Candidates For Ohio Governor Have Different Ideas On The Place Of Religion In Public Policy

Image of Ohio Governor John Kasich and his Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald
Ohio Governor John Kasich and his Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald

It’s common knowledge that Governor John Kasich wears his religious beliefs like a suit and inserts them into his speeches and remarks when he can. Democrat challenger Ed FitzGerald rarely talks about his faith because he feels religion is a private matter. Contrary to the ‘no religious test’ words in the US Constitution, the Columbus Dispatch ran an article about the public religiousness of each man.

Although they espouse many of the same principles, the contrast in how Ohio’s gubernatorial candidates apply their Christianity to their public life and policies is stark.

While Democrat FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, favors abortion rights and supports same-sex marriage as public policy, the lifelong Catholic won’t say how he feels about those issues personally.

“What I don’t do is I don’t have conversations where I kind of critique my own denomination. I understand the teachings of my church, I’ve gone to Mass for 46 years and I’m Catholic, but I don’t see my job as a public official to impose everything the church teaches as a matter of law,” he said.

“There’s a difference between, in my opinion, what the church that I attend happens to teach and what I am going to be comfortable imposing on everybody else. …

Catholic politicians have a right to have all types of different views about what public policy should be. In terms of personal beliefs, that’s a matter of personal conscience to them.”

Kasich, a Republican who was raised Catholic but became a Protestant after his parents were killed by a drunken driver in 1987, cites God regularly in public, such as in justifying the building of a Holocaust Memorial on the Statehouse grounds, expanding Medicaid to more than a quarter-million Ohioans, in graduation speeches, in his State of the State addresses and even during an event launching a campaign to prevent the elderly from falling. (“The Lord wants you to be strong and healthy.”)

“My faith is part of me. In terms of how it affects my public policy … on my best days, I sort of have an eternal perspective, which is really a great thing to have, because it frees you up. You don’t get caught up in some of the things that can get in your way when you make decisions.”

On religion, it’s public Kasich vs. private FitzGerald

But although Gov. Kasich says he has no interest in imposing his beliefs on anyone or trying to convert them, it didn’t prevent him from signing bills into laws restricting women’s reproductive choice and bills that further religious privilege, like HB 171 that gave high school credit for off campus religious studies.

Kaisch also has the idea that our nation is a “Christian Nation”:

Both Kasich, who attends a three-year-old Anglican church that meets in a Westerville conference center, and FitzGerald, whose home church is in Lakewood, were asked whether America should be a Christian nation.

“That phrase is not something that I have ever used because it has all kind of connotations to people of other faiths,” FitzGerald said.

Christians and non-Christians have made great contributions to America and what it is today, he said.

Kasich said, “At our roots we were founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic. … That’s part of the foundation of our country.”

He said he shies away from talk about multiculturalism, adding, “I think that the Judeo-Christian ethic is still important.”

Kasich’s views are typical of some evangelicals and those views have been refutted by the historial record.

I’m disappointed in the Dispatch for running the story in the first place because there is no religious test for elected office and stories like these create a de facto test. It is patently unfair for anyone who isn’t part of a mainstream religion or who is an atheist.

It would have been better if the story had pointed out that fact.