Monday, September 1, 2008

The Litmus Test Lives On

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.


  1. I do not think that we will see in our lifetime (We seem to be somewhat close in age, I am 46) a non-Christian candidate for Presidency.

    And yet, I still look at Obama and the name alone scares me...I openly admit that, and I will again attribute it to 911. If that makes me a racists then forget the Kagaroo Court, I will admit my guilt.

    I know the experts have said that Islam is one of thee most passive religions, but like any organized religion you have your fanatics who ruin it for those who are trying to do good works in the name of their 'God'.

    I am sitting here, talking to my husband who has been a non beliver since childhood(Great story). And I was telling him that I would love to see an agnostic or aeithist in the White House. But we will never see it in our life time...if ever.

    Why do these candidates even capitulate to any sort of screening? Do they not declare their religious roots pretty much from the beginning? So why bother with this interrogati...I meant to say interview in the first place?

    Something is wrong with the system, but I am guessing you already knew that!

    P.S. My thesaurus is getting a workout...thanks!

  2. I'm with you. An atheist in the White House would be a great thing. But you're right about it's improbability for the foreseeable future. We'll no doubt see an African-American, a woman, and a gay person there before we see an atheist.

    If you get a minute, take a look at an earlier post called Barack Obama and Religion / Secularism. In it I kind of spell out why he gives me hope that we might at least be headed in the right direction if he becomes elected.

  3. OK, I did watch the YouTube video and it does give me hope, but change of that magnitutde will be a long time coming.

    On a side not, I left a comment...more like a post to your Trek post. How do we Trekkies seem to find one another!!