Why I'm sitting this one out

With less than a month to go, I’m planning not to vote in this November’s presidential election. I’m not happy about this situation: it’s rare that a day goes by without the difficulty of my decision pressing itself upon me in one way or another. My children, for both of whom this election is the first they’re old enough to vote, find it puzzling, since I constantly encourage them to take their new civic status with all the seriousness they can muster. My wife, who belongs to the anything-but-Bush school (as do most of my colleagues), finds it reprehensible because she thinks that not voting only makes it more likely that our president will be reelected. And the U.S. Catholic bishops and the pope have clearly and repeatedly pressed upon me, as a Catholic, the importance of my civic duty to participate fully in the political life of my country-which certainly means voting. All this I take very seriously: it is my duty to vote, and yet I’m planning not to.

And it’s worse yet. I’m a naturalized American who was sworn in with all the usual pomp and circumstance in a ceremony ten years ago in South Bend, Indiana. I chose to pursue citizenship after some years of living in this country without it (I was born and raised in England) exactly because I wanted to participate fully in the civic and political life of the country in which I’d chosen to live, and couldn’t do so without a vote. I have voted in every election,...

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About the Author

Paul J. Griffiths holds the Warren Chair of Catholic Theology at Duke University.