The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has joined faith-based groups and other organizations in endorsing standards of conduct for the upcoming U.S. presidential debates. The standards are proposed by the National Institute for Civil Discourse.
The institute created standards for the presidential candidates, audience members and moderators. The standards for the candidates expect that they be respectful of others in speech and behavior, and make ideas and feelings known without intentionally disrespecting others.
Standards for the audience include when faced with incivility, speak against it by reminding candidates it is not acceptable. Moderators are expected to hold candidates accountable by challenging each candidate to speak the truth and act with integrity.
ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton addressed civic discourse in her May 2016 column for Living Lutheran magazine.
“I understand that the world is a dangerous place; I understand that many in our country feel left behind and left out,” Eaton wrote. “There are legitimate security, foreign policy and domestic policy concerns. Candidates and political parties have the duty to speak to these concerns and make the case for their platform.”
Eaton emphasized, though, that “political speech that doesn’t ensure that the ‘other’ is treated with the same respect and care that we would wish for our own brother or sister or father or mother is not what God intends for God’s beloved community.”
The ELCA has long been concerned that public discourse be conducted with civility and fairness. The ELCA’s social statement (1991) “The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective,” reads that “Christians need to be concerned for the methods and the content of public deliberation.”
More recently, the ELCA Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Synod, expressed this concern by approving a resolution titled, “Current American Political Discourse.” In the resolution, the synod “rejects the public expressions of hatred, fear and bigotry being made during current political campaigns and encourages national and local leaders to boldly, unequivocally and responsibly embrace the values of compassion, honor, respect, cooperation and compromise that are the heart and soul of America.”
The ELCA’s social statement “Church in Society” is available at bit.ly/2d5YJ9H.
Eaton’s column is available at livinglutheran.org/2016/05/love-your-neighbor/.
More information about the Standards of Conduct for Debates is available at bit.ly/2d2mrR4.