Recently, I watched Senator Harry Reid from Nevada address BYU students and faculty at a Tuesday Forum. I found his talk interesting and well done. I liked how he didn't waffle on his political leanings, nor was he apologetic. He stated his beliefs summarily and concretely.
I am talk radio's worst nightmare. I am the swing vote. Since I have been old enough to vote, I feel as though it has been my vote that presidential candidates have been wooing. I will not always vote Democrat, and I will not always vote Republican. And sometimes, I'm making up my mind seconds before I enter the voting booth. I stood in front of the ballot a good five minutes in 1996 when finally I marked the box for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. (Shocking, I know.) And I stood another five minutes before voting both times for George W. Bush.
But when listening to Harry Reid, and finding an article from the Boston Globe about Mormons and political neutrality, I was relieved that by being a Mormon, possibly more so than many other religions in America, I CAN choose who I want to vote for. Many Mormons here in Utah forget that our church is firmly apolitical except on a few (very few) issues.
We're lucky to have friends on both sides of the political line, and we enjoy hearing and sharing other's viewpoints. However, there are a few issues Kulani and I feel almost passionately about. Kulani and I felt strongly about these issues before we ever met one another. Luckily, we feel similarly about them. We have other issues we don't always agree with one another, but the following are those we do agree.
1.) Seperation of Church and State. Though the words aren't explicitly written in the Constitution, they are very much implied. The freedom to practice religion does not mean pushing it on others as well. Prayer in public school does not seem appropriate. From Mormon history, we know too well what it's like to be the religious minority and people not understanding our beliefs. Can you imagine what it would be like if you were a Hindu or a Muslim leading a prayer in a Utah school setting? However, I am in favor of outside school release time, such as seminary or Christian Ed. But those are non-school sponsored events, and the wonderful Constitution does allow for such practices. Also, requiring Biology teachers to teach divine design (creationism) as well as evolution seems unnecessary. I think if people believe that, as in many ways I do (not literally do I believe the world was created in 7 days, but I do believe God and his son Jesus Christ created the world, and perhaps used known scientific methods to do so), they can teach their children in the home or at church. Requiring Biology teachers to do so seems over-the-top. We've all had science classes. We know how science operates. Faith and science don't always mix. It's a struggle, but it's also life. Others have articulated it better than me.
2.) School voucher systems seem like a return to segregation. You've all heard this line: "The Utah school systems are sooo bad." I'm always curious when someone says that. Are they meaning the kids aren't safe? The class sizes are way too big? The curriculum is dumbed down or too hard? The solution for some of these people is two fold: 1) private school or (2) home school. Both choices are good choices if you believe that is the route your family needs to take. What we don't like is asking tax payers to help pay for that choice. An ad on TV makes it sound like taxpayers would be saving money by taking the $3,000 in vouchers and going to a private school and saving the other $4,000 while reducing class sizes. Kulani puts it best. He uses a public bus analogy. To have buses run all day, there is a set cost. No matter how many people get on or off, it will still require a set amount of gas, money to pay the bus driver, maintenance costs, etc. A few children leaving the public school system to pursue private school will not lessen the cost by much. The schools still need to be heated, teachers still need paid, etc. So rather than taking money away from public schools and giving them to a select few to go to private schools, why not invest the money into more schools, more teachers, and thereby, reducing class sizes. And the other ad has it right: even though the vouchers will give families $3,000 to go to private schools, most private schools cost much more than that to attend. So families would need to come up with another $3,000-$8,000 to attend. For median-to-low income families, that option isn't fiscally viable. And let's say everyone takes the vouchers. Then what's left of the already existing public schools? Will we need to implement an acceptance board, requiring our children the increased stress at a tender age of trying to "get into" the best private school? And what of those students who aren't very smart? Who will educate them? Because if I want a good reputation as a school, I don't want to take those students who don't test well. But the Utah State Constitution requires that all children under the age of 16 (or is it 18?) be educated, so who will run those school where students aren't exactly the smartest? And really what it stinks of is a return to segregation. I don't see parents putting their children in schools where a big mix of students can be found. I'm guessing parents will want their children to attend schools with children who have the same socio-economic background. And what about rural communities? A voucher system would be useless for them. Perhaps I've said enough. Much more could be said.
3.) Meat is not murder. It's no surprise that we are not vegetarians. We aren't. We love the Smiths, we even love the "Meat is Murder" CD, but we also love meat. For us, this is not a political statement. Did you ever see The Contender with Joan Allen? She plays a woman who becomes the vice president of the United States. I personally hated the movie. At any rate, there's this scene where she's sitting at dinner with a very powerful Republican senator, and the camera keeps zooming in on close-ups of the senator's ultra-rare huge piece of steak. She was eating a big salad. For me, the scene was symbolizing that the senator was a back-water, ignorant hick, because as everyone knows, only back-water hicks eat rare pieces of meat. Well if that is so, what about the French. 'Nuff said. (But what about the French???)
To sum it up, we are against prayers in school, school vouchers, and for meat. We welcome your comments.