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Religion and the Red, White and Blue '08
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December 7, 2007

Much media time has been spent on comparing Mitt Romney's speech about his faith with that of campaigning John F. Kennedy's in 1960. Kennedy's landmark stump speech read in part:
"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute...where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. -- John F. Kennedy," "Address of Senator John F. Kennedy to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association," September 12, 1960
Of course, Kennedy's campaign was run after a history of Protestant presidencies. But times are very different now as JOURNAL guest Kathleen Hall Jamieson notes: "I think the speech is fundamentally different...The argument underlying the Kennedy speech was that he was, in fact, running as an American. Not as a Catholic....[Romney] is arguing from within assumptions of faith."

Several months ago a JOURNAL viewer sent in this query about the tenor of some of the talk of the '08 campaign:

Does not the U.S. Constitution say that there "shall be no religious test" for the holding of public office in the U.S.? Questions asked included: "Do you think there is evil in the world?" Another was: "How do you know that God is answering your prayers and it is not just your own voice in your head?" Another: "What is the greatest sin you have created in your life?" Even though these are not federally mandated questions of faith, which would clearly be unconstitutional they not, however, questions that bring religion and faith into an arena where it should not be?
Pundits and researchers are indeed noting that '08 may be one of the most overtly religious elections in history. The view from abroad echoes this sentiment, the Australian SYDNEY MORNING HERALD documented the recent surge for Conservative Christian candidate Mike Huckabee as follows: "Candidate on Jesus juice comes to the fore," Even the more restrained British ECONOMIST dedicated a special report to religion in public life and the upcoming elections — noting "only 20% of Europeans say that God plays an important role in their lives, compared with 60% of Americans." New York Post Questions about the literalness of the Bible and appropriateness of teaching evolution appear regularly in debates. The Web Site BeliefNet even includes a function called "God-o-meter" where candidates are ranked on a variety of "faith matters."

Find out more about how matters of faith are playing out in '08 from the resources below and then tell us what you think on the blog.

Melissa Rogers
Melissa Rogers by Robin Holland Melissa Rogers is visiting professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School, and the founder and director of Wake Forest's Center for Religion and Public Affairs. Before going to Wake Forest, Melissa served as the executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and as general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty. She also served as a draftsperson for several amicus briefs in church-state cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. She is currently co-authoring a case book on religion and law for Baylor University Press, and she recently testified before the Judiciary Committee to the U.S. Senate.

Guest photo by Robin Holland

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References and Reading:
Religion and Politics '08

Melissa Roger's Blog
Recent posts include discussion of the Romney speech, news about "Pledge" court cases, and the "War on Christmas" campaign.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, seeks to promote a deeper understanding of issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. As a nonpartisan, non-advocacy organization, the Forum does not take positions on policy debates. The Forum's election coverage includes extensive polling and analysis, candidate profiles and issue coverage.

RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY: One Nation, Religion and Politics 2008
PBS's R&E has special coverage of candidates and faith — including an extensive video blog from religion reporters around the nation.

A "multi-faith e-community" that embraces skeptics as well as believers. This Web site includes spiritual inclination quizzes, articles about modern challenges to faith, lively discussion boards, along with links to sacred texts of various religions.

Religion News Service
Provides updated coverage of religion news stories, features, and commentary from a wide variety of faiths. Updated daily, with searchable archives. A search for "global warming" yields nearly 100 recent stories.

BILL MOYERS JOURNAL: The Church and State Debate
Get historical and legal background on the debate over the Separation of Church and State in the U.S.

MOYERS ON AMERICA: Religion & Politics
Find out more about the role played by religion in electoral politics from the MOYERS ON AMERICA Citizen's Class.

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Bill Moyers talks with Kathleen Hall Jamieson about how the Internet has transformed the political campaign in the United States.

With pastor and denominational leader Mike Huckabee, surging in the polls and Mitt Romney giving a widely anticipated speech on his Mormon faith, Moyers and Jamieson are joined by scholar Melissa Rogers for a discussion of religion in politics.

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