At a recent campaign appearance in Iowa before a group of Religious Right activists and clergy, Governor Scott Walker announced that "his faith defines who he is as an elected official and informed his response to protesters during the polarizing 2011 debate over public sector collective bargaining." (Wisconsin State Journal, July 19, 2015)
In a seemingly simple statement and speech that day, Walker introduces his brand of divisive politics: implying that his faith is purer than those of the protestors; dismissing the religious values of those who, in faith and integrity, appropriately and legally confronted their government at the time of those protests; denying any responsibility for enraging the sensibilities of those whose livelihoods he diminished; and claiming religious superiority over others.
As a rabbi and a member of a religious minority, I am particularly offended when a candidate for office uses a reprehensible technique such as this to win over potential voters. It is wrong to claim that one set of religious values are necessarily superior to another; it would be an unAmerican approach to our political process, and the candidate who espouses such prejudicial tactics should be avoided.
In the coming election cycle, as always, we must be keenly aware and cautious of politicians who use their pulpits to create divisions where there are simply differences of opinions. Open political debate is fine and necessary, but it must be tempered by honesty, tolerance for differences, and a sincere search for truth.