Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Becky Skillman Scoop

First off, a bloggy friend of mine, Marni Arnold, introduced me to her readers today in the very nicest way. Please go show her some love! 

Now, as you may remember, a few weeks ago I had the honor of meeting Indiana's Lieutenant Governor, Becky Skillman, at a blogger roundtable. I didn't ask her a question about faith during the roundtable session, since A) I wasn't sure if the other bloggers would care, and B) I wasn't sure Ms. Skillman would be willing to say anything about it.

Well, they did, and she was.

So I e-mailed her a follow-up question: What does your faith look like, and how does your faith affect how you govern our state?

Here is her response:

I’m not one who tries to publicly display my religion. Instead, I try to set an example by how I live my life. I have always tried to make myself available to my constituents by accepting as many invitations as possible, but there are limits. On Sunday mornings, I put politics aside and worship with my family in my own congregation. Some will accept this better than others. But it has been my 30 year policy and I am sticking to it. That doesn’t mean I have never missed a Sunday morning, but it does mean that Sunday is a day of worship for me, not politics.

As an elected official you need to know who you are, what you stand for and you need to understand your beliefs and values. I’ve often told young legislators that if they don’t know, there’s a whole lobby full of special interests waiting to tell them who they are and what they stand for.

One example I can give is when I was a State Senator, and I had to make the toughest vote on gambling. I consistently voted against gambling, but in the final years in the Senate there was a big effort to save the hotels in the French Lick and West Baden area. I did not represent French Lick and West Baden proper, but I did represent the rest of Orange County.

Most of the county I represented thought I should vote “yes” to support legalized gambling. I couldn’t be a hypocrite. I couldn’t vote “yes” even if it was for my home region. I voted “no” and many did not understand why. There was an editorial in the Bedford newspaper (my hometown paper) that criticized my decision.

I told constituents I would help with economic development in their region. I offered legislation that gave tax incentives to businesses that would locate in economically distressed areas. When the next election came around, I led the ticket in Orange County. If you can justify your vote and be honest with people, they may not agree with you, but they have to respect it. I will not compromise my convictions to win re-election.

And there you have it.

I think, from a politician, that's as good an answer as I can hope for. It must be hard to have to represent a group of people whose beliefs and ideas may not mesh with your own. I'm glad she's willing to stand up for what she believes in. I know I couldn't vote for something that went against my moral fiber, even if my constituency wanted it. That's probably why I'm not a politician. 

Well, that and the fact that my naturally curly hair wouldn't be well-respected in politics. How many curly-haired politicians do you know? None, that's how many! Me and my curly locks would be laughed out of town! No one would take me seriously! Curly hair is tantamount to a clown costume in politics!

But I digress.

As I've said before, I *heart* Becky. I'm grateful she was willing to answer my (pretty personal!) question. 

What do you think? I may be opening some can of worms here, but should politicians be expected to make decisions purely based on those they govern, or is it acceptable for personal beliefs (Christian or otherwise) play a role in the decision-making process?

7 comments:

  1. There's also something called the Constitution that should be a factor in decision-making for politicians. It defies democracy for politicians to deny rights to people based on religious beliefs when those rights are guaranteed by the Constitution. Marriage equality and the right to medical privacy are two that come to mind quickly.

    Gambling, I believe, isn't necessarily a Constitutional right. If a tribe were interested in bringing gambling to their land, then it's a Constitutional issue, or rather, an issue of national sovereignty.

    Also, Rachel, I read your blog pretty regularly. It's good to know you're well.

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  2. I think it's tricky putting religion and politics together. We had a President that laid it on thick about his status as a Christian. Then he waged two wars that I thought were not what Jesus would have done in the least. Faith should inform decisions, but like all humans even faith informed decisions are sometimes wrong.

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  3. All of life's decisions are a balance of who we are and who we're expected to be. It's always a tightrope.

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  4. @unknown

    I'm trying to be well. :) I hope you're doing the same, B! Thanks for your comment. I wonder sometimes, like with the gambling thing, if the general constituency looks down the road and see the long-term impact on the community (i.e., the possibility of gambling addictions and such) rather than just the immediate increase in revenue. The politicians have to look at the bigger picture, whether it's a moral issue or not.

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  5. I think it's something that is so hard to balance. They are supposed to represent the majority's opinion from the people they represent. But, personal beliefs, real belief, can't just be pushed to the side.

    I could never be a politician.

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  6. Rachel, thank you for the re-shout out. :) I have taken this week as a means to just reset and refresh...and God simply put on my heart that in the midst of this resting time personally, I should put some spotlight on others He has brought me in connection with.

    I am so honored and thankful for our connection, Rachel. Your postings, Tweets and Facebook messages always bring a smile to my face. It's amazing what He does, isn't it?

    So thankful for you, lady! So thankful! :)

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  7. I wanted to thank you for coming to the Statehouse. This is the first time I’ve done a roundtable like this, but I’m glad I did. If ever I needed a group of advisers, I certainly have a group of knowledgeable, clever and creative women to call upon.

    Rachel - I appreciated your question and the opportunity to talk about my faith. I encourage you to continue to write as you serve as inspiration to many who desire to have a more personal relationship with God.

    Becky Skillman

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