The Election and Moral Values — Why are We Missing the Point?

The Interfaith Alliance welcomes the vigorous discussions about moral values that have been waged during and following the presidential election, but many are missing the point. The one post-election poll that is most often cited makes it appear that the only moral values that counted concern same-gender marriage, abortion, and to a lesser degree, stem cell research. It ignores most of the values shared by all the great religions and by most people of goodwill.

Other polls have shown that when the question is not just a vague, generalized one about “moral values,” other issues scored much higher than gay marriage and abortion. In a more in-depth post-election poll, voters were asked to rank the moral issues that concerned them most. More than twice as many voters chose the war in Iraq, poverty, economic injustice, greed and materialism than did those who chose abortion and gay marriage. Most religious people honor the Geneva Conventions and consider prison reform, from Abu Ghraib to the county jail, to be an important moral issue. Also, they are concerned about the federal budget, which is a moral document exhibiting how we rank our moral priorities as a nation.

The role of religion in a democracy is to be a healing, positive force uniting us, not dividing us. In a multi-faith nation, founded on religious liberty, it is imperative that we maintain the Constitutional separation between the institutions of religion and government. At the same time, we must honor and support religious and moral values in our governmental policies and actions. While avoiding divisive sectarian differences, we must work together to ensure peace between nations, economic and social justice, an end to poverty, the protection of God’s green earth, gainful employment, and compassionate treatment of all people.

Author of over 20 books, including "Faith and Politics," the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy leads the national nonpartisan grassroots and educational organizations, The Interfaith Alliance and The Interfaith Alliance Foundation and serves as the Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, LA. Dr. Gaddy is one of 20 international religious leaders on the Council of 100 Leaders, a group created by the World Economic Forum to improve dialogue and understanding between the Western and Islamic worlds.