Indiana Republican and Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock is making headlines with his statement during a debate about rape, pregnancy, and God's will. As Talking Points Memo reports:
Defending his stance that abortion should be illegal even in the case of rape, Mourdock explained that pregnancy resulting from nonconsensual sex is the will of God.
"I've struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God," Mourdock said. "And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
The GOP Senate candidate sought to contain the damage with a statement this morning:
"God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that he does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick," stated Richard Mourdock.
But no one is twisting Mourdock's words. He set out to explain why he wants the law to deny a raped woman the right to an abortion, and he did so clearly: Because he has a personal religious belief that God wants the woman to have a child.
That the woman may have a different religious belief is apparently irrelevant: Mourdock clearly believes that the law should reflect his theology, not hers. Unfortunately, that approach to governing, one which the First Amendment was adopted to prevent, is the founding principle of the religious right.
This calls to mind our affiliate People For the American Way Foundation's booklet 12 Rules For Mixing Religion and Politics, a publication designed to generate conversation on how to create and sustain a civic space reflecting our nation's Constitution and the values of respectful discourse. For instance, Rule Two states:
While it is appropriate to discuss the moral dimensions of public policy issues, religious doctrine alone is not an acceptable basis for government policy.
Because government represents all the people, not just those who share the faith of particular government officials, and because the First Amendment prevents the government from establishing religion, it is inappropriate for government policy to be based solely on religious doctrine. Debates over who speaks for God or who has a superior interpretation of scripture should not form the basis for policymaking.
This and the other rules for the road are explained in greater detail in the booklet. In a nation blessed with both democracy and a rich diversity of religious beliefs, we should not be using the law to codify our own theological positions.