Councilwoman Laura Von Harten of Beaufort County, South Carolina is in a little hot water after admitting that she would oppose a Catholic Church’s zoning request due to her opposition to Catholic Church policies.
During a Land Management Committee discussion over whether to allow St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in greater Bluffton to expand through a zoning change, Von Harten called the Catholic Church policy barring women from serving as priests “an affront to my dignity and all of womankind.” She also objected to the church’s anti-abortion positions.
Von Harten, who doesn’t sit on the committee, said she would oppose the zoning change when it came to the full council because of the church’s positions. (source)
Von Harten later apologized and agreed to abstain from any votes on the zoning issue and admitted that her “personal opinions are obviously going to get in the way of me making a fair decision.”
While South Carolina Catholics have every right to bristle at Von Harten’s statements, we must admire her candor. I frequently see politicians carefully dance around the fact that they are making their decisions based on religious doctrine, yet they will never admit that they are trying to push their governing body toward theocracy. For example, I have yet to hear a Southern Baptist City Councilor abstain from a vote on adult entertainment zoning with the admission that they can’t make a rational or Constitutionally-principled decision because of their personal superstitions.