So, I want to make several things clear before I get on with today's topic. What follows is not about the 2012 US election. For the purposes of this discussion it doesn't matter to me what a candidate's position is on health care, Afghanistan, the economy, women's issues, or education. I don't care if we're talking about Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians or anyone else. The issue I'm going to address is about politics in general, human failings, the Constitution and intent of the Founders, and the inability of some people to "live and let live."
The two leading candidates for President are, as of this writing, Barak Obama (D) and Mitt Romney (R). I don't particularly care for either of them, but for this blog entry it doesn't matter.
1. What the Constitution says.
Article. VI2. Voices of the Founders.
...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
"...the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."Jefferson:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."Madison:
"...it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
"I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others."
"Among the features peculiar to the Political system of the United States, is the perfect equality of rights which it secures to every religious Sect."3. Bigotry and Intolerance in Politics.
"The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men..."
Anti (and former) Mormon, Tricia Erickson, recently spoke on a radio show. She said,
...we cannot afford a Mormon experiment. We have to have someone at the head of our country with sound judgment. If this man does not have the judgment to be able to discern fact from fiction on the most basic things like the horrifically false religion that he's in. If he doesn't have the wherewithal to understand that he has lived a lie all of his life and continues the lie, then how do we trust the judgment of this man to put him at the head of our country with everything that's going on? I mean, if he cannot even figure out fact from fiction in the way that he's been raised, how can we trust his judgement at the head of our nation?4. Who's Right and Who's Wrong?
A lie, a fiction, a false religion...all that has been said about every religious belief ever expressed -- and there have been millions of them. Each adherent to a religious belief is convinced that their beliefs are correct and the others are wrong. My guess is that there are those who believe that Tricia Erickson holds beliefs which are heretical, horrifically false, and a lie.
This is the same concern that some had about John Kennedy when he was running for President in 1960. Kennedy's response (which has had some airplay in this year's election mostly because Rick Santorum, who disagreed with it brought it up) is worth reading again.
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been -- and may someday be again -- a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you -- until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril.Does it matter what a person's religious beliefs are in one's choice for public office? Of course it does, but Senator Kennedy had an answer for those who worried that he would sell out the country to the Vatican...
I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment's guarantees of religious liberty; nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so. And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test, even by indirection. For if they disagree with that safeguard, they should be openly working to repeal it.Prior to the 2008 presidential election, Mitt Romney presented his views on the role of faith in politics. In his presentation he said,
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.Romney didn't let the Mormon Church run Massachusetts during his term as Governor and I don't believe that he would let the Mormon Church run the country if he is elected President. Whatever else one might say about his politics, agree or disagree, he is not about to hand over the reigns of the nation to his church.
Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin
The kind of bigotry represented by the comments above should have no place in our society. What's sad is that, after nearly 236 years as a nation, the reason this country was founded is still haunting us. There are still those who would discriminate against others based on a belief. To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr, we should judge people based on the content of their character rather than their religious affiliations (or lack thereof).
Such intolerance and bigotry is the same intolerance and bigotry which encouraged Jefferson to respond with the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and Madison to write the Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments. It is un-American and rejects Constitutional guarantees to the free exercise of religion. It is, along with the anti-Muslim atmosphere in the country today, a danger to our society. History teaches us that it's a small step from intolerance and bigotry to persecution and genocide. Do we really want to go back to 17th Century Europe? Do we really want the Inquisition? The Crusades?
In this case, Lenny Bruce got it right when he said, "I think it's about time we gave up religion and got back to God."
Below are videos of Kennedy's speech followed by questions and answers.
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