Candidates and Religion

October 9, 2007

Should we know more about a political candidate’s religion before we vote? That is a question that will certainly surface in this election cycle.

When John Kennedy ran for the presidency he said: “I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair.” While that may have satisfied some back in 1960, I doubt it will be sufficient in this election.

Michael Kinsley recently wrote about this important topic in Time magazine as he discussed Governor Mitt Romney. Although I would probably disagree with Kinsley on many political and theological issues, I think he rightly points out that the religious faith of a candidate cannot be kept private because it affects his or her worldview.

He says it is important for three reasons. First, we need to know the details of a candidate’s faith and the extent to which those details are accepted. He notes that Catholic liberal politicians since Mario Cuomo have said they accept the doctrine of the church but nevertheless believe in a woman’s right to choose. He concludes that either these politicians are lying to their church, or they are lying to us.

Second, since some doctrines of various religions may be offensive to the general public, they have a right to know if a candidate agrees with those doctrines. Michael Kinsley applies this only to Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, but it should also be applied to the religious faith of every candidate.

Third, candidates’ religious faith also will affect their character. Voters should take character into account before they cast their vote for a particular candidate.

This election season it has been popular for candidates to talk about their faith. But how does that faith affect his or her views on social and political issues? So far, the media has been content to let them talk about their faith in a vague way, but voters deserve to know more. Back in 1960, John Kennedy dodged the question of how his faith affected his decision-making. We cannot allow candidates to dodge the question now.

©2007 Probe Ministries