John Kerry uses articles of his faith to inform nearly every political position he takes--except when it comes to abortion.
JOHN KERRY reaches the finish line tomorrow having had to speak more words about religion this year than ever before in his long political career. The point has been to reveal his deepest values, say his aides, and it has been a telling revelation.
Kerry, who is Catholic, has repeatedly emphasized that he would not "legislate" any "article of [his] faith." Kerry thus might seem to be recognizing merely that the First Amendment forbids establishing religion, including any article of specifically Catholic faith.
Yet Kerry seeks to convey a particular point, for consider that he sees the pro-life view that life begins at conception and should not be deliberately destroyed as just such an "article of faith." Ergo, he cannot "legislate" it when life issues are involved, as they are with abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.
The difficulty with the senator's position is that the pro-life view is an article not of Catholic or other faith--you will not find it in the creeds or other formal statements of doctrine--but one of morality. You don't have to be a Catholic or at all religious to be pro-life. Indeed, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops makes that very point on its website: "All persons, not just Catholics, can know from the scientific and medical evidence that what grows in a mother's womb is a new, distinct human being" that merits "respect" and protection.
Congress thus is under no First Amendment constraint should it wish to pass pro-life legislation, as it has done on many occasions (over Kerry's
objections). The Supreme Court confirmed the congressional authority in a 1980 case challenging the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds for abortion except in certain exceptional circumstances. One argument was Kerry-like--that the amendment violates the establishment clause because "it incorporates into law the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church"--and the court easily rejected it.
Kerry has not explained why he regards the pro-life view as an article of Catholic faith. He has made much of the fact that it is a church teaching. But should you think that, for Kerry, any church teaching is an "article of faith" and therefore something that he, as a senator, may not legislate, then think again, for his church has other teachings that he is only too happy to legislate. Indeed, he has invoked church teachings to explain his work in behalf of justice, the environment and the alleviation of poverty. Only an overriding commitment to abortion rights--he vows to appoint only "pro-choice" justices--can explain why for Kerry the pro-life view is an "article of faith" but other church teachings are not.
A revelation about Kerry came in July when he surprised aides by announcing that he believes that life begins at conception. But of course Kerry's statement meant nothing practically, since, for him, no article of faith can be legislated.
The upshot is that Kerry speaks about the issues of abortion and embryonic stem-cell research in a morally shriveled fashion (lacking nuance, indeed). In January, on the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which declared the abortion right, Kerry released a statement supporting the decision that neglected entirely the moral issues involved in choosing an abortion.