by Chris Banescu
A deafening silence on vital election matters seems to have engulfed most of the Orthodox Christian Churches in America. As one of the most monumental elections in our nation’s history approaches, with two candidates that hold sharply contrasting views on key moral issues, there are little if any official declarations or concrete guidance coming from any of the Orthodox Christian jurisdictions in the United States.
While Orthodox Christians may disagree how best to approach a variety of social and cultural issues, there are many key moral principles on which the Holy Orthodox Church offers no compromise. The Church has spoken consistently, definitively, and strongly for over two millennia in defense of innocence and in unconditional support of the sanctity of life and marriage. Specifically the Orthodox Church does not condone any form of abortion, especially partial-birth abortion, does not permit euthanasia, does not allow or recognize homosexual “marriage” and does not support embryonic stem cells research or human cloning.
Except for a few commentaries written by several Orthodox priests and authors that provide some moral clarity and direction, most of the hierarchy and all of administrative bodies of the Holy Orthodox Church in America have yet to step forward and specifically outline the Church’s stand on the upcoming elections. The hierarchy needs to speak with the voice of authority and truth it has been empowered and blessed with by the Catholic and Apostolic tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church. Why these religious leaders have not taken a firm stand, clearly delineated the Orthodox Christian position, and are ignoring such key moral concerns remains a troubling mystery and a deep disappointment for this author.
Looking at the two presidential candidates one can see a number of significant and fundamental differences on how both men approach each of these key moral issues.
President Bush is unabashedly and categorically “pro-life.” He has continuously maintained his opposition to abortion on both religious and moral grounds. He opposes the use of tax dollars to support abortions and has insisted that US foreign aid should not be used to promote and encourage abortion.
President Bush’s actions while in office have fully supported his beliefs. On April 1, 2004 he signed into law the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA) which makes it a crime to injure or kill a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman. President Bush also strongly supported and signed into law the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 that banned the horrible practice of doctors intentionally killing partially born healthy infants just prior to birth. His administration has banned use of federal financial aid for international organizations that promote abortion. Finally, the President has worked hard to nominate and appoint federal judges who are pro-life and uphold the sanctity of life.
Senator John Kerry is a life-long supporter of unrestricted abortion rights for all women. He believes a woman has the absolute right to abort from the moment of conception right until the end of the ninth month of pregnancy. Mr. Kerry enthusiastically champions the government funding of abortions, including partial-birth abortions, both at home and abroad. He has voted at least 25 times in favor of using tax dollars to pay for abortions and voted against the final passage of both the UVVA and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. While in office, Kerry also voted six previous times to keep partial-birth abortion legal. He has promised to appoint only pro-abortion judges, including any potential Supreme Court nominees, to insure that Roe v. Wade will not be challenged or reversed.
Kerry has boldly proclaimed: “If you believe that choice is a constitutional right, and I do, and if you believe that Roe v. Wade is the embodiment of that right … I will not appoint a justice to the Supreme Court of the United States who will undo that right.” He is a strong believer that a woman’s “right to choose [an abortion] is a fundamental right” and has vowed “no more cutbacks on population control efforts around the world.”
President Bush is opposed to euthanasia and has directed the Justice Department to challenge and block the assisted suicide law in Oregon.
Sen. Kerry claims that he is personally against assisted suicide, but does not plan to challenge Oregon’s or any other state’s euthanasia laws. He has repeatedly criticized the Bush administration for undermining the physician-assisted suicide law in Oregon.
President Bush believes in the traditional definition of marriage. He has repeatedly stated that “marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman.” He passionately supports the Defense of Marriage Act, that “defined marriage for purposes of federal law as the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” President Bush also endorses and has asked Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to fully protect the institution of marriage.
John Kerry voted against the Defense of Marriage Act and is absolutely opposed to a constitutional amendment that protects marriage. He promised on July 14, 2004 that “had this amendment reached a final vote, I would have voted against it.”
Embryonic Stem Cells Research
President Bush supports limited embryonic stem cells research that does not violate ethical principles and maintains respect for all human life. In 2001 he signed an executive order restricting federal funding to only 78 stem cells lines then in existence. President Bush has barred additional government supported embryonic stem cells experimentation. He does not believe “that life should be created for the sole purpose of destroying it.”
Sen. Kerry is a staunch advocate for extensive and largely unrestricted embryonic stem cells research. He has vowed to lift the federal ban against additional embryonic stem cells experimentation and to “increase [federal] funding for embryonic stem cell research at the National Institutes of Health.”
The Bush Administration is unequivocally opposed to the cloning of human beings for any reason. President Bush has been consistent and decisive on this issue: “I strongly oppose human cloning. We recoil at the idea of growing human beings for spare body parts, or creating life for our convenience.” Bush has promised to sign legislation to ban all human cloning.
Kerry voted against invoking cloture and strongly opposed the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, a bill that would have prohibited the creation of cloned human embryos. He is also a supporter of “therapeutic cloning.” Kerry has maintained that “while I oppose cloning for the purposes of creating a human being, I do support therapeutic cloning that has the potential to help cure many diseases.”
Eager to find some guidance on these important moral issues, I visited all the official Orthodox Church websites across the various jurisdictions. On each site I searched for any voter guides, or voting pamphlets, or any relevant information on the upcoming elections. Despite my thorough and diligent research, I found none. Not one voter guide, or flyer, or article, or official statement from any Orthodox hierarch or church administrator discussing the election or the candidates’ stand on issues in view of the Orthodox Christian faith. The collective voice of the Orthodox Church hierarchy is virtually silent on any advice, guidance, or counsel in regards to the upcoming elections.
Luckily, many other Christian denominations, especially the Catholic Church, have done a magnificent job in researching the truth, intelligently representing the issues, and informing their flocks. In my research for this article I came across scores of sites and articles that presented the facts and substantively discussed these moral topics with balance and objectivity.
Some troubling questions remain:
Why does the Orthodox hierarchy and administrative leadership keep such silence on so many critical moral issues of our time?
Why are the religious leaders of almost 3 million Orthodox Christians in the US and Canada virtually absent from the important cultural debates affecting our faith at this momentous election season?
Whatever happened to Christ’s call to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.?” (Matthew 5:16)
Where are the “good works” of our Orthodox leaders willing to take a public and vocal stand in defense of innocence and the sanctity of life and marriage when it really counts?