Should the Religiously Devout Refrain from Participating in the Political Process Because of Their Religious Motivations for Many of the Decisions They Make?
By Ken K. Gourdin
So says one poster at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion. I responded:
I don’t agree with people basing their decision about whom to vote for on invidious criteria. For example, I don’t agree with people choosing to vote for President Barack Obama simply (or primarily) because he’s African American. I don’t agree with people choosing to vote for Senator Hillary Clinton simply (or primarily) because she’s a woman. I don’t agree with people choosing to vote for any Candidate X because of any invidious or insignificant Criterion Y (e.g., because s/he’s good-looking, or because s/he is or is not gay, and so on). But the privacy of the vote is absolute: Once a voter steps into a voting booth, s/he has the right to vote for anyone (or to not vote for anyone) for any reason. I might use any lawful, reasonable means at my disposal to persuade such a voter to not base the decision on trivial or invidious criteria, but if s/he chooses to disregard my advice, that’s his or her right.
Similarly, while they are not likely to succeed, people are free to attempt to persuade me to disregard my faith in choosing how I vote. But they are free to try. It seems to me that the potentially deleterious consequences of someone choosing how to vote based on invidious or insignificant criteria are much worse than my assigning significant weight to matters of faith in choosing how to cast my vote. Yet if we’re not going to violate the sanctity of the privacy of the voting booth even in a putatively noble attempt to correct the former, I fail to see why it is necessary to do so in an attempt to “correct” the latter (granting, solely for the sake of this discussion, that it should need “correction”), particularly in light of abundant scriptural evidence that seems, not just to permit, but indeed, to endorse employing faith-based criteria in deciding matters of state. See, e.g., Doctrine and Covenants 98 (esp. vv. 6-10) and 134; Proverbs 29:2; Mosiah 29:26; etc.