(More) Religion and Politics

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According to a Reuters blog posting, a group of Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant leaders have released a statement urging presidential candidates to stop using religion to further partisan goals. Co-sponsored by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Faith in Public Life, the statement decries the “troubling” ways that faith has intruded into political competition.

“In this year’s presidential campaign, we are troubled to see candidates pressed to pronounce the nature of their religious beliefs, asked if they believe every word of the Bible … and faced with prejudicial analyses of their denominational doctrines”

The statement lays out three guiding principles that candidates should follow:

1. That religious differences should not be used to marginalize or disparage candidates.

2. That candidates should acknowledge “that no faith can lay exclusive claim to the moral values that enrich our public life.”

3. “While it is appropriate for candidates to connect their faith to their policy positions, their positions on policy must respect all citizens regardless of religious belief.”

While these principles were written by a coalition of Christian believers, they are written in such a way that just about any religious believer (including this Pagan) could endorse them. The question is if anyone will pay attention to these social justice organizations. Their call for a cease-fire in the Christmas Wars went largely unheeded, and certain politicians seem ever-more eager to use religion in order to further their political careers.

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”Mike Huckabee, January 14, 2008

Looks like someone has already thrown principles one and two right out the window. This, along with other recent developments, seem to point to a presidential season that refuses to stop using religion as a weapon. If this trend continues, what will happen when a true religious outsider (other than a Mormon) makes a serious run for political office? Having seen brief glimmers of that future, I can tell you that it won’t be pretty. Let’s hope the principles set forth by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and Faith in Public Life, take root in future elections, because it seems unlikely they will this year.