Having faith the electoral process

By Web Master

By Masudur Rahman

Senior Reporter

Faith plays a role in politics for many Americans, as was apparent when nearly 100 people attended the “Decide in Faith: A Presidential Forum” event at Oakland University on Monday.

The forum’s moderator Reverend David Buersmeyer said the purpose of the forum was to raise questions and concerns about the 2008 presidential race as it relates to key themes in Catholic social teachings.

According to Buersmeyer and program literature, the seven key themes of Catholic social teaching are life and dignity of the human person; call to family, community and participation; rights and responsibilities — to one another, families and society; prioritizing the needs of the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity with all humanity, regardless of national, racial, ethnic and ideological differences; and the care of God’s creation.

This event took place in the Gold Rooms in the Oakland Center and was sponsored by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, The Newman Group of Oakland University among others.

During the forum, two representatives, one from each major presidential nominee, answered a series of questions based on the seven key themes of Catholic social teaching and one added question about health care.

The representatives’ responses were not supposed to reflect their personal stances on these issues, but what their respective candidates’ stances were on those issues. The questions were presented by eight panelists — three were OU students and the rest were students from University of Detroit Mercy and University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The format of the forum was unconventional because the two representatives did not appear in the same room together while they answered question.

Instead, while the first representative answered the questions, the second was in a different room where he couldn’t hear the forum.

Then the first representative left the room and the second representative was brought in to answer the same questions.

Pam Hester, OU student and president of The Newman Group of OU, said after the forum, that she liked the format because “it was more conversational and not like a debate … there wasn’t any finger pointing.”

Indeed, the forum did not seem confrontational, and instead appeared to have the purpose of civilly presenting to the audience, consisting what the positions of the two main presidential candidates were on certain issues.  

The representative for McCain, Brian Palmer, was the first to answer questions. Palmer, a Catholic, is a member of the Michigan’s House of Representatives.

After answering questions for 40 minutes, Palmer left the room and the representative for Obama, Doug Kmiec, was brought in to answer questions.

Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, is also a Catholic and said that he is a Republican who supports Obama.

On the question of whether their candidates support legal protections for unborn children, Palmer said McCain supports overturning Roe v. Wade and letting individual states decide for themselves.

Kmiec said Obama’s focus is more on the causes of abortion, such as poverty.

In the same theme of “life and dignity,” the representatives were also asked about capital punishment. Palmer said McCain supports the death penalty for “major sexual crimes … like when children are involved,” and Kmiec said Obama supports death penalty for “the most heinous crimes … such as wide-scale terrorism.”

When asked about same-sex marriage, both representatives rehashed their candidate’s support for keeping the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

They both also said the candidates favor legal non-marital unions between homosexual domestic partners for things like health care benefits and hospital visitation rights.

On the theme of “prioritizing the needs of the poor and the vulnerable,” the representatives were asked what their candidates will do about the increasing gap between the rich and the poor nationally, and about the high home foreclosure rates in Michigan.

Palmer said McCain will focus on K-12 education and reform welfare policy. McCain doesn’t “want to get rid of the safety net, but get rid of the fraud in the system,” Palmer said.

As for foreclosures, he said McCain would lower interest rates. He refuted claims that McCain’s plan helps mortgage lenders more than buyers.

“If it’s a legitimate problem and not fraud, we’ll try to help you,” Palmer said.

Kmiec said Obama will restructure the tax system so that 95 percent of Americans will see a tax cut, because “middle class makes democracy work.”

As for foreclosures, he said Obama supports a “mortgage moratorium” plan that would allow homeowners having trouble with mortgage payments to stay in their home and stretch out the payment plan.

After the forum, the hosts recommended people to go to www.decideinfaith.org to raise faith-based questions on the election, participate in an online discussion forum and find answers.