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Candidates don’t always espouse church beliefs

 


Candidates don’t always espouse church beliefs

Oct. 7, 2004        

A UMNS Analysis
By Amy Green*

The United Methodist Church has both Republican and Democratic candidates in this presidential election, but their beliefs don’t always match the denomination’s.
 
President Bush has been most criticized by church leaders for his invasion of Iraq. His “pre-emptive strike” strategy prompted outcry from some bishops, who saw it as a violation of the belief that war should be a last resort. The church’s Book of Discipline calls on United Methodists to “reject war as a usual instrument of national foreign policy and insist that the first moral duty of all nations (be) to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises.”
 
Like Bush, both Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Sen. John Edwards, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, are United Methodist. The Democratic presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, is Catholic.

Both the Bush and Kerry campaigns deviate from United Methodist beliefs on a variety of issues. The denomination’s Board of Church and Society has put together a guide to help voters compare the candidates’ beliefs to the church’s. The resource, available at http://www.umc-gbcs.org/uploads/csa/2742004%20Election%20Platforms.pdf, is compiled from the church’s Social Principles and resolutions, campaign platforms and candidates’ statements.

Here are a few highlights:
 
The United Methodist Church supports conflict resolution through the United Nations and sees cooperation with the organization as an alternative to war and terrorism. The church opposes indiscriminate military force to fight terrorism. Bush supports the Patriot Act, which gives expanded powers to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in fighting terrorism, while Sen. John Kerry advocates letting it expire.
 
The church has quarreled internally for years over homosexuality. Its top legislative body, the General Conference, voted last spring to retain its stance that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and that marriage is for a man and woman. The church supports the basic rights of homosexuals to housing, education, employment and other services. Bush supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Kerry is against gay marriage but opposes a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. He supports civil rights for homosexuals.

The denomination supports keeping abortion legal but opposes late-term or partial-birth abortion except for when a mother’s life is in danger or severe deformities make life impossible for a fetus. Bush supports a constitutional amendment banning abortion and legislation granting 14th Amendment protection to unborn children. Kerry supports keeping abortion legal but opposes partial-birth abortion. Kerry has said he would support a ban on partial-birth abortion if an exception were allowed for cases when the life or the health of the mother was at risk.

The United Methodist Church supports genetic research to meet fundamental food supply and other needs, but the church is against human cloning and genetic therapies that produce waste embryos. Bush is against federally funded embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning, while Kerry supports federally funded stem-cell research and cloning for therapeutic purposes. 
 
The denomination opposes the death penalty. Bush supports it, while Kerry opposes it.

In addition to the Board of Church and Society’s comparison guide, the United Methodist Church is offering a prayer resource for the weeks leading up to the election. The United Methodist Board of Discipleship has released A Guide to Prayer for the 2004 National Election, covering Oct. 10 through Election Day, Nov. 2. The personal prayer guide is available as a downloadable PDF document at www.upperroom.org/bookstore. Downloading it costs $2.50. (The prayer guide will not be available after Jan. 1, 2005.)

The National Council of Churches is also offering a session for group or individual study at www.ncccusa.org/electionyearprinciplesguide.html.

*Green is a freelance journalist based in Nashville, Tenn.
 
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5473 or
newsdesk@umcom.org.

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