If there's one thing this year's election process has reinforced, it is the notion that presidential candidates must submit themselves to a virtual religious litmus test before they can realistically entertain hopes of winning the election.
Both John McCain and Barack Obama should have said "no thanks" to their invitations from Mega Pastor Rick Warren to appear at his church and submit to an interrogation by a religious leader, but political realities demanded that each of them capitulate and attend. Obama no doubt acquiesced lest he be perceived as minimizing the political clout of religious constituents, while McCain likely went along because the Saddleback audience provided understandably friendlier confines for his more conservative disposition.
Fortunately, the Constitution prohibits overt religious tests as qualifications for office, but the spirit of this doctrine should extend voluntarily to society as a whole especially during the election season. The reason for this is simple: When a powerful and popular religious constituency - namely Christian evangelicals - involves itself in the political process of elections, the overall effect is the further marginalization of minority religious constituencies, suggesting their support to be of little or no consequence. Since government is essentially prohibited from promoting or favoring one religion over another, accordingly, no religious organization should impose any test upon those aspiring to the highest levels of government.
At the very least, any religious organization wishing to hear from a presidential candidate should restrict their engagement to that of simply inviting them to speak and not anoint their powerful and sharply biased representative as inquisitor.
Until such time as the privileged status of religion is moderated in this country and a more secular mindset permeates our collective thinking, major candidates for national office will likely see themselves having to continue to weigh the cost of not bowing to pressure from religious constituents to answer to their cause.
3 years ago