The 2012 Republican Party Platform: Religion, Women, and Children

Posted in: Politics

This is the first in a two-part series of columns on the 2012 party platforms.  The second part, addressing the Democratic Party platform, will appear here on Justia’s Verdict shortly . –Ed.

Before the 2012 Republican Convention, there was persistent debate about a “gender gap” between the parties, with the Republicans being painted as anti-women’s rights.  The Republicans then dutifully rounded up a few women to speak at the convention, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who gave one of the most well-phrased and intelligent speeches of the Convention.  To know where a Party actually stands, though, it takes more than listening to a few speeches from either gender.

As readers know well, each Party memorializes its policies in a Platform, which is then approved by the Delegates at the Convention and distributed.  A recent poll by the Pew Research Foundation indicates that Americans are more interested in the Platforms than the speeches—and, indeed, they should be.

Why?  Because the Platforms are the best evidence of the political tradeoffs that were made, at the highest levels of the Party, behind closed doors.  The 2012 Republican Platform indicates that religious leaders are pulling strings and making demands no President of the entire, diverse people of the United States should embrace.

In this first column in a two-part series, I will analyze certain elements of the Republican Party platform that are inextricably related to each other: the policies relating to religion, women, and children.  In my next column, appearing in two weeks’ time, I will focus on the same issues as they appear in the Democratic Platform.  There are stark differences between the Republicans’ and Democrats’ platforms that well-informed voters ought to note.

The Role of Religion in the Republican Party Platform

A Platform paints a picture of a Party’s worldview, and in the case of the 2012 Republican Party, that worldview has been constructed upon Roman Catholic and evangelical theology—which, not surprisingly, are closely aligned with the Mormon Church’s views on abortion, and on the role of women in society.  As someone who analyzes these issues on a routine basis, even I was surprised at how frankly the Republican Platform pursues particular religious ideals and ends.

I probably should not have been as surprised as I was, however, at the religious tone of the Platform—especially after learning that Cardinal Timothy Dolan would be providing a prayer for the gathering.  And most especially, after hearing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s well-received Convention speech, which included the lines: “almighty God is the source of all we have,” and, “Our national motto is ‘In God we Trust,’ reminding us that faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all.”

But I was surprised, nonetheless, because I naively thought that the Republicans wanted to win this election, and were aware that over half of the population is female and extremely religiously diverse.

Silly me.

According to the religion-soaked Platform document, there is an ongoing “war on religion” that is being waged by the Obama Administration “to compel faith-related institutions, as well as believing individuals, to contravene their deeply held religious, moral, or ethical beliefs regarding health services, traditional marriage, or abortion.”

The health services and abortion part comes right out of the Catholic bishops’ playbook; the bishops, as readers will recall, have mounted a campaign on behalf of universities and other institutions, in order to avoid having to provide reproductive services like abortion and contraception through health insurance to non-believers whom they employ.

The Attempt to Claim That Gay Rights Activists, Not Their Opponents, Are the Real Haters

I’m a little puzzled by the Platform’s claim that some have been compelled to contravene their beliefs on “traditional marriage.”  Are there heterosexuals who are being rounded up and forced to enter into gay marriages?  Are gay couples discriminating against heterosexual couples?  Is there discussion of banning so-called “traditional marriage” in the future?  And no federal law has forced a priest to perform a same-sex marriage, at least to my knowledge.

I think that this point in the Platform is related to this later statement:  “We condemn the hate campaigns, threats of violence, and vandalism by proponents of same-sex marriage against advocates of traditional marriage and call for a federal investigation into attempts to deny religious believers their civil rights.”  Now, is this an attempt to paint gay marriage advocates as the “haters,” as opposed to those who would deny them the right to wed?  Sorry for all the questions, but when one first reads some of the Platform’s lines, one feels compelled to go back onto the website, and make sure one is not actually reading a satire.

The Platform’s Extreme Views on the Role of Religion, and Its Suggestion That One Can Legitimately Impose One’s Religion on Others When It Comes to Medical Care

The Platform’s religious positions and rhetoric are extreme, including, “We assert every citizen’s right to apply religious value to public policy,” which apparently means that religious values should trump public policy, and that religious believers should be able to carve out exceptions to laws with which they disagree.  This is an inherently divisive approach to public policy that cannot unite Americans.

But the most extreme statement in the Platform would permit health care providers, including pharmacists, to refuse to provide any “medical service” according to their personal beliefs.

More specifically, the Platform states: “No health care professional or organization should ever be required to perform, provide for, withhold, or refer for a medical service against their conscience.”  On its face, this would mean that medical professionals could pick and choose what treatments and services to provide to patients based on the professionals’ own religious beliefs, whatever they happen to be, and apparently, regardless of the health needs of the patient.  Notably, this statement is not limited to abortion, or even contraception. It applies to every single medical need a patient might have.

Medical professionals are, indeed, professionals.  They have an obligation to heal their patients using the best of medical science and according to the patients’ health needs.  When care is dictated by belief rather than science, you can guarantee that the wellbeing of patients will be sacrificed.  This position alone places Republicans on the fringe of common sense, not to mention medical ethics.

The Platform does qualify this radical view, but it does so with the following, bewildering statement: “We do not believe, however, that healthcare providers should be allowed to withhold services because the healthcare provider believes the patient’s life is not worth living.”  This line came from the smokiest of the smoke-filled rooms.  I encourage others to translate it into English.

Under the Republican Platform, Federal Money Can Go to Religious Organizations, but the Organizations Cannot Be Subject to Federal Hiring Rules

The 2012 Republican Platform also endorses federal money’s being paid directly to religious organizations. Yet it opposes publicly funded faith-based organizations being subjected to “government-imposed hiring practices.”  In other words, the Republican Platform wants religious organizations to be permitted to discriminate on the basis of faith in hiring, even though they are receiving government funds.

Thus, if a Baptist organization is taking government funds in order to treat teen drug addiction, then it should be able to hire a Baptist counselor—even if a Jewish counselor is better educated and qualified to treat the problem.  It seems like a waste of government money to me, but for this era’s Republican powers-that-be, God demands it and, therefore, they must deliver it.

The 2012 Republican Platform also goes where no public debate has recently gone, as it supports the public display of the Ten Commandments, and the recitation of prayers, at public school events (think football games and graduations). Put another way, the Platform seeks to have key Supreme Court decisions enforcing the Establishment Clause reversed.

The Party had also been pleased with the current Court’s forays into this field, praising the recent Supreme Court decision, Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC, which upheld the right of religious organizations to discriminate against clergy based on disability, gender, and race, among other categories.

Women’s and Children’s Rights in the Republican Party Platform

Finally, and importantly, the 2012 Republican Platform does not recognize a woman’s right to control her body, nor  does it recognize reproductive rights generally, nor does it even recognize women’s right to equality.  I found this last omission a little surprising, because of the gender-gap debate.

It should be no surprise to anyone that this Platform opposes abortion, contraception, and embryonic stem cell research; endorses withholding funds from organizations that perform abortion (i.e., Planned Parenthood); and favors the widely-discredited “abstinence” approach to sex education.

On a side note, too, the Platform further tracks the Catholic position opposing “withholding or withdrawal of care or treatment, including food and water, from people with disabilities, including newborns, as well as the elderly and infirm.”  The Catholic bishops’ opposition to withholding water and nutrition from the elderly when they are near death has not received the same publicity as their position on abortion, but it is a tenet that is observed in Catholic hospitals across the country, and one that has likely surprised many Republicans who have had to deal with dying parents, and have made choices that were not dictated by Roman Catholic theology.

The Platform Seeks New Rights for the Unborn, At the Expense of Women’s Rights

The Republicans who crafted the Platform also want to create new constitutional rights for the “unborn,” i.e., fetuses.

More specifically, the Platform would create “a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed” and “endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

A fundamental right that cannot be infringed would be a huge alteration in current constitutional doctrine, in several respects:

First, the fetus would obtain a constitutional right that could compete with the mother’s right to life and health.

Second, in the entire Constitution, there are no other absolute rights, other than the right to believe.  For a fetus to have a right that “cannot be infringed,” would elevate its life above the mother’s life and health, dramatically.

There is also a serious constitutional disconnect in the notion that legislation can “make clear” what the Fourteenth Amendment stands for.  Congress does not interpret the Constitution in the last instance; the Supreme Court does. And it is abundantly clear that, under Court doctrine, the Fourteenth Amendment does not include a fundamental right for fetuses.

A Platform That Women Should Not Only Oppose, but Actually Fear

These are moves that would, if enacted into law, not only further undermine a woman’s right to control her body, but also introduce opportunities for the radical right to criminalize reproductive decisions by women.  If women were not fearful of the Republican Party before the Convention and Platform, they surely should be now.

Granted, there are some salutary moments for children in the Platform, which rightly urges “active prosecution against child pornography” and human trafficking.  But even this statement is in some tension with the suggestion, elsewhere in the Platform, that federal criminal law should be drastically reduced to reach only “acts by federal employees or acts committed on federal property—and leave the rest to the States….”  Under this reasoning, federal kidnapping and the Mann Act, which bars taking children across state lines for sex, would be repealed.  But this suggested wholesale rollback in federal criminal jurisdiction is so ridiculous that it simply cannot be taken seriously.

The Party does, rightly, endorse background checks for “[a]ll personnel who interact with school children.”  Note, though, that the Party does not mention clergy or football or basketball coaches, despite daily headlines over the last year involving both priests and coaches like Jerry Sandusky abusing children in their care.  Nor does the Platform take a position on how the federal government can assist the states in redressing the scourge of childhood sexual abuse.

All in all, this is a Platform that should make women pause.  It certainly seems not to take seriously the gender gap that many assumed the Party would want to bridge.

Posted in: Politics

  • Max Herr

    OK. So what’s your real opinion of Republicans v. Democrats?

  • George

    Nothing new from an anti-Catholic who can only refer to the term fetus and thus denies the existence of a human in a womb. She has no idea when human life starts and when it should end. If a mother to be wants to have her child killed, under the courts, she can do so. I don’t want to use the term GOD, as tis author would deny the existence of God, however I will say the forbidden word…..God help the poor souls that deny the right to life……………

  • This article is full of so many generalizations and assumptions, it’s scary. The reference to “Imposing one’s religion” has been turned on it’s face. The government should not be allowed to “impose” which medical services a hospital can or can not do or pay for.

    A woman’s “right to choose” will ALWAYS be there…no way conservatives can or will overturn it. So, if you have a daughter, congratulations. She will be able to abort your potential grand child if she wants

    Women will always have EVERY RIGHT to use contraception–they just have to pay for it. Engaging in SEX is a choice, not a RIGHT the anyone else should be paying for.

    Not only does a woman currently have the ability to choose to abort her baby out of her body, she also has the ability to choose NOT TO GET PREGNANT.

    There’s so much more wrong with this article, I just don’t have the time or patience to correct it all.

    • Katherine Edman

      A woman IS paying for contraception, just as she pays for all other medication, through her insurance premiums, so don’t spread the canard that taxpayers are somehow paying for free contraception. Then there is the pervasive – and false – assertion amongst certain elements of the Republican party that most forms of contraception are actually abortion, and therefore should be abolished. And, of course, abstinence will always prevent pregnancy —— unless a woman is raped. (I don’t need to comment on the recent, nonsensical comments a certain Republican made on that topic.) But shouldn’t unmarried men be abstinent, as well? Does the Republican platform advocate denying Viagra to them? Similarly, a person can substantially reduce the chances of getting emphysema and lung cancer by not smoking. By this logic, an employer should be able to deny coverage of smoking-related illnesses, because after all, the person CHOSE to smoke. Smoking is a choice, not a RIGHT that anyone else should be paying for. Why should a non-smoker who finds tobacco to be morally repugnant be forced to subsidize medical care to someone who CHOSE to smoke, when they knew the risks? Finally, I find it interesting that all the critical comments here seem to be made by men, when the user name indicates gender.

  • z

    Good job giving a reality check. According to the Republican Platform the Constitution should be burned because it doesn’t contain the word “God”.

  • Who is Marci Hamilton, and has anyone heard of Cardozo School of Law?

    • Marci A. Hamilton is one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States and the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University. She is the author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge University Press 2008) and God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005, 2007), and numerous scholarly articles. She has been a visiting professor at Princeton University, New York University School of Law, Emory University School of Law, and the Princeton Theological Seminary. Professor Hamilton was lead counsel for the City of Boerne, Texas, in the landmark decision,Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997), and has served as constitutional law counsel in many important cases involving religion, particularly in the area of clergy sex abuse and religious land use. Professor Hamilton clerked for Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the United States Supreme Court and Judge Edward R. Becker of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; and received a J.D. from Pennsylvania Law School, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review; an M.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University; an M.A. in Philosophy from Pennsylvania State University; and a B.A. from Vanderbilt University.
      And what, pray tell, is your big claim to fame?

  • James Wallace

    Romney says his party’s platform is not necessarily his (huh?) and doesn’t matter. Obama says his does. So you’re looking at a Republican Party that goes one way, a Tea party contingent that goes another, and Mitt Romney who goes a third way. Or all three ways. Or none of the above. Vote Republican and you’ll be buying a proverbial pig in a poke.

  • Katherine Edman

    This ‘fundamental right to life’ raises a number of questions. First, if a fetus is a ‘person’ that has a fundamental right to life (FRTL for short), doesn’t the mother have a FRTL as well? So if a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, then you have two FRTLs battling one another. For that matter, doesn’t a criminal have a FRTL, which means that capital punishment must be abolished? Do sick people have a FRTL, which leads directly to a FRT healthcare? Or does a fetus/person’s FRTL end with birth? In which case, a fetus now has more powerful rights that already-born persons! Does a FRTL mean that a pregnancy ending in miscarriage is automatically manslaughter? That seems to be the only logical conclusion. Even if the miscarriage was unintentional, even if the mother desperately wanted to have a child, miscarriage denies the fetus its FRTL. Ergo, mom is guilty of manslaughter. And then, there is the nonsensical and nonscientific assertion that most forms of birth control are actually abortifacients. In a world where Republican candidates seem to believe that women’s bodies automatically know the difference between rape sperm and consensual sex sperm, why should scientific facts get in the way of ideology?

  • LAD

    WOW, how do you spell BIASED??? I’m feeling that you did not receive the attention from your father as a young child that you certainly CRAVED, even now. There are many issues here that you short-changed with your once-sided opinion…yes, opinion. Fortunately we are all entitled to ours; unfortunately, someone has paid you too much for yours. Additionally unfortunate is that you put ALL regligious individuals into the Catholic trashcan…The fundamental truth is based upon Jesus and His love for all sinner, including you and me. Unfortunately your eyes are upon yourself therefore you are not able to see anything from Him.

    • Coleman Abbott

      the OPINION of america spoke tues night, if YOU choose not to listen to it that’s fine. I don’t care what your religion is, if your religion denies gay marriage fine, but does that give it the right to intrude on my religious beliefs that I can marry? I don’t think so, but people like you will never listen to logic. Anyways, I had a great time with Obama grinding you into the dirt along with your bigoted views, and I hope that you and your party only go further to the right as I pursue equality these next couple years :)

  • budbromley

    What have Democrats done for women?

    Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was against abortion. She was a proponent of contraception. She fled the U.S. to avoid arrest for her position on contraception. She set up the predecessor of Planned Parenthood when she returned to America . “Sanger coined the term birth control, opened the first birth control clinic in the United States , and established Planned Parenthood.” (Margaret Sanger wiki) Planned Parenthood was hijacked by abortionists after Sanger died.Similarly, Greenpeace and the real environmental movement were hijacked by political radicals, according to Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, and others. This hijacking technique has become a standard operating tactic for so-called liberal/progressives. It has been used very successfully to take over the agendae from several of the very largest family trust funds and foundations which are now funding activities which the person who set up the foundation would immediately shut down or change its management. The Democrats are once again attempting to hijack an issue with their claimed GOP “war on women.” Republicans want to protect the rights of unborn children and the rights of Americans who believe they should not be contributing to the death of a viable child. Democrats pay no attention to the rights of the innocent child or to the more than 100 million of their fellow Americans and instead maintain that only the mother has rights in the matter, including the right to kill a viable child.”To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical,” said Thomas Jefferson. “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars,” said Historian Will Durant. Democrats are enabling just such a destruction of American society. The GOP stands against Democrats and their lack of morals, as it has historically. The Republican Party was founded to free the slaves and it did; and then it fought across two centuries for civil rights for blacks, women, American Indians, and Hispanics, and today it fights for free markets, less government, lower taxes, and freedom from wars through strength.Republican Senator Barry Goldwater and his wife Peggy were major supporters of Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood in its pre-abortion days. The Goldwaters built the organization in Phoenix into one of the largest chapters. Planned Parenthood still gives out an award named after the Goldwaters.Barry Goldwater was a true conservative Republican who ran against President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) in 1964 and lost because LBJ smeared Goldwater with ads building hysteria and falsely associating Goldwater with nuclear bombs during the cold war. That’s right, Democrats back in the 1960’s stirred up false hysteria just like Democrats are doing today, for example the Democrat anti-GOP narrative “war on women,” the global warming hysteria, throwing grandma off the Medicare cliff, Romney’s tax records, the threat of deregulation, and those GOP warmongers. It would be funny if these were not symptoms of Democrat social pathology.The 19th Amendment was written by Susan B. Anthony and introduced to Congress by Senator Aaron Sargent, Republican of California. This amendment gave women the right to vote. Republicans continued to introduce the 19th Amendment in Congress year after year for 10 years, but Democrats kept it bottled up in committees. In 1887 it finally reached the floor of the Senate, but was defeated. After this setback, advocates of women’s suffrage convinced state legislatures to pass bills giving women the vote. By the turn of the century, Republican-controlled states, including Wyoming , Colorado , and Idaho , had granted women suffrage. Congress, however, didn’t vote on the issue again until 1914, when it was once again defeated by Senate Democrats. It was subsequently brought up for a vote in January of 1915 in the House, where it went down by a vote of 204 to 174. Nonetheless, the Republicans continued to push even after it was defeated yet again in early 1918. President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, was against the women’s vote before he was for it so that he could survive an election. Wilson decided to stop opposing Republicans only after his war, WWI, went so badly.The GOP platform since 2000, Paul Ryan, I and practically all Republicans are on principle against abortion as a standard contraceptive practice, but that is in no way equivalent to a “war on women.” Republicans want to protect the lives of children. “The war on women” is Democrat election propaganda – a big lie repeated over and over again in order to try to win votes – and I believe that most women understand that. This Democrat propaganda may win some elections, but it’s still a lie.Most Republicans, most doctors, and most women understand that being against abortion on principle does not mean that all abortions are categorically banned or should be banned or illegal. There are legitimate reasons for abortion. Being against abortion in principle means that an individual or society does not believe abortion should be used as a standard method of birth control, and that is especially true if the child is viable. To take the life of an innocent, viable child should be held to a higher standard by any moral society than simply a mother’s right to choose, especially since that mother is responsible in almost all cases for putting herself and her child at risk by waiting until the child is viable. But, that child is innocent.There are serious moral, ethical, societal and health issues with abortion, especially post-viable abortion, not the least of which are significantly increased risk of suicide by the mother and taking the life of an innocent, viable child. Society via federal taxes should not be funding abortions or sterilizations because of the moral hazard involved; the risk is so large that it is uninsurable and results from morally harming about half of the population, the half who believe in the depths of their being that killing a viable child is immoral, a crime against humanity, and they do not want their tax money to fund that crime. The GOP platform does not mean that women who have abortions will be or should be punished by law. The GOP platform does mean that people who perform illegal abortions (such as full term and partial birth abortions), and illegal sterilizations (such as sterilizations on people without their consent) should be punished by law. The GOP platform means that both the mother and the child have inalienable rights. As the child matures in the womb and becomes viable, the rights of the child increase with respect to the mother and eventually intersect. The mother didn’t build that child by herself.At the level of American society as a whole, the loss by abortions of about 1.2 million children per year, 50 million since Roe v Wade, weakens America ’s demographics. A society is well within its rights to mandate legal policies, such as protecting unborn children, if that society believes that policy is preferred, for example, to enabling a more sustainable demographic. The contrary argument is absurd. The 50 minute video at the link by many international experts discusses the demographic winter and the decline of the human family which has already begun due to a variety of social and personal decisions including abortion, family size, and family values. have Democrats done for women’s rights? Not much. It’s difficult to identify positive contributions by Democrats, unless you have been misled to believe that non-traditional families, birth rates lower than replacement levels, and about half of women having at least one abortion by the age of 45 are positive developments. One positive thing Democrats have done for women and men has been to provide a sharp contrast between selfish Democrats and a more moral, principled life following God’s natural laws and that has resulted in so many good looking, smiling, confident and successful Republicans.

  • tedsnyder

    Please allow me to explain this rather simple sentence if I may. “We do not believe, however, that healthcare providers should be allowed to withhold services because the healthcare provider believes the patient’s life is not worth living.” This simply means that we should not support euthanasia in it’s current form or in any other form. You see doctors are making these decisions now, as to the worthiness of an individuals life quality, and they are killing . . . or should I say, allowing patience to die. Euthanasia as it is currently practiced is being ignored by hospitals and swept under the rug when pointed out by conscientious practitioners.