The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's explanation over the weekend implied that his civic duty in a pluralistic society required him to ignore his conscience. ''There is something called freedom of conscience in the Catholic Church," Kerry told an Iowa newspaper. ''I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life begins at conception. But I don't take my Catholic beliefs, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant, on a Jew, or an atheist who doesn't share it. We have separation of church and state in the United States of America."
So, Kerry's conscience is not at odds with church teaching, just with his voting record? By any measure, that is an odd definition of conscience. Forget church teaching for a moment. Conscience is a moral concept, as well as a religious one, after all. If you believe that life begins at conception, doesn't your conscience compel you to vote in concert with that belief? Just as, if your conscience tells you capital punishment is state-sanctioned murder, you would vote against the death penalty? Or if you believe that gay marriage is a fundamental civil right, you would vote against a constitutional amendment to ban it?
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