OK, you can now listen to James Dobson’s chat with his sidekicks Tim Minnery and Bill Maier about Obama’s views on the proper role of religion in the public square. Here’s the extended direct quote, with elipses to indicate interpolated soundbites from Obama’s 2007 speech to the UCC:
He’s trying to make the case that it is anti-democratic to believe or fight for moral principles in the Bible that are not supported by people of all faiths. Or presumably by those of no faith….What the senator is saying there in essence is that I can’t seek to pass legislation for example that bans partial-birth abortion because there are people in the culture who don’t see that as a moral issue. And if I can’t get everyone to agree with me, it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the Scripture. Now that is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution. This is why we have elections, to support what we believe to be wise and moral. We don’t have to go to the lowest common denominator of morality, which is what he is suggesting….What he is trying to say here is unless everybody agrees we have no right to fight for what we believe. I thank God that that is not what the Constitution says.
Not quite. Obama is not saying you can’t try to pass whatever legislation you want, and certainly not that you have to get everyone to agree with you. He’s saying that in a society like ours, we need to make arguments based not on the teaching of a particular religious institution or tradition (as in, my church teaches that abortion is wrong and therefore the Congress must outlaw abortion) but on the basis of rational argument accessible to everyone. That’s why the Catholic Church claims to be arguing on behalf of natural law, not church teaching, when it so argues. That’s why the pro-life forces make their case based on claims about “when life begins,” not the teaching of their churches. Obama’s argument is one that is, in practice, accepted by just about all parties when they come to do business in the American public square. What might be said on Dobson’s behalf, and I’m leaning way over backwards here, is that he has spent decades enunciating his version of Scripture-based morality to his people over the airwaves–as opposed to lobbying in Washington’s religiously plural environment. He may think that what he does is how America actually operates.
By the way, at the very end of the conversation, he and his pals take a poke at John McCain for failing to support an anti-same-sex marriage bill stuck in the GOP-controlled Arizona state senate. Sez Dobson: “That is very disappointing. So this is a year when we have a lot of frustration with both political parties…They don’t give a hoot about the family.” I suspect the frustration will only be mounting.