Once again, the separation of church and state becomes blurred as another presidential election looms. As former governors Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman enter the Republican presidential race, the issue of their faith – Mormonism – once again enters into the fray.
The Gallup organization released a poll of Americans’ views on the faith of a President and found that 22% of Americans would not be willing for vote for a Mormon. Other findings show that 49% would not vote for an atheist; 7% would not vote for a Catholic, and 9% would not vote for a Jew.
There was no mention of how many would not vote for a Muslim, but I suspect the number would be disturbingly high.
Now, some of those numbers are a lot better: according to the study: “in 1959, the year before John F. Kennedy won election as the nation’s first Catholic president, 25% of Americans — including 22% of Democrats, 33% of Republicans, and 18% of independents — said they would not vote for a Catholic.”
Still, the question I have is: who cares? Who cares about the religion or faith tradition of a particular Presidential candidate?
During the 2008 election, a widely used “smear” against President Obama was that he was a “secret Muslim.” It was so pervasive that the Obama campaign was compelled to debunk that rumor by insisting that he was a committed Christian (for which he was also taken to task because of his former pastor).
Jon Huntsman has seen it fit to distance himself from his Mormon faith, seeing that it may not be very popular among Republican primary voters.
Yet, again, who cares? Why is the faith of the candidate even important?
Of course, many people’s faith and faith traditions shape their philosophies and worldviews, and there is nothing wrong with that. Most faith traditions have very good principles and values, and thus being shaped by one faith or another should not be a problem.
The criterion by which someone vying for public office should be judged is how well he or she will do the job they are elected to do, not the particular faith tradition they happen to follow, and that includes no faith tradition at all.
It is completely immaterial that Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is Jewish; what matters is how well he serves the City and her people.
If a Muslim ever were to run for president, his or her faith should not matter at all, and it is wrong to “smear” someone – like President Obama – with the rumor that he is a Muslim or any other faith tradition.
The framers of our Constitution separated church and state for a good reason, and someone’s faith should not be part of the calculus of what makes an “acceptable” candidate for public office. That is what makes our country as great as it is.