Monday, August 22, 2011

Judge candidates by their politics, not their piety

The pool of presidential candidates includes two Mormons: former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Both men are keenly aware that their affiliation with the LDS Church could hurt their shot at the White House.

In a major 2008 speech, Romney affirmed his faith but asserted he would not confuse his church’s teachings with a president’s constitutional obligations.

Huntsman recently took a different tack. In an interview with Time magazine, he said it was “tough to define” his personal faith.

Christians are expected to formulate their worldviews from biblical principles. This is especially true when voting for president. If a candidate’s political views do not align with the Scriptures, Christian voters should side with someone else who more closely reflects their spiritual convictions. Presidents make decisions that can affect society’s moral fabric, so, for some people of faith, it is crucial to have officeholders who institute and preserve biblically based moral principles.

The religion of candidates is a factor only if the office seekers allow the doctrines from their faith to affect their politics and if the resulting views clash with the Bible. But even in this instance, it is their politics being judged, not their religion.

While religions disagree on how to obtain eternal life, they generally share a moral creed: Love God, respect and serve others, cherish the sanctity of life. When translated into political ideology, theists from various faiths usually uphold the same political values. (Of course, not all people of faith vote their religious convictions.)

The fear some have in backing Huntsman or Romney is that the two candidates would be unable to make national decisions independent of their church — even though both have emphasized that, if elected, they would not be beholden to their faith.

The Constitution bars any “religious test” as a qualification for public office. It also restricts Congress from establishing laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

The hope is that all politicians honor the Constitution and the separation of church and state. Candidates should be judged by their political views, not their religious values, even though the two sometimes are one and the same.

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