UI religious groups rely on faith to guide vote

By Paolo Cisneros

As election-day inches closer, religious organizations on campus are working to mobilize the student vote.

Some are more insistent than others that followers make religious beliefs their primary voting concern, but all are stressing the importance of faith as a guiding principle in the electoral process.

The St. John’s Institute of Catholic Thought held a forum on Thursday to discuss the obligations of Catholic voters.

David Delaney, associate director of the institute, told attendees that their faith mandated that they vote with an end to abortion as their primary objective.

Their goal in the voting booths should be to promote the “common good” by advancing the causes of human rights, family life and social justice, he said. But in order to fight for any of those causes, abortion must be abolished.

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“If you don’t have life, none of the other rights associated with life can matter,” he said.

While both presidential candidates support policies that are, in part, what Delaney called “gravely wrong” and would ordinarily make them ineligible for a Catholic vote, the choice comes down to choosing the lesser of two evils, he said.

Ben Rehimi, freshman in Business, said that while other issues are also important to Catholic voters, retracting abortion rights is the most prominent.

Rehimi, who has already voted for John McCain by absentee, said the Republican nominee’s anti-abortion stance makes him the better choice for Catholics.

Even so, he said he does not entirely agree with all of McCain’s ideologies.

“For me, being pro-life means being against capital punishment,” he said. “I guess that’s where I diverge with John McCain a little bit.”

While he believes most Catholics will vote for McCain, Rehimi said he has felt no pressure from the administration of the Newman Center, the Catholic dorm where he lives, to vote for one candidate over the other.

Voters at the Cohen Center for Jewish Life said members of their faith had an issue of primary importance as well.

Matt Levee, senior in LAS, said U.S. foreign policy is a deciding factor for Jewish voters because of their personal connection to Israel.

Jewish voters want a president who will continue to defend Israel and consider it an important ally, he said.

Levee said that while issues like the economy and alternative fuels are important considerations for college-age Jewish voters, their personal connections to Israel make it of greatest concern.

“One thing that’s very tangible is Israel because a lot of students have had a relationship with it,” Levee said.

Levee said Jewish organizations on campus have helped foster an atmosphere of political discussion rather than advocating the election of any one candidate.

Who will win the Jewish vote remains to be seen, he said.

Muslim voters are also concerned by a number of issues, but at the forefront is the lessening of United States’ use of military force as a means of resolving conflicts, said Hatim Rahman, senior in Business. In doing so, he hopes the perception of Muslims as extremists will diminish.

Rahman prays at the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center and said he has yet to feel any pressure from campus religious authorities to vote for a specific candidate.

The Muslim community on campus, however, has hosted a number of events aimed at boosting voter registration and increasing awareness of the issues, he said.

Muslim voters will most likely support Barack Obama come Nov. 4, Rahman said.

But no matter the outcome, Rahman said Muslims generally believe the next four years will see improvements in the American political climate.

He said he believes the election of a new president will help make that possible.

“They’re not going to drastically change things, but there’s a feeling that things will get better,” he said.