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May 25,2007
Religion and the presidency
by Herbert G. Klein

Forty-seven years after voters appeared to have settled the question of whether a candidate's religion should have any bearing on his ability to serve as president of the United States, the issue again is looming as a question in the 2008 race for the White House.

The current debate is focused on Mitt Romney and his membership in the Mormon Church, but even Rudolph Giuliani is caught up in questions regarding his stand on abortion rights and Pope Benedict XVI's recent hard line against Mexican lawmakers who advocate for women's reproductive rights.

Add to those factors the sudden death of Jerry Falwell, the conservative Christian leader, and rightly or wrongly, religion is again in the presidential spotlight. Does opposition to Mitt Romney based on his Mormon religion represent bigotry, or is it a fair factor in judging the character of a man who aspires to be president? What role, if any, should a candidate's personal religious belief play in a presidential campaign?

In 1928, Catholicism was considered a major issue when New York Gov. Al Smith, a Catholic, gained the Democratic nomination after three tries and then lost to Herbert Hoover, a Protestant, by 6 million votes. There were other issues such as a Tammany Hall scandal and prohibition, but the question of whether the pope would be able to dictate to the president was a key issue.

In 1960, John Kennedy attacked the religious problem early and aggressively. The Democratic nominee arranged to meet with a group of prominent Houston Protestant ministers in September and emerged from the meeting with the declaration from the pastors and from the candidate that church and state always should be separated. Kennedy said his religious beliefs were his private affair, but "if the time should ever come when my office would violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign from office."

Long before the Kennedy meeting with the Houston ministers, Richard Nixon had given firm instructions to all of us on his staff that we must avoid making Kennedy's Catholicism an issue. That order remained in effect throughout the campaign.

Looking back, Kennedy probably gained support from some who did not want to be labeled "bigots."

Once in office, Kennedy on numerous occasions proved that "he did not take orders from the pope," and it appeared that religion was a past issue as far as the presidency was concerned.

John Kerry, a Catholic, ran against George Bush in 2004 but Kerry's religion was never an issue.

It is interesting that in the current contest for president, except for Romney and Giuliani, few people know what church the current candidates attend. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are Methodists, Fred Thompson is a member of the Church of Christ and Barack Obama has been active in the United Church of Christ. John McCain is an Episcopalian, and Giuliani and Chris Dodd are Catholics. Duncan Hunter is a Baptist.

President Bush states his church denomination as Methodist, but he frequently attends St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington and the Prairie Chapel Church near his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Except for the flare-up over Giuliani, a Catholic who supports a woman's right to choose, no questions regarding religious affiliation have been directed at anyone other than Romney, a Mormon, who has served as a governor of Massachusetts, a predominantly Catholic state.

In an answer to a question whether the president believes a candidate's personal religion should be an issue in selecting a president, Dan Bartlett, assistant to the president for communications, says: "The president believes his faith is an important part of who he is as a person and a leader. However, he believes the great strengths of our country is that people from all walks of life and faiths are treated equally. The American people choose a president based upon their qualifications and fitness to do the job."

The Mormon issue was not raised strongly when Mitt Romney's father, Gov. George Romney of Michigan, ran for president against Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller and others in 1960. Catholicism, not Mormonism, was the issue. Few, if any, have questioned the Mormon affiliation of Harry Reid, Democratic leader of the Senate.

Some evangelicals look at the rapid growth of the Mormon Church on a worldwide basis and label it a cult. They have a right to their own views, and, yet, in the ordinary life of American communities, Mormon leaders are considered mainstream.

Some question the secrecy of Mormon services in the church's temples, and yet in recent years some of the most liberal doctrines have been enunciated by Presbyterian and Methodist leaders with only limited outcries in local congregations. I have been among those quiet Presbyterians.

A few years ago a friend of mine, Leon Parma, and I met with the first and second presidents of the Mormon Church to discuss an anti-Mormon column published in The San Diego Union-Tribune. We found no mysteries as we settled the dispute in a few moments and spent the rest of an hour discussing topics ranging from Mormonism in South Africa to football at Brigham Young and the University of Utah.

Judge J. Clifford Wallace, a Mormon, was honored in 2006 as the American attorney of the year. He tells the story of approaching Harold B. Lee, a member of the Mormon Quorum of 12, and asking for advice when he was about to become a federal judge. Wallace later was under serious consideration by Nixon to become a Supreme Court justice. "If there is a dispute between church and state," Lee said, "obey the law of the land." Wallace has followed that as he has traveled the world preaching on the importance of the "rule of law."

In my view, anyone who criticizes a presidential candidate for his personal religion is likely to be a bigot or someone playing politics. Our Constitution clearly separates church and state. Concern over which church or synagogue or any house of worship a candidate attends should not be an issue in the year 2008 or after.

Richard Land, a Southern Baptist, states the issue clearly: "We vote for commander in chief, not theologian in chief."

- - -

Herbert G. Klein is a national fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, retired editor in chief of Copley Newspapers and former Nixon White House director of communications.

3649 times read

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Romney explains role of religion by UPI posted on Dec 06,2007

Romney speech strong but fails to solve his Mormon problem by George E. Condon Jr. posted on Dec 07,2007

Will Romney's religion define his candidacy? by Charita M. Goshay posted on Feb 23,2007

Evangelicals finally find their candidate: Huckabee by John Marelius posted on Jan 04,2008

Romney to talk about his faith by UPI posted on Dec 04,2007

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  • The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often misunderstood . . Some accuse the Church of not believing in Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion . . This article helps to clarify such misconceptions · Baptism: . Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. http://www.imj.org.il/eng/exhibitions/2000/christianity/ancientchurch/structure/index.html The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles. . Early Christians were persecuted for keeping their practices sacred, and not allowing non-Christians to witness them · The Trinity: . A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ , His Son , being separate , divine beings , united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration? The Nicene Creed”s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. . The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity , which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. . The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: "There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one." Scribes later added "the Father, the Word and the Spirit," and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chairman of the Religion Department at UNC- Chapel Hill. . . .He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity. . Scholars agree that Early Christians believed in an embodied God; it was neo-Platonist influences that later turned Him into a disembodied Spirit. . Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was also part of Early Christian belief. . The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts. · The Cross: . The Cross became popular as a Christian symbol in the Fifth Century A.D. . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) believe the proper Christian symbol is Christ’s resurrection , not his crucifixion on the Cross. Many Mormon chapels feature paintings of the resurrected Christ or His Second Coming. · Christ's Atonement: . But Mormons don”t term Catholics and Protestants “non-Christian”. . They believe Christ’s atonement in Gethsemane and on the Cross applies to all mankind. . The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”: . All of the above denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. They all worship the one and only true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and address Him in prayer as prescribed in The Lord’s Prayer. It”s important to understand the difference between Reformation and Restoration when we consider who might be authentic Christians. If members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace early Christian theology , they are likely more “Christian” than their detractors. * * * · Christ-Like Lives: . . .The 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion published by UNC-Chapel Hill found that Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) youth (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to exhibit these Christian characteristics than Evangelicals (the next most observant group): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . LDS Evangelical Attend Religious Services weekly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71% . . . . 55% Importance of Religious Faith in shaping daily life – extremely important .. 52. . . . . . . 28 Believes in life after death . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 . . . . . . 62 Believes in psychics or fortune-tellers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 . . . . . . 5 Has taught religious education classes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 . . . . . . 28 Has fasted or denied something as spiritual discipline . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 . . . . . . 22 Sabbath Observance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 . . . . . . 40 Shared religious faith with someone not of their faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 . . . . . . 56 Family talks about God, scriptures, prayer daily . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 . . . . . . 19 Supportiveness of church for parent in trying to raise teen (very supportive) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .65 . . . . . . 26 Church congregation has done an excellent job in helping Teens better understand their own sexuality and sexual morality . . . . . 84 . . . . . . 35
  • (Posted on May 26, 2007, 8:33 pm Bot)

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