Monday, November 17, 2008

Credit Where It Is Due: "An Open Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama"

Kudos to Henry Karlson of Vox Nova for writing and posting this:
An Open Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama

November 14, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama,

As American Catholics, we, the undersigned, would like to reiterate the congratulations given to you by Pope Benedict XVI. We will be praying for you as you undertake the office of President of the United States.

Wishing you much good will, we hope we will be able to work with you, your administration, and our fellow citizens to move beyond the gridlock which has often harmed our great nation in recent years. Too often, partisan politics has hampered our response to disaster and misfortune. As a result of this, many Americans have become resentful, blaming others for what happens instead of realizing our own responsibilities. We face serious problems as a people, and if we hope to overcome the crises we face in today’s world, we should make a serious effort to set aside the bitterness in our hearts, to listen to one another, and to work with one another.

One of the praiseworthy elements of your campaign has been the call to end such partisanship. You have stated a desire to engage others in dialogue. With you, we believe that real achievement comes not through the defamation of one’s opponents, nor by amassing power and using it merely as a tool for one’s own individual will. We also believe dialogue is essential. We too wish to appeal to the better nature of the nation. We want to encourage people to work together for the common good. Such action can and will engender trust. It may change the hearts of many, and it might alter the path of our nation, shifting to a road leading to a better America. We hope this theme of your campaign is realized in the years ahead.

One of the critical issues which currently divides our nation is abortion. As you have said, no one is for abortion, and you would agree to limit late-term abortions as long as any bill which comes your way allows for exceptions to those limits, such as when the health of the mother is in jeopardy. You have also said you would like to work on those social issues which cause women to feel as if they have a need for an abortion, so as to reduce the actual number of abortions being performed in the United States.

Indeed, you said in your third presidential debate, “But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, ‘We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.’”

As men and women who oppose abortion and embrace a pro-life ethic, we want to commend your willingness to engage us in dialogue, and we ask that you live up to your promise, and engage us on this issue.

There is much we can do together. There is much that we can do to help women who find themselves in difficult situations so they will not see abortion as their only option. There is much which we can do to help eliminate those unwanted pregnancies which lead to abortion.

One of your campaign promises is of grave concern to many pro-life citizens. On January 22, 2008, the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when speaking of the current right of women in America to have abortions, you said, “And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president.”

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) might well undermine your engagement of pro-life Americans on the question of abortion. It might hamper any effort on your part to work with us to limit late-term abortions. We believe FOCA does more than allow for choice. It may force the choice of a woman upon others, and make them morally complicit in such choice. One concern is that it would force doctors and hospitals which would otherwise choose not to perform abortions to do so, even if it went against their sacred beliefs. Such a law would undermine choice, and might begin the process by which abortion is enforced as a preferred option, instead of being one possible choice for a doctor to practice.

It is because of such concern we write. We urge you to engage us, and to dialogue with us, and to do so before you consider signing this legislation. Let us reason together and search out the implications of FOCA. Let us carefully review it and search for contradictions of those positions which we hold in common.

If FOCA can be postponed for the present, and serious dialogue begun with us, as well as with those who disagree with us, you will demonstrate that your administration will indeed be one that rises above partisanship, and will be one of change. This might well be the first step toward resolving an issue which tears at the fabric of our churches, our political process, our families, our very society, and that causes so much hardship and heartache in pregnant women.

Likewise, you have also recently stated you might over-ride some of President G.W. Bush’s executive orders. This is also a concern to us. We believe doing so without having a dialogue with the American people would undermine the political environment you would like to establish. Among those issues which concern us are those which would use taxpayer money to support actions we find to be morally questionable, such as embryonic stem cell research, or to fund international organizations that would counsel women to have an abortion (this would make abortion to be more than a mere choice, but an encouraged activity).

Consider, sir, your general promise to the American people and set aside particular promises to a part of your constituency. This would indicate that you plan to reject politics as usual. This would indeed be a change we need.

Deal W. Hudson
Christopher Blosser
Marjorie Campbell
Mark J. Coughlan
Rev. James A. Nowack
Craig D. Baker
Susan DeBoisblanc
Megan Stout
Joshua D. Brumfield
Ashley M. Brumfield
Michael J. Iafrate
Natalie Navarro
Matthew Talbot
Paul Mitchell
Todd Flowerday
Henry C Karlson III
Adam P Verslype
Josiah Neeley
Michael J. Deem
Katerina M. Deem
Natalie Mixa
Henry Newman
Anthony M. Annett
Mickey Jackson
Veronica Greenwell
Thomas Greenwell PhD
Robert C. Koerpel
Nate Wildermuth
While there may be aspects of this letter with which one might take issue (e.g., as one of my email correspondents has pointed out, the term "morally questionable" to describe ESCR and the funding of overseas abortions is not nearly strong enough, and stronger language that recognized the intrinsic wrongfulness of those actions could still have been utilized without jeopardizing the tone of the letter), I encourage you to read and accept it in the spirit in which it was written. And pay close attention to the signatories: many of them did not vote for President-elect Obama and, in fact, vigorously opposed him. Yet they have found this conciliatory request for dialogue to be something to which they can add their names.

The idea is to engage President-elect Obama, not to denounce him. The idea is to find aspects of his own agenda and his own words that could be fertile areas of common ground. I admit that I am not optimistic about the success of the effort, but I certainly pray for its success. I hope you will, too.

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At 11/17/2008 12:42 PM, Blogger Henry Karlson said...

Thanks for the link. I added yours to the list of cross-posters. I wanted this to be something that the Catholic blogosphere can work together with, and there is quite a bit of indication that it is working. Obviously it is a start, and yes, some of the language is obviously "sugar coated," but that is one classical way of exhoration, along the lines of St Justin Martyr and St Clement of Alexandria, which I try to follow. This does not mean if some dialogue does break out because of this, everything would be "sugar coated" indeed, it would not be able to be.

At 11/17/2008 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea is to engage President-elect Obama, not to denounce him.

Yes, but I suspect that, for some on this list, much of the idea is more about self-promotion than actually engaging with Obama. Just a cursory look at the list displays some of the usual suspects who spend a lot of time making lots of noise (and soliciting donations), but never really accomplishing anything.

At 11/18/2008 12:54 AM, Anonymous Policraticus said...


Henry Karlson spearheaded the letter and wrote most of it himself. I assure you he is neither a "usual suspect" nor a solicitor of donations.

At 11/18/2008 10:38 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

Just a cursory look at the list displays some of the usual suspects who spend a lot of time making lots of noise (and soliciting donations), but never really accomplishing anything.

Anybody but me find it typical that this kind of remark should come from somebody to scared to put his own name behind his sniping?

Kudos to Henry for drafting the letter, and being open to editorial recommendations from the contributors (self included). I can vouch that this was a joint effort and thank him for it.

At 11/18/2008 11:03 PM, Blogger Tito Edwards said...


Before I “jump” on this bandwagon I have some questions about this FOCA bill/legislation.

My understanding, here in Texas anyways, is that with any legislative laws that interprets the constitution no federal bill is able to strip state law that augments said constitutional law. If that state law is not based on the constitution, but interprets state law or anything but federal law, then it can be affected by FOCA.

I hope the wording makes sense, but that is the way I see FOCA.

FOCA will never happen. FOCA was a no-brainer for Obama to trumpet up during the election. To “feed” his left-wing base. Obama knows that the majority of state laws wont’ be affected by any FOCA bill/legislation because only the Supreme Court can change constitutional law. Since the vast majority (99%?) of state laws that limit abortions are “interpretive” of the US constitution they won’t be affected.

Ipso facto, this whole excercise of this “open letter” to Obama is pretty much meaningless.

IF FOCA passes, it won’t affect almost all state laws (at least here in Texas).

I’ll do more research on this, but I thought I’d throw this out there to my online lawyer friends to chew on.

(original comment on AC:

At 11/18/2008 11:05 PM, Blogger Tito Edwards said...

...basically this "open" letter could be a non-starter.

I want to make sure there is something worthwhile to sign before Obama starts waving this "open letter" to show his "bipartisonship" when it possibly won't mean anything at all.


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