For the people who have had a bit too much religion mixed into their politics, Connie Ryan Terrell of the Interfaith Alliance of Des Moines, IA is responding with a call to candidates running for the 2012 Presidential race–a call to respect people of other faiths, rather than playing to conservative Christianity at the expense of other faiths, and to stop misusing religion to get into public office. The big question is: Where in the Constitution does it say that candidates for President must pass a religious litmus test? In short, it doesn't.
Perhaps what disturbed those of us in the room most, and many patriotic Americans, is the lack of understanding of or respect for religious freedom, our religiously pluralistic nation, and that quaint notion of separation by so many who seek public office or want to influence public policy. Bob Vander Plaats and others make declarations about "God's law" when speaking about the Constitution. He and others rewrite history to their own political benefit stating that our founders established the United States as a "Christian nation."
Recent statements and actions by those vying for the presidential nomination are alarming. It seems the misuse of religion for political gain is a runaway train with no means or inclination by the public to stop it.
Tim Pawlenty recently stated, "This is a nation founded under God." And also, "First and foremost we don't want to be a country that turns away from God, we want to be a country that turns toward God."
Not always concerned with historic accuracy, Sarah Palin once said the founders "created law based on the God of the Bible."
Herman Cain waffles on whether he would welcome a qualified Muslim as part of his presidential Cabinet. He stated he would hold Muslims to a higher loyalty standard than staff of other religions. Where in the Constitution does it state that those serving our nation must pass a religious litmus test?
The article was also critical of Governor Rick Perry's call to a day of prayer to which he has invited every governor in the country and clergy, using state resources and state time. This would seem to amalgamate state to religion, which would seem to be a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
Misusing one's religion in seeking public office or inserting it into public policy mocks the founders' mandate to respect our pluralistic nation and the religious freedom of all Americans. If candidates and public officials continue down this road, when does it become reckless and dangerous to the nation's health?
Enough is enough. Iowans must demand higher standards for candidates and public officials.
Someone's faith is always a factor in how they approach the world and public issues. However, debate on good public policy to address those issues must start and end with the Constitution and civil law, not personal religious beliefs or sacred texts.
Candidates and elected officials must pledge to uphold the Constitution and respect all religions. Anything less belies the freedoms guaranteed to every American that our nation will honor all faith beliefs, including the right to choose none. It has been the promise of this nation for more than 200 years. What would we look like without it?