matter what the choice may be. Too often conservatives conflate “pro choice” with “pro abortion.” I personally find contraceptive abortion to be abhorant, however, I do not believe that I have any right to tell another person how to live their own life and, frankly, their choices have little bearing on my life. Why can’t we be truly progressive, like, maybe…the Prophet Josuah who said, of the decisions of his fellows, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Josuah 24:15)?

    Furthermore, any “bishop” or other leader in the Church who uses politics as a determinant of individual worthiness is failing to abide the Church’s longstanding policy of political neutrality. How very presumptuous of him to think he knows better than the prophets and apostles!

    • Laurel says:

      This is exactly how I feel and why I do not support Republican party positions on these issues. Thank you so much for stating it much better than i ever could.

    • Leah B. says:

      So very well said. Thank you for your comments. Thank you Matt, for this article. I am happy that I’ve been given the freedom to make my own choices in this life & that I have a loving Heavenly Father who can lead me. I only hope that we can all be examples of Christ to our fellow man & especially woman in this case, that they will want to seek the Lord’s help when making such hard choices. Support, education & love will change lives, not laws.

    • Regina steimer says:

      So under your theory everything should be legal because we have free agency?

  4. Matt says:

    Very well written. Nicely done!

  5. The Church does not encourage abortion by any stretch of the imagination, however there are 3 distinct policies that the Church does consent to abortion: 1) Rape, 2) Incest, and 3) the health of the Mother. Having almost lost a daughter during a very serious pregnancy, we almost consented to an abortion for her as she already had two little boys and she needed to still be their Mother. Her organs were failing and we feared we were going to lose her. By the grace of God, and Priesthood blessings, her life was spared and that of the beautiful Granddaughter that she gave us!! We have a kind and loving Heavenly Father that sees things in a much different light than we do. We can not judge. All we can do is love one another and hope and pray for the best. Bare one another’s burdens and help one another along in this difficult life.

  6. Tami says:

    If you are not against elective abortion, then you are in favor of it. I find it against everything I think the gospel stands for and I can’t see how any Mormon would feel otherwise. To say we should not decide the actions of another is ridiculous. We do it every day with laws against incest, murder, drug abuse, robbery, etc.
    I think all democrats had better think long and hard next time they answer the question in their temple recommend interviews of whether or not they affiliate with any groups that teach positions contrary to the church. This is not a matter of opinion, same sex marriage and elective abortion are black and white issues that the church has taken a very definite stand against. So, are you with the church or with the party? You can’t straddle the fence on this one.

    • Tami, if you can sleep better at night because you vote Republican than that is exactly what you should do. If you feel as though your time in the Temple is more worth while because you vote Republican then you have made the right choice. But don’t act as though Republicans have the exclusivity on moral outrage.

      Do you cringe every time you pass a homeless person, or do you excuse their circumstance as a result of parasitic behavior? Do you remember the single mothers when you are screaming to cut food stamps, knowing it is them you are most likely impacting? Do you ignore blatant voter suppression because in your mind those votes are not worth fighting for? Do you vote for the candidates who hide behind the shadows of dark money, because you feel sharing similar values justifies their means of election? Do you fight hard for that same precious soul to take their first breath, and then ignore their cries when they are neglected by the parents? Do you back your party blindly on an issues they have no real motivation to impact? Do you even care that your vote is basically driven by outrage over issues that your party has no intent on changing?

      You keep your blinded conscience pointed in the direction you feel best. I am pro-life, but I am pro-life for the entire duration of the precious soul, not just for a nine-month gestation period. And had you read the entire article you will find that I posted the church’s official stance that is not open to your interpretation.

      “The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.”

      You might also want to read http://www.mormondems.com/archives/285 before you are translated.

      • Jen says:

        Matthew, Your response assumes that government is the only thing that can care for these people. Communities care for the less fortunate 100% better than a giant bureaucracy.
        Before you go assuming I am a Republican, I am not. I do affiliate with any political party because neither party is putting forth legislation to help the least of these in our society.

        • This sounds like a Libertarian idea — great in principle but lacks substance in execution. Currently Americans donate 300 billion to charities, and that includes churches, political campaigns, panda’s, hurricanes, ice bucket challenges, etc. If you expect communities to care for the poor and the elderly and remove govt from the equation, Americans will need to TRIPLE the $300 billion to cover current liabilities, and that’s assuming EVERY penny goes to the poor and elderly.

          • Rick says:

            Government charity is a good example of “false philanthropy” one of the charges in Bastiat’s great book “The Law”, which exposes the evils of Socialism. The Scriptures praise true charity. D&C58:27, Mosiah 18:28, which says, “And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul.”

          • Rick says:

            And just what percentage of government welfare spending actually goes directly to the poor and elderly?

    • tami, problem is writing a law the allows “health” to be considered, problem is, who defines that term? (it does not say life). as for same sex marriage, civil marriage does not require a church, and so church unless has real data (or revelation, proclamation is not a revelation) should to be a little more open. marriage of same sex individuals could reduce sexual partners (i know the data about so far not quite the case, changing cultures is hard, but curreently there is no societal support to move to longer term relationships) and no country that has SSM has “gone to hell”

    • Neil says:

      so if a 11 year old girl gets pregnant from rape, by all means make her go through having the baby. Lets use our heads here. and not be stupid.

      • Rick says:

        Come on, Neil. With all due respect, this case would not be an “elective” abortion. That’s what we’re talking about here. Elective abortions. in this case, I don’t think I would be against it. Bottom line, it should be the decision of the girl’s family and physician.

    • pollypinks says:

      How ridiculous to insinuate one has to decide their spirituality over their political party. It can and does encompass all…Just because you are a republican doesn’t make you more moral than me, in fact, when we look at how those who are poor are treated by the medical and dental community, we can make the assumption that conservatives are pro-life until the kid is born. Then it’s “Screw you, you wicked, poor mother.” And middle class mothers paying for insurance still wind up bankrupt by our healthcare system. I know. I’ve lived it.

  7. Jeff says:

    While I disagree with the piece written by Bishop Paredes, I think there are two things worth pointing out. First, there is a clear disclaimer in his post that it reflects his own views and not those of the LDS Church, consistent with the directions from Handbook 1 quoted in this article. Whether there is an issue in how he conducts temple recommend interviews is something I hope his Stake President will look into.

    Second, the excerpt mentioned in this article (“The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion”) is only a portion of the LDS Church’s stated stance on abortion found at http://www.mormonnewsroom.org. The full statement is this (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/official-statement/abortion):

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.

    “The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:

    “Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or
    “A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or
    “A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.

    “The Church teaches its members that even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.

    “The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.”

    Additionally, the entry on abortion found on http://www.lds.org includes the following:

    “Church members who submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions may lose their membership in the Church….Church members who encourage an abortion in any way may be subject to Church discipline.”

    I felt it was important to mention this for clarity regarding the LDS Church’s stance on abortion independent of politics. Now, do I think that voting for a candidate from the Democratic party inherently means I support abortion, absolutely not (I’d be in trouble otherwise). If I only voted for candidates that I agreed with on everything than I would never be able to vote for anyone, regardless of their party.

  8. Boyet says:

    The six points mentioned tried to justify the use of abortion to address political, social and economic issues. It however does not address the fundamental issue of whether we consider abortion as taking the life of a fetus or not. It begs the question, can one really justify taking a life because we feel that these babies will be a burden to society or maybe a certain political party is not doing their job? I fully agree with the church stand on cases where the pregnancy was forced, in the case of rape,incest or health because it prevented the exercise of the woman’s free agency. However, irresponsible actions such as using the sacred power of procreation without accepting the consequences of such actions does not justify taking the life of an innocent fetus. Statistics and political inclinations only clouds what the real issue here is and it goes back to what is said in D&C, that the worth of one soul is great in the sight of God.

    I don’t agree with the Bishop’s stand on democrats. I believe you can be a democrat but pick and choose which ideals you agree or disagree with, likewise with republicans. We are told to vote with our conscience. Even though we may not agree on certain issues, we should not judge others as to what they believe to be right and so it goes with both political parties. This is no different between members and non-members. Mutual respect is essential for the free exchange of ideas to happen.

  9. Rick says:

    Besides the First Amendment, does the Constitutional delegation of powers have any place in this debate? From reading the posts and replies, I would guess not.

  10. As a lawyer, I would absolutely love to hear how you rationalize #4. The Supreme Court is the highest court. There are no other courts to appeal to once the Supremes have come down with a decision. You write it as if the conservative judges on the court can simply take up the issue of abortion and reverse Roe. That’s not how the system works.

    • I get that the Supreme Court is the highest court, and they cannot be overruled. However, through the appeal process cases can be pushed up the chain (like Obamacare) and the SCOTUS can pick the cases they want to deliberate with only three justices taking on the case. It took to 2008 until Justices finally ruled that the 2A was an individual right to own after the matter had been ruled upon several times in the past. Find a case on abortion with a different angle, push it through the appeals process (there are plenty of conservative judges that will comply), and see what the verdict is.

      Also, it doesn’t take being a lawyer to understand how our judicial branch works.

  11. Rick says:

    The congress, if it had the gumption, could put the Supremes in their places by legislation. Check out the Constitution on the Matter.

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