UMD students and professors weigh in on whether public servants should be guided by their faith

The two vice presidential candidates delved into the morality of abortion in a discussion about balancing faith and policy in their debate last Tuesday night.

Gov. Mike Pence (R-In.) remarked that he “cannot conscience a party that supports” partial-birth abortion.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) adhered to Hillary Clinton’s pro-choice platform, insisting that the government should not have the power to dictate a woman’s reproductive choices Although Kaine, a Catholic, says he is personally opposed to abortion, he maintained that “it is not the role of the public servant to mandate [faith] for everybody else.”

Courtesy of Giphy
Courtesy of Giphy

University of Maryland public policy professor Donald Kettl said that it is impossible for an individual’s service in office not to be influenced by their personal values.

“This election, for example, has laid bare the problem of whether candidates are genuine, which deep down we usually take to mean whether what they say is what they really mean,” Kettle said. “Candidates whose public statements seem out of sync with their personal values are seen as not genuine- and, indeed, that’s precisely the case. And, as voters, we surely focus on selecting candidates who will mirror our views once they get into office.”

Courtesy of Giphy
Courtesy of Giphy

In a June poll by Greenberg, Quinlan, and Rosner, it was found that 37 percent of Democrats or people who did not want to state their affiliation said they would not vote for Clinton because she is not genuine.

Thirty-four percent said they would not vote for her because of her involvement in scandals. Further, 28 percent cited her ties to “Wall Street and big money” as another reason for choosing not to vote for her.

A Wall Street Journal poll in September asked which of the frontrunners voters found more trustworthy. Forty-one percent of likely voters reported that Trump was more honest, compared to only 31 percent who reported that Clinton was more honest.

But voters have taken issue with how Trump has flip-flopped on his platforms over the years.

Trump only recently clarified his pro-life platform (after claiming to be pro-choice for years) in a Jan. 24, 2015 interview with Bloomberg News: “I’m pro-life, but with the caveats. It’s life of the mother, very important, incest and rape.”

Pence said several times during the vice presidential debate that he was proud to be standing next to a candidate who advocates the “sanctity of life.”

Kaine was clear that though his faith influences his personal choices, he does not feel that his policy decisions should mandate his beliefs for others.

“For me personally, balancing personal beliefs and values with policy is a constant act of reflection,” public policy masters student Dylan Medina said. “Social justice, equality, equity, diversity and inclusiveness are notions I deeply value and no doubt affect my behaviors, beliefs, and interpretations.”

“One of my deepest-held values is that we have to help democracy find ways of building consensus on the hard problems we face,” Kettl said.

The issue of abortion was only mentioned by Clinton during the debate Sunday night. Neither candidate mentioned the vice presidential debate last Tuesday. However, there is speculation as to whether Pence will be sticking by Trump’s side after this weekend’s drama.