November 4, 2008

Religion and Politics ’08: Christopher Dodd

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Background

Hometown
East Haddam, Conn.

Age
65

Religion
Catholic

Education
University of Louisville School of Law, J.D., 1972
Providence College, B.A., 1966

Candidate Website
www.chrisdodd.com

Candidacy Status
Formally withdrew candidacy Jan. 3, 2008
Formally declared candidacy Jan. 11, 2007
Endorsed Barack Obama Feb. 26, 2008

Political Experience
U.S. Senator from Connecticut, 1981-present
U.S. Representative from Connecticut, 1975-1981

Professional Experience
U.S. Army, 1969-1975
Attorney, New London, Conn., 1972-1974
Peace Corps Volunteer, Dominican Republic, 1966-1968

Family Information
Spouse: Jackie Clegg
Children: Grace Dodd, Christina Dodd

Religious Biography

In His Own Words

“My faith informs me … It guides my decisions and taught me to promote the common good, social justice and to do everything possible to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable.”
(Speech, April 2007)

Dodd was raised in the Catholic faith. Because of his father’s election to the Senate, he split his boyhood between Connecticut and Washington, D.C. Dodd attended Georgetown Preparatory School, a Jesuit high school outside Washington. He then went on to study English literature in Providence, R.I., at Providence College, which describes itself as a “liberal arts, Catholic institution of higher education.”

After graduating from college, Dodd joined the Peace Corps in 1966. He says that his faith “had a lot to do with” his decision to join the Peace Corps and serve two years in the Dominican Republic; he said that he was motivated by “the idea of giving back.” Dodd hassaid that faith and the Catholic social tradition of the “common good” also informed his subsequent decisions to run for public office and his decisions as a legislator.

Dodd’s wife, Jackie Clegg, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was raised in Utah. His two young daughters have been baptized in the Catholic Church and blessed in the Mormon faith, and Dodd says that they will have the opportunity to choose their faith. “They’re attending both and they’re going to have to form some decisions about that,” he said.

Dodd says that he attends mass at Catholic churches in Washington, D.C., and Connecticut and finds other Catholic churches when traveling. If nominated, Dodd would be the fourth Roman Catholic to win a presidential nomination. If elected, he would be the second Catholic president, following John F. Kennedy.

On The Issues

Abortion Dodd has said abortion “ought to be rare, safe and legal” and that “we ought to be working together on how we reduce the incidence of abortion” rather than continuing to fight about Roe v. Wade. Dodd has criticized the Vatican’s condemnation of Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. Compare McCain and Obama

Church and State Dodd has said that the separation of church and state should be understood not as a strict barrier between the two but as a relationship where one can reflect the other. “Faith can influence policy and … state can influence how we allow for the space and tolerance of religious traditions,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of connecting those ideas and concepts.” Doddsays that while his Catholicism is an important part of his identity, his obligation as a senator is to uphold the law of the land regardless of his personal faith. Compare McCain and Obama

Death Penalty Dodd has said that capital punishment is used too widely, but there are certain circumstances where he “would not exclude the use of the death penalty.” He says that he would not call for a moratorium on capital punishment. He has called for judicial reform and a closer look at the country’s criminal justice system so that “we can do a better job of making decisions” about the death penalty. Compare McCain and Obama

Education While in the Senate, Dodd has repeatedly voted against measures advocating school prayer in public schools, including a 1984 constitutional amendment that would have authorized periods of vocal prayer and a 1994 bill to require schools to allow voluntary school prayer. In 1996, he argued against a bill to set up a federally funded school voucher plan. Compare McCain and Obama

Environment Dodd’s energy plan involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050 and ending American dependence on oil from the Middle East by 2015. He has also suggested tax breaks and other incentives for taxpayers who conserve energy. He favors a Corporate Carbon Taxthat would impose a per-ton fee on businesses for carbon emissions and use the resulting profits to invest in renewable energy sources. Compare McCain and Obama

Faith-Based Initiatives Dodd has said that “we’ve made a huge mistake” not talking about faith in the public sector and that “people confuse the notion of having faith-based policy and replacing policy with faith beliefs.” Compare McCain and Obama

Gay Marriage Dodd supports civil unions with the legal protections of heterosexual marriage. He has said that when considering the issue, people should ask themselves, “How would I want my child to be treated if [he/she was] of a different sexual orientation?” Dodd added that if his two daughters were to grow up to be homosexual, he would want them to have marriage-like rights available to them, though he is “not comfortable” applying the term marriage to same-sex unions. Compare McCain and Obama

Health Care Dodd authored the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act, which allows workers to take time off without pay to care for a sick child or family member. He is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Children and Families. Dodd has said that if he is elected president, he will make health care legislation to cover all Americans a priority. Compare McCain and Obama

Immigration Dodd supports creating a pathway to earned citizenship for undocumented workers already in the U.S. He also favors increased penalties for employers of illegal immigrants, and strengthening the Mexican border through a partnership with the Mexican government. Dodd voted for theComprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. He is a fluent Spanish speaker and opposes efforts to make English a national language. Compare McCain and Obama

Iraq War While Dodd voted in 2002 to authorize military action in Iraq, he now says that the war was based on “fabricated” justifications and no longer meets the criteria for a “just war” in the Catholic tradition. He co-sponsored legislation that would have set an end date of March 2008 for continued funding for the conflict in Iraq. Dodd has called for the religious and political leaders in Iraq to take responsibility for the situation in their country, saying, “It’s really now for the Sunnis and Shias … to decide whether or not they want a compromise.” Compare McCain and Obama

Poverty Dodd says that one of his policy priorities influenced by Catholic social teachings and the emphasis on the common good is “creating safety nets for the disadvantaged.” As a senator, one of Dodd’s priorities has been helping children, and he has authored numerous child care bills. Dodd has favored increases in the federal minimum wageCompare McCain and Obama

Stem Cell Research Dodd supports embryonic stem cell research in cases when the embryos used would otherwise be destroyed or discarded. He has said that he hopes that science will eventually make the issue of embryonic stem cell research “a moot one.” He has supported measures to ban human cloning. Compare McCain and Obama