In Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous book, Democracy in America, first published in 1835, he stated that a free society cannot sustain itself without widespread adherence to common moral convictions. These are powerful words that are easy to agree with, but much harder to live by – especially in today’s America.
In a speech to Catholics in 2009, President Obama seemed to take a page from Democracy in America when he said that his administration would be, “an abiding example of good works, charity, kindness and service that moves hearts and minds.” He said, “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause.” In doing so he promised that he would respect the faith beliefs and religious liberty of those who would reject the notion of abortion on the basis of morality, faith or conscience.
Today, however, we see what was not apparent yesterday. This president’s promise to Catholics and others of “common moral conviction” was nothing more than a shell game; an illusion perpetrated on people of faith who are now targets of a political agenda aimed directly at religion and the faithful – and in particular those who would use their faith to form their public and voting decisions.
It did not take the president long to discover his faulty calculus in attacking religious liberty. But like so often happens in Washington “the fix” will prove to be worse than the original misdeed.
On February 10 Obama moved the immoral pea from one shell to another when he stood before the nation to announce a “compromise” and an “accommodation” -- one that he discussed with none of the offended parties.
The great irony is that the very groups that put him in office – Catholics and Hispanics – have consistently been among those most offended by this administration. In return for the Hispanic vote, he has broken up more families through deportation than any president in history. His economic policies have resulted in a disproportionately adverse impact on Hispanics by sharply increasing our unemployment and our poverty rates.
So is this all just another shell game to disguise his actions to keep the Hispanic vote, or is it more of an attack on religious liberty? The truth is that it is both – replete with political ambiguity and intrigue. Not only do we have an assault on our faith, Hispanics are also under attack in the form of a broader cultural and economic nature.
The crucial question we must ask is this: Does the president really take the Hispanic vote that much for granted or is he just totally oblivious to the political power of religious identity politics?
Either way, President Obama demeans our belief in life and he obliterates our constitutional protection of religious freedom. He is telling not just Hispanics and not just Catholics – but all people of faith – that our faith-formed opinions have no place in the public square. Such is the state of democracy in America in this election year of 2012.
Byline: Robert Aguirre is a San Antonio businessman and is president of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL), a national organization of Hispanic business and professional people.