Religious bigotry in politics: 10-19-11
October 19, 2011
It's really pretty shameful that even though the U.S. Constitution says there will be no religious test to hold public office, many Americans institute exactly that on their own.
New polling shows that less than half of all Americans are "comfortable" with Mormonism when it comes to electing a president. Mormonism, of course, is the faith of GOP presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.
This is simply religious bigotry that has nothing to do with how either man would perform in the Oval Office.
I am not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (I'm a Presbyterian). And there are aspects of the Mormon faith that are quite a ways outside my personal theological boundaries and understandings. But if we're going to talk about the values that Mormonism teaches, I can find no reason to imagine that an otherwise-qualfied Mormon could not serve as president.
Unless candidates open themselves up for questions about the details of their faith, the only legitimate religious question for voters to ask is how the faith of candidates might affect their public policies and actions.
To reject a Mormon candidate (or a Muslim, a Jew, a Hindu, a Presbyterian etc., etc.) because of theological differences is simply prejudice that is unbecoming to Americans. And as our religious landscape becomes increasingly diverse, we would do well to get over this moral failing.
* * *
CHRISTIAN VOICES OF REASON
The kind of ignorance and bigotry I wrote about above here today is forcefully denounced in this engaging piece by two evangelical Christians. They are particularly hard on politicians who, on the basis of misguided faith, denounce science and secular knowledge. The authors put it this way: ". . .when the faith of so many Americans becomes an occasion to embrace discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas, we must not be afraid to speak out, even if it means criticizing fellow Christians." Bingo.
* * *
P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it click here.