A key item of business at political conventions will be adopting party platforms. Offering a party’s official take on key issues, platforms serve to define a party and guide its candidates and activists for four years.
Republicans are meeting in Cleveland this week, and Democrats will meet in Philadelphia next week.
In meeting over the past couple of weeks, delegates in both parties clashed on policy proposals and hashed out draft language. Political science research shows platform debates can impact parties and public policy decisions.
The final version of the Republican platform, approved by delegates on Monday, runs 66 pages. It clashes at times with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
The Republican platform calls for significant changes in the U.S. tax code, which Republicans called too long and complex. Although committed to “eliminate as many special interest provisions as possible,” it stresses the party “will be mindful of the burdens on families with children.”
The GOP also stressed its support for current tax policies that exempt religious organizations and charities from taxation and makes donations to them tax deductible.
A section on abortion includes an affirmation of those who assist women with unplanned pregnancies. It also takes a stand against prosecuting women who have an abortion, although Trump briefly suggested he supported such penalties and said he wanted the platform to moderate on abortion.
“We affirm our moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize women who face an unplanned pregnancy,” it notes. “We celebrate the millions of Americans who open their hearts, homes and churches to mothers in need and women fleeing abuse.”
In pushing against same-sex marriage, the platform argues: “Every child deserves a married mom and dad.” Although it promotes the benefits of a “two-parent household,” it also praises those who “bear the burdens of parenting alone.”
The platform labels pornography “a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions.” Several commentators quickly noted the incongruity of the statement with the nomination of Trump, who attended Playboy parties and owned casinos with strip clubs.
On immigration, the platform endorses building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and opposes amnesty. It repeats common misconceptions like suggesting undocumented immigrants use up social services and do not pay taxes. Those and other myths are addressed in the EthicsDaily.com film, “Gospel Without Borders.”
The platform also suggests undocumented immigrants are particularly dangerous in “a time of terrorism, drug cartels, human trafficking and criminal gangs.” It does not note that those dangers are often what send undocumented immigrants fleeing to the United States or that undocumented immigrants are not more likely to commit violent crimes.
Instead, the platform places the GOP as standing with “the families of murdered innocents.” Trump gave key speaking slots on Monday night to individuals whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants.
The platform also urges the U.S. allow fewer refugees to enter the country, inaccurately claiming that refugees are not fully vetted.
“To ensure our national security, refugees who cannot be carefully vetted cannot be admitted to the country, especially those whose homelands have been the breeding grounds for terrorism,” the platform adds.
While the platform affirms “the moral obligation to be good stewards of the God-given natural beauty and resources of our country,” it takes a strong stand against measures designed to reduce carbon emissions or counteract climate change.
Republicans declare in the platform that they “reject the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement” and demand no money be given to fund United Nations’ Green Climate Fund. The Paris Agreement, the first universal climate agreement, emerged out of climate talks in France last December.
The platform claims environment protection efforts are too often based on “shoddy science” and “scare tactics.” It includes numerous attacks on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Endangered Species Act.
In a section on “religious liberty,” the GOP notes its support for legislation that allows business owners to invoke religious beliefs to deny services to LGBT couples.
The platform claims proponents of such legislation face “intimidation from corporations and the media.” The section also offers support for “the public display of the Ten Commandments” and “voluntary prayer at public school events.”
The “religious liberty” section also calls for the repeal of a ban on churches engaging in partisan politics, though some Baptist advocates for religious liberty say that would harm churches. Elsewhere, the platform focuses on “the religious freedom of all military members, especially chaplains” by pledging to oppose “attempts to ban Bibles or religious symbols from military facilities.”
The GOP platform takes a strong stand against racism and bigotry, including religious-based prejudice. This critique appears to hit at the type of rhetoric Trump often utilizes.
“We denounce bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice and religious intolerance,” the platform declares. “Therefore, we oppose discrimination based on race, sex, religion, creed, disability or national origin and support statutes to end such discrimination.”
Other religious references dot the platform, with nine references to a “God-given” right or resource.
It claims the U.S. Constitution “enshrines our God-given individual rights” and urges schooling that helps students succeed with their “God-given talent and motivation.”
Elsewhere it describes the Second Amendment as enabling “Americans to exercise their God-given right of self-defense for the safety of their homes, their loved ones and their communities.”
The platform also notes the GOP “embraces American exceptionalism and rejects the false prophets of decline and diminution.”
Brian Kaylor is editor and president of Word&Way, associate director of Churchnet, and a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com.