Friday, July 20, 2007

Religious Tests for Office

I participated in a conversation last evening that concerned the relationship of faith and politics. I won't say anything about the content of the meeting, since I need to respect the privacy and concerns of those involved. But a question was raised about litmus tests, and it's a good question.
It's kind of easy to gloat these days as the Democratic candidates seem to have their "faith" statements down and the GOP, the party of God, is having problems finding appropriate candidates that will reach to its Religious Right base. The issue raised and the one that needs to be addressed is that of litmus tests and the precedents set by the willingness of the three top tier candidates -- Barack Obama being the most outspoken -- to speak of their faith. They have been, I think up front, honest, and authentic. Now, I'm a bit biased but I don't see them pandering to religious folks, but a precedent seems to be in the process of being set.
Is it necessary for a Democrat to be a person of faith in order to be elected? In their attempt to get beyond the label of being the "secular party" with no room given to people of faith, has the party swung the pendulum too far the other way?
Let us remember: Article Six of the Constitution specifically rejects religious tests.


Pither said...

I can think of 3 ways of considering the litmus test that are often blurred in such discussions.

1. Personal. "I could/would never vote for a presidential candidate who was not {fill in some religious qualifier here}."
2. Pragmatic. "No one could get elected president who was not {fill in some religious qualifier here}."
3. Legal. "We need a law to prohibit presidential candidates who are not {fill in some religious qualifier here}."

1 & 2 are very different from 3. Just because someone states 1 or 2, does not mean they favor 3.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...


You're quite right -- #s 1 and 2 are not unconsitituional. We choose to vote for people for a lot of different reasons.

A couple years back Californians elected Arnold as governor. And I remember how many chose to do so because he was a celebrity.

The same is true of Fred Thompson -- I think much of the excitement for his possible candidacy stems from the fact that people like his character on Law and Order or maybe in Hunt for Red October.

The question then is, should we vote for a person based on their religion or lack there of? And for many in the Democratic Party there is concern about that prospect.

Pither said...

Nothing quite demonstrates how a person views the world than his or her choice of religion. I for one could never vote for a religious fundamentalist. An administration based on dogma and wishful thinking has resulted in a disastrous eight years for this country. So that checks off #1 for me. I also think that an atheist/agnostic could not get elected president, at least not yet. So that covers #2. That leaves me with the option of the religious liberal/progressive. Pastor Bob for president!

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, but being President is probably near the bottom of my areas of interest! When I was a kid, I dreamed of going into politics and being a member of Congress. Fortunately I grew up and found other areas in which to serve!!! Besides, my wife simply would put her foot down on that one!