Religious Rhetoric is not Helpful
I believe that it is important that a candidate for president to demonstrate that he or she clearly understands and acknowledges the importance of religious freedom and the place of religion in the lives of many Americans.
I would hope that a candidate himself (or herself) is a person of faith in order that he may have sense of proportion about himself in the context of the enormous power that he will exercise should he be elected President of this great nation. Such an awareness should be an important component in his personal sense of ultimate accountability as he exercises the awesome powers that are reserved to that office.
However, I am not in the least convinced that it is helpful or edifying for presidential candidates to use specifically religious rhetoric in their campaign speeches. Personally, I find such rhetoric cloying: because of political necessity, it is either narrow and sectarian in its appeal or much more likely transparently superficial and self-serving. A further reason for my concern is that those statements of personal belief that are genuine (as I would hope they all would be) have embedded within them some specific religious tradition. This in turn can do little other than confer a certain sense of privilege of place to one particular religious community and suggest, if ever so subtly, a certain inferiority to all others. That, or so it seems to me, is contrary to the spirit, if not the letter of the law, of the separation of church and state.
Mark S. Sisk
January 31, 2007; 4:29 PM ET
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