Gloucester Daily Times Debate on Abortion (85), April 1, 1988

Political Choice a Minister’s Right

On March 14, the Times editorial, in commenting on Jesse Jackson and Pat Robertson, said, “As ministers, pledged to do God’s work, they should confine their politicking to their pulpits.”

And on what basis? Certainly not that of the U.S. Constitution.

Anyone familiar with the range of constitutional scholarship on the First Amendment and the religion clause knows otherwise. None among the scholars would deny such freedom of political involvement to ministers who do so as individual citizens. It is up to the voting public to determine whether or not a given candidate is qualified to serve as president, or in any other elected capacity.

If it can be argued that Jackson or Robertson, or any other minister, is unqualified, fine. But not by an emotivist disqualification due to their clergy credentials. In a society where the clergy are judged as the most ethical by a 2-1 margin over any other profession, and where politicians are rated the lowest, how ironic it is to disqualify a minister from full citizenship.

It is also ironic and pseudo-priestly for the media to exercise the temerity to tell a minister what “God’s work” is or is not. If a minister seeks to do God’s work in the political arena, abiding by the rules of this democracy and its pluralistic access, then what constitutional or theological basis is there to say otherwise? I see none.

John C. Rankin, New England Christian Action Council, 11 Pleasant St.


[Note 1.8.15: I have misplaced the March 14 editorial to which this letter gives response, one that was quite similar to the one of November 18, 1986, where I add some commentary there, since I have also misplaced my response at the time.]