You may recall that some churches held what they called a Pulpit Freedom Sunday during last year's presidential election. Many people - including me - decried this as an inappropriate intrusion of religion into the political arena. People had similar concerns when Saddleback Church hosted a presidential forum.
It seems that the shoe is now on the other foot. Two days ago, President Obama held a conference call and a webcast with over 140,000 religious leaders across the USA to urge them to encourage their congregations to support his health care plan. I am calling this out as an inappropriate intrusion of politics into the religious sphere. I say this even though I support health care reform.
These two events are opposite sides of a coin, or mirror images of each other. Religious leaders should not use their pulpits as forums from which to preach their political preferences, and presidents should not use their office as a forum from which to push their policies as religiously correct positions.
Yes, religious people vote their consciences, as do non-religious people, but they should not let the religious foundations of their positions dominate public discourse. They should appeal to the public on secular grounds, not religious ones. Similarly, presidents should not appeal to the religious sensitivities of a select contingent of their constituents to garner support for their political positions. They should appeal for support of their policies on secular grounds alone. President Obama (in what can only be construed as an act of political desperation) committed an egregious act of spiritual abuse yesterday by implying that religious adherents who don't support his plan may not be acting according to the dictates of their religions.
Perhaps those religious people who supported Pulpit Freedom Sunday and other intrusions of religion into electoral politics will now have a better understanding of why those behaviors were wrong. Just as importantly, I hope that President Obama - who, as a Constitutional scholar, clearly should have known better - will also learn, sooner rather than later, why his behavior was wrong. The ill-designed shoe of religio-politics fits both feet equally poorly.