Members of clergy should stay out of partisan politics. That is the general rule, and a wise one at that.
The separation of church and state, a term coined by Thomas Jefferson, yet not explicitly written in the Constitution, is one of the great attributes of American democracy. I believe that the First Amendment also infers that religion should stay out of politics, at least partisan politics. However, this has never meant that religious institutions and their leaders need to stay out of the great debates that confront society, including civil rights, reproductive choice, and the treatment of refugees, to name only a few.
Religious institutions have had a major impact on the nation and have helped define many issues in terms of moral values. America is a better nation as a result of voices of conscience. The extraordinary impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. attests to the value of this power.
Still, where religion should not inject itself when it comes to elections. It is inappropriate for any religious group or leader to favor one candidate over another, in any election from the town council to the President of the United States. This remains a sound principle, with only the rarest of exceptions when the voice of conscience supersedes politics.
This leads me to the matter of Donald Trump’s candidacy.
Mr. Trump is the presumptive candidate of the Republican Party. He won fair and square in primary after primary. This is indisputable. However, he has won using the tactics of xenophobia, ethnic stereotyping, and totally undignified personal insults. His blatantly false depictions of Mexicans and Muslims were designed to play to the fears and prejudices of Americans.
Donald Trump’s incendiary language is not creating racism and prejudice in America; it is taking advantage of the racism and prejudice that are already here. He is fanning the flames with malice aforethought. As has been stated by others, Donald Trump may not be a racist, but he is a racial opportunist. This must concern people of conscience.
This is one of those rare times when the voices of conscience must be heard in an election. Donald Trump needs to be rejected, if not by the Republican Party, then certainly by the voters. All those who desire to Keep America Great, true to its most cherished ideals, of liberty and justice for all, need to speak out and act to prevent Donald Trump from becoming President. This is not a case of favoring one valid candidate over another, or of favoring one political party over the other. It is a matter of rejecting the politics of hate and intimidation.
The Republican Party may choose to invoke the “conscience clause” at its convention. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has already stated that he would never suggest that someone should not follow his/her own conscience. Let us hope that the delegates will recognize that there is a clear moral obligation to reject Trump’s dangerous politics of hatred and prejudice.
His candidacy is bad for America. Let them find a worthy candidate over this man who has based his entire campaign by appealing to the lowest of instincts. This is definitely a time requiring moral leadership and courage, and that is why this is the time for the voices of religion to speak out before, God forbid, it may be too late.