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April 5, 2018

Creating Space for Religious Expression in U.S. Politics

by Michelle Amoedo (C'20)

On March 26, 2018, people gathered at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church to attend "Faith and the Faithful in U.S. Politics," a Public Dialogue discussing the intersectionality of religious identity and political leniency in the current political climate. Among the featured panelists were E.J. Dionne, a columnist for the Washington Post and professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy, Joshua DuBois, a CNN contributor, Jocelyn Kiley, associate director of research at Pew Research Center, and Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. This discussion was moderated by John Carr, the director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, guided by the question, “What should we know about the role of the faithful in the politics of today?”

The Dialogue began with a general profile of the Democratic and Republican parties by Jocelyn Kiley. She addressed the divisive religious alignment and the recent growth in the generational gap between both parties. While the Democratic Party has become more inclusive of both racial and religious minority groups, the Republican Party continues to be governed by white, male evangelicals. In response, E.J. Dionne asked, to the detriment of the Catholic Church, what is driving the youth away? It is the reluctance of the Democratic Party to address religious issues, in an effort to distance itself as much as possible from Republicans, that often forces people to choose between faith and political orientation. 

The lack of a middle ground for religious Democrats, in particular, ignores the idea that religion and politics can in fact be intertwined, and dehumanizes these people by stripping them of their voices. The striking differences between the parties has helped shape the growing impulse among Americans that see violence as a response to differences in opinion, added Peter Wehner. At the center of this aggression is the antipathy towards immigrants, religious minorities, and those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This is how leaders, such as President Donald Trump, have been able to rally support using racist and nativist appeals disregarding human life and dignity, the foundational principle of Catholic Social Thought.

E.J. Dionne condensed the take-away message in his final comment by reminding the audience that everyone has the right to politicize their religious convictions. This is accompanied by the responsibility for Catholics and U.S. citizens to denounce intolerance and to foster a safe space that allows all voices to be heard.

Michelle Amoedo (C’20) is a sophomore in the Georgetown College studying chemistry and French.