Tuesday, September 07, 2010

God and the Lieutenant Governor

Dan Bice is interested in Rebecca Kleefisch's appeal to evangelical Christian voters to pray for her. He suggests that there is, if not something wrong, at least unusual in Kleefisch's apparent intent to "rely on her conservative Christian principles and interpretation of the Bible when making decisions as a government official."

So? I would expect her to act on her sense of what is right and wrong and for most of us those concepts are religiously informed. In the absence of some indication that she is about to jettison the religion clauses of the federal and state constitution, why shouldn't she call moral questions as she sees them?

(Of course, Bice is right in suggesting that the Lt. Governor has only slightly more power than the guy who runs the Capitol newstand - at least not until the Governor becomes ambassador to Tonga.

20 comments:

Dad29 said...

Bice's sneer may backfire

Nick said...

I think few people would have issue with someone who would use their faith to give them strength, and more direction in leadership.

However, Kleefisch's appeals seem to suggest that she would use these beliefs to set public policy.

It begins to get a big hazy and gray for some of us. After all, when swearing her oath, she swears to uphold the Constitution (with the help of God)... not uphold the Bible (with the help of the Constitution).

George Mitchell said...

It is hard to imagine how a legislator with strong religious beliefs would not find a connection between them and public policy. I am reading a book about Eleanor Roosevelt; it is evident that her strong religious beliefs were a huge factor in shaping her public activity and efforts on behalf of her husband.

While Dan Bice is a capable reporter who has brought many things to light over the years, Dad29 is correct that in this case the column was one long sneer. Bice also has an obsession with David Clarke and put forth a factually challenged chronology in the matter of Chief Flynn's extramarital relationship.

It says a lot about the general climate in the JS newsroom that the piece on Kleefisch was deemed noteworthy.

Aaron Rodriguez said...

Not sure I understand the post. Bice didn't report anything that wasn't factual. Nay, Rebecca is proud to tell Bice about her faith; and as far as I know, Bice is active in his own church, so this is much ado about nothing.

Daniel Bice said...

For the record, I didn't intend the column as one long sneer. Perhaps that's my default tone. Or Dad29 and George could be reading that into the column. Either is possible. But that wasn't my intent.

With an undergraduate degree from an evangelical college, I fully understand Rebecca's perspective. In fact, during our interview, I cited verses from I Timothy and I Corinthians to help her bolster her points, but she apparently was unfamiliar with both passages.

Truth be told, many people sent me the flier and wanted me to write about it. Rebecca agreed with many of these individuals that her piece went further in its appeal to faith than most other campaign lit.

So I thought I'd put the topic out there. I wasn't trying to issue a moral judgment on her vow to use her faith to decide public policy if elected. But I was saying her position was unusual, especially for a Wisconsin candidate, and therefore worthy of debate.

Grant said...

I wasn't trying to issue a moral judgment on her vow to use her faith to decide public policy if elected

You mean your column wasn't intended as a Rawlsian disquisition on overlapping consensus? Shocker!

Aaron Rodriguez said...

Well said, Dan.

George Mitchell said...

"So I thought I'd put the topic out there. I wasn't trying to issue a moral judgment on her vow to use her faith to decide public policy if elected. But I was saying her position was unusual, especially for a Wisconsin candidate, and therefore worthy of debate."

Give us a break, Dan. As the main purpose of your column is to rip people — a purpose worthy of a separate discussion — the idea that you were just tossing this out for discussion is debatable.

Daniel Bice said...

Think about it. If I wanted to do a rip job, I wouldn't have written the column as I did.

I would have gone with a sharp and sarcastic lede. That would have been easy enough -- I'd throw an example in here, but the ones crossing my mind all sound borderline sacrilegious -- but I didn't go that route. Or at least I didn't intend to.

As for John Rawls and his notion of overlapping consensus, I'll admit that didn't cross my mind. But I was thinking of Habermas and his idea of the public sphere when deciding whether to do this piece. Sometimes I think it's worthwhile to let people know that a candidate is circulating a controversial idea, particularly one on the issue of inclusivity and exclusivity, even if I haven't yet formulated a strong opinion on the matter.

Seriously, George, I can be sarcastic in print, but I can't compete with you. Having read your letters, emails and blog posts over the past 18 years, I stand in awe of your ability to eviscerate those with whom you disagree.

Rick Esenberg said...

Dan

I don't presume that you wanted to rip her, but the subject that you raised is near and dear to my heart. It's something that I teach and write about. So when you give me an inch, I might take a mile.

Nick says that Kleefisch's appeals "seem to suggest that she would use (her religious) beliefs to set public policy." To his credit, he doesn't flatly condemn that, but says that it makes things "hazy and gray."

My own view is that there is nothing wrong with politicians drawing on their sense of right and wrong to set public policy. What I don't want to see is some presumption that, if that sense is religiously derived, it is illegitimate.

I don't claim that you say it is, although I think your column raises the question. That's OK - more than OK (actually admirable) - but I wanted to weigh in.

George Mitchell said...

An individual's deeply held religious beliefs inevitably will influence their views on matters of public policy. How could it be otherwise?

I grudgingly will give Dan the benefit of the doubt on whether he was taking a swipe at Rebecca. His overall body of work leads me and I suspect many others to assume when they see a new column that someone is going to be skewered. The whole concept of Dan's column always has interested me greatly. He operates under a different set of standards than other journalists. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it creates a heavy responsibility for him. Recall, for instance, how deplorable Meg Kissinger's former column became before it was abandoned.

Free Lunch said...

In Matthew 6, Jesus warns believers to avoid making a spectacle of themselves and their religiosity. If someone running for office claims to be Christian and does make a big deal of their supposed Christianity, I see no reason to trust them about anything. I'll take their show of religion as a campaign ploy, nothing else.

Daniel Bice said...

One other thing: While trying to figure out whether to write something, I showed Rebecca's piece to more than 20 people in the newsroom to ask what they thought of the flier/prayer card (Rebecca calls it the former, while her comm director calls it the latter).

Nearly half found it interesting but not worth writing about. A little more than half thought it out of the ordinary and therefore newsworthy.

Even my editor and managing editor were divided in their response.

I told Rebecca I wasn't sure I was going to write a column. She pleaded with me to do so.

George Mitchell said...

"I told Rebecca I wasn't sure I was going to write a column. She pleaded with me to do so."

She's smart. The issue is likely a net winner for her.

BTW, Rick, it is kinda interesting that your post has drawn Dan into some public back and forth on his column and its genesis. His observations have been interesting. Still, for many people the most feared words in the English language are "Dan Bice is calling for you." :)

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Given recent experience, when I hear a conservative republican yammering about God and values, I can only assume she's sleeping around and on the take.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Free Lunch:

Great point. I always wonder why their religion guides all their decisions when it comes to say abortion, gay marriage, or the environment; but for some reason seem to always forget Jesus' teachings about helping the poor, killing people, or torturing people.

Cafeteria values, as always.

John Foust said...

AnotherTosaVoter, it's all about the dog-whistle phrases. Of course Kleefisch isn't trying to court social-justice Catholics. She wants the Republicans like Da Shark, which is why he writes about it.

Next time you chat with her, Mr. Bice, ask her to name the Ten Commandments.

Free Lunch said...

Next time you chat with her, Mr. Bice, ask her to name the Ten Commandments.

The loudly religious can generally handle the Ten Commandments. The New Testament equivalent would be the Beatitudes. Those words of Jesus seem to be disdained by this type of religious person.

Anonymous said...

I think that the woman is a nut job. For awhile she had a Facebook page titled "Pray for Rebecca".

Nick said...

"My own view is that there is nothing wrong with politicians drawing on their sense of right and wrong to set public policy."

The issue I raise is one of priorities. One cannot be a slave to two masters. And as we all know, often times certain religious moral beliefs are often times inconsistent with personal liberty.

So the question becomes, when there is a conflict between personal liberty and the Constitution (and therefore an increase in government power to constrain that liberty) and her religious morals, which will she make a priority?

Obviously this is a question that has been raised about many candidates, for many offices, for many years. It's not a unique question. She may never answer that question. However, I think it's fair to suggest that the more overtly you make your religious beliefs, the more likely you are to place priority of religion over the Constitution.