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Party Lines: What role should religion play in elections?
by Ben Horsley
Jun 10, 2011 | 1940 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
‘Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president. Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.”

These are the words of presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a speech given in 2008 during his failed attempt at the presidency. It was a logical and reasonable explanation that was good enough for John F. Kennedy. Unfortunately, it may not be good enough for Romney or Huntsman.

Despite a recent poll that indicates that two-thirds of Americans say that a candidate’s Mormon religion would not matter to them, the presidential path is still dark and rocky for these candidates.

The first problem with such a poll is that it is taken from the general population instead of likely primary voters. In fact, this same question was asked back in 2007 with a similar result. If this were true, and the Mormon religion did not play a factor, Huckabee would not have utilized a well thought out and planted remark, “don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”

Huckabee’s comment was a calculated effort by an evangelical Christian who knew better, to intentionally and callously distort a Mormon belief to win a campaign. It will happen again.

Another candidate with strong ties to Utah is attempting a different approach to downplay his religion. However, indicating that your religion is “tough to define,” could hamper your image to those of us who want a strong person of any faith to lead us. Diminishing your ties to religion diminishes your candidacy in the face of many voters.

Simply put, there should not be a religious litmus test on the presidency. However, most religious individuals, who make up a significant voting block of the Republican Party, do want our candidates to belong to some religion. We recognize the value of faith driven principles and a moral compass in decision making, especially when leading a country founded on the desire to worship God in whatever way we choose.

As the presidential season is in its infancy, the religious bigotry will be subtle. However, once the primaries kick into high gear next year, watch the candidates carefully to see those who would take advantage by the slight of subtle religious attacks. The presidency is too high a prize for any one man to not take advantage of the Mormon handicap regardless of whether it is Romney or Huntsman.

A real person of faith (any faith) will persevere regardless of the outcome of any election. As Romney put it in 2008, “there are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do.”

I am more impressed by a candidate who will stand by their moral fabric that is instilled with them through a religious devotion and upbringing, as opposed to the pandering of those who would diminish or attack such principles.

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