As a pastor, it is not my place to tell my congregants who to vote for, or argue for specific political policies from the pulpit. That does not mean, however, that the church must remain silent on political issues, especially on those which Scripture is clear on. In this election, many Christians feel that they have a burdened conscience in being forced to vote for a “lesser of two evils.” There are several positions, as well as moral qualities, of both candidates which many, including myself, feel make both of these individuals unfit for such an important office. So what is it that we can do at this point? Is voting for the lesser evil still an evil?
The argument most often put forward is that if I vote for a third party candidate, I am necessarily giving either Hilary or Trump my vote. Supposedly, I am giving up a vote for whichever candidate I “would have voted for” and given it to someone else. Personally, there is no alternative scenario in which either of the two candidates would get my vote, so there is no alternative other than not voting. If my third party is an automatic vote for Hilary, then it is, logically, also an automatic vote for Trump. Therefore, they cancel each other out and my vote is irrelevant anyway.
Ultimately, I think the most important thing to do is, as Ted Cruz reminded us at the Republican National Convention, vote your conscience. As Martin Luther famously stated, “to go against conscience is neither right, nor safe.” To assume that we must vote for an evil just to lessen another evil is to adopt a utilitarian approach to ethics. Since the result will end up somewhat better, do the thing that is a little less evil. Instead, I think it is wise for us to vote with a clear conscience. Vote for the person who you think would best benefit the country.
Navigating the Options
There are essentially three viable third party candidates at this point, though several smaller parties do exist. The two most prominent, who have any percentage in national polls, are Gary Johnson (Libertarian), and Jill Stein (Green). A third option is Darrel Castle, who is running for the Constitutionalist party. Johnson has had up to 13% in some national polls, which is much higher than third party candidates usually are. With two more percentage points, he will be on the debate stage with the two major party candidates.
The DNC and RNC on Abortion
While Christians may disagree on various economic and other political issues, one particular political stance is quite clear in Scripture: all acts of murder should be punished. This is, in fact, the very foundation of government (Gen. 9:6). Since Scripture is also clear that a fetus is a human being (Ps. 51:5), this includes abortion. In this particular election, things have been far worse on the pro-life front than in the past.
For the first time since the early 1980s, the Republican National Convention did not even mention the issue at all. Trump has claimed to be pro-life, but has also praised Planned Parenthood, and stated that a pro-choice judge would be a great Supreme Court nominee. He has flip flopped on the issue so much, even within his candidacy, that no one really knows what he would do. Who is to say that his current stance will remain two years from now? What is clear is that this is not a major concern for Trump. He has not given any indication that he will be championing the pro-life cause during a presidency.
The Democratic party, on the other hand, seems to have gone from arguing that abortion should be rare but allowed, to celebrating it. Cecile Richards spoke at the convention, even after the inhumane and illegal practices of Planned Parenthood were exposed in the past year. Another woman proudly announced that she had an abortion and was met with applause. Hillary Clinton has argued that a human being has no constitutional rights whatsoever until they are born. Unfortunately for many pro-life democrats (especially many Roman Catholics), the move of their party in this direction has made voting for such a presidential nominee an impossibility.
Third Party Candidates on Abortion
Lets now look briefly at the third party candidates and their stances on abortion.
Jill Stein. The Green Party candidate is, not surprisingly, about as pro-abortion as any candidate can be. She argues that abortions should be legal on a federal level, that groups like Planned Parenthood should be federally funded, and that health care providers should be forced to pay for birth control and abortions. She argues for easy access for the morning after pill, as well as extensive stem-cell research.
Gary Johnson. This candidates position is somewhat confusing. He claims to be pro-choice, personally, but he passed some pro-life leaning legislation while governor of New Mexico. He signed a bill which banned partial birth abortions, and also has argued that minors should not be allowed to have abortions without parental notification. As a libertarian, he believes Roe V. Wade to be unconstitutional, and an overstepping of the role federal government. He states that he would appoint judges who were consistent with the constitution on this matter. He has argued that states should decide their stance on abortion individually. He has also consistently stated that federal funds should not be used for abortions. Some quotes from Johnson on these issues can be found here.
Darrell Castle. The constitutionalist nominee is the most pro-life of any of the candidates running in the current election. He supports an immediate end to abortion, even in cases of incest or rape. He would also, certainly, appoint pro life judges to the Supreme Court. However, Castle does not have nearly the support that the other two third party candidates have, but he is on the ballot in nineteen states. In terms of specific legislation, his website mentions two things in this area: first, no federal funding would support abortions. Second, he would try to “take away the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over such matters.” His stances are mentioned here.
This election is, unfortunately, not a positive one for pro-life activists. This issue simply is not at the forefront for Republicans anymore, who seem to have moved on to other issues, and Democrats have increasingly strengthened their support for Planned Parenthood. Of the three third party candidates, two seem to promote positive moves in opposition to abortion. While Castle is openly pro-life, unlike Johnson, his two primary points of action with regard to abortion are actually supported by the Libertarian nominee. Both argue that abortions should not be federally funded, and that the Supreme Court should not make such a decision on behalf of the entire nation. Of all the candidates running, Johnson is the only one who has actually pushed for positive legislation to protect the unborn (those in the third trimester specifically). Castle would certainly do this, and more, but he, again, does not have nearly the support as the other presidential candidates.
I cannot tell anyone, and have no desire to tell anyone, who to vote for, and in this election there is no clear candidate for those with a pro-life perspective. Many, I know, will simply elect not to vote at all, which is a perfectly acceptable action in such a time as this. Whatever you decide to do this season, vote your conscience, for a candidate who you believe would benefit the people of the United States as a president. Don’t simply vote for someone who you believe to be a little less evil than someone else. And vote with the good of your neighbor in mind (including the unborn), as you serve in your vocation as a citizen of the United States.