Bishops Conferences are not known for giving good political advice, and the Florida Catholic Conference's voting guide does not help their reputation in that regard. I'm living in Kansas right now but I'm a registered Florida voter. Before filling out my absentee ballot, part of my online research included the candidate questionnaire from the Florida Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of Florida bishops. The Conference sent an issues questionnaire to all the Floridian candidates for Congress or the state legislature. The congressional questionnaire asked if a candidate supported or opposed the following proposals:
MARRIAGE: Defining marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman?
FAMILY REUNIFICATION VISAS: Increasing the number of family reunification visas available to reduce lengthy waits for legal U.S. entry?
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY FUNDING: Funding development of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar to reduce dependence on oil?
NUCLEAR WEAPONS REDUCTION: Continuing negotiations to verifiably reduce deployed nuclear weapons of both the United States and the Russian Federation?
EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE: Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to ensure that all public and nonpublic school children receive the educational services they need?
ABORTION FUNDING BAN: Prohibiting the use of federal funds to pay for or provide insurance coverage for elective abortions?
CONSCIENCE PROTECTION: Preventing federal agencies and states that receive federal funds from discriminating against health care providers who do not perform or participate in abortions?
The problem with the questionnaire is that it seems to give equal weight to every question. Unlike CatholicVote, which assigns each issue a different level of importance, the Florida questionnaire lists the questions in no particular order and offers no comment on the relative importance of each issue. This is especially problematic when some of the questions are not even about absolute moral issues. It is possible to be a Catholic in good standing and oppose federal funding of windmills, but it is not possible for a conscientious Catholic to support abortion. In fact, the questionnaire doesn't even ask the candidate if he or she wants to ban abortion. There are plenty of pro choice politicians who (at least in theory) oppose public funding for abortion and support conscience protections. Asking about these issues instead of abortion itself is obfuscation intended to make pro choice Democrats appear more palatable. Marco Rubio, the pro life Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, said that he supports traditional marriage, conscience protections, and a prohibition of taxpayer funding for abortion. He offered no response to the other questions. In contrast, Rubio's Democratic opponent Kendrick Meeks claimed to support every item except for traditional marriage. The questionnaire makes Meeks look like a borderline viable option for Catholic voters when in fact, Meeks supports abortion and embryonic stem cell research. The candidate questionnaire is yet another instance of American bishops who think that a leftist idea of social justice is more important than the lives of unborn children.