Mr. Kerry became combative when told that some conservatives were criticizing him for being a Roman Catholic who supported policies, like abortion rights and same-sex unions, that are at odds with Catholic teaching.
"Who are they?" he demanded of his questioner. "Name them. Are they the same legislators who vote for the death penalty, which is in contravention of Catholic teaching?"
He added: "I'm not a church spokesman. I'm a legislator running for president. My oath is to uphold the Constitution of the United States in my public life. My oath privately between me and God was defined in the Catholic church by Pius XXIII and Pope Paul VI in the Vatican II, which allows for freedom of conscience for Catholics with respect to these choices, and that is exactly where I am. And it is separate. Our constitution separates church and state, and they should be reminded of that."
Scott Belliveau has a thorough fisking of this in National Review. Hugh Hewitt, meanwhile, argues that the Catholic doctrine on the death penalty and abortion are very different, and Kerry is merely showing off his lack of knowledge of and reflection on his own faith.
To this, I have one thing to add. Even if Kerry were accurately pointing out the hypocrisy of others, how does this in any way absolve hypocrisy on his own part? His answer started with an ad hominem attack and devolved into a murky explanation of separation of church and state. If Kerry does not understand that separation of church and state does not prevent people's faith from influencing their public decisions, then he is the opposite of a defender of the freedom of religion. The Senate Democrats have been treating religious belief as a disqualifier for public office, attacking President Bush's nominees for holding strong beliefs which might somehow influence them, despite ample evidence that at no time did this religious belief prevent them from acting within the confines of the law. In other words, even if they follow the law and do their duty, the fact that their religious belief may influence how they fulfill their duties within the discretion afforded to them by the office is reason enough to disqualify them for that office. (In the meantime, there's no word of complaint on those judges and executive officers who break the law in accordance with the religion of secular humanism.) If this is not an attack on religious freedom, I don't know what is.
Update: Added a link to Byron York's article to point out what the Democratic anti-religious tactics have been.