Religion in Politics

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Part I

Summary.

Religious beliefs have become an increasingly important role for U.S politicians in the recent years. Some argue that faith should be a part of policy, while others strongly dispute it. In the 1960 presidential election, John Kennedy’s Catholicism was made a prevalent issue. As a result, Kennedy pledged that he would act independently of the Catholic Church if he were elected. Various issues such as gay rights and abortion have since then surfaced and have become topics of controversy among politicians. Observers say that religion is becoming an important factor in determining who citizens cast there vote for, thus references to religion from candidates are becoming much more frequent in election campaigns. President Bush was very open about his religious beliefs and attracted a multitude of attention because of it. Some argue that Bush relied too heavily on his religious views when making policy decisions, but at the same time his opponent in the 2004 election John Kerry, was criticized for not being open about his religious beliefs. Kerry’s view on abortion also caused much controversy during his running, even though he is personally against abortion, Kerry has consistently voted in support of abortion alongside the Catholic Church. Those who support religion in politics, stand to argue that they should be free to express their beliefs. Critics of religion in politics believe that politicians whose religious views influence their decisions can be blind to opposing points of view and can alienate those who do not share their beliefs. Politicians should be able to separate their personal religious views from their public service obligations. Religious views are best protected by a society in which no one is allowed to impose their religious beliefs on anyone else, they maintain. The U.S Constitution separates church and state, forbidding the government to sanction any particular religion. The 1928 campaign of New York Governor Al Smith is one of the most prominent controversies regarding this issue. Smith was the first Catholic president nominee in U.S history, and because of that, citizens expressed concern that having a Catholic president would be overly influenced by the will of the Vatican when deciding the course of the U.S policy. In the end, Smith ended up losing the election. During the campaign of Kennedy, the second Catholic nominee, concerns over religious beliefs guiding policy became an issue that surfaced during his presidential campaign. Raised an observant Catholic, Kerry regularly attended church. He is personally opposed to abortion but is pro-choice. Archbishop Raymond Burke stated publicly that Kerry shouldn’t present himself for communion within Burke’s archdiocese. In January 2003, the Vatican had issued a note reiterating it’s position that Catholic politicians should oppose abortion, renewing debate over the issue. While national publicity was centered on Kerry, other pro-choice Catholic politicians were threatened with denial of communion as well. Among those singled out were California Governor Gray David and Colorado attorney general candidate Ken Salazar. Governor Jim McGreevey of New Jersey agreed not to receive communion. Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado stated in a letter that communion should be denied to parishioners who vote for politicians who support, abortion, euthanasia, stem-cell research and same-sex marriage. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of D.C was assigned to head a task force to determine how the issue should handled, in response to the controversy. Many agreed with him when he made the public announcement stating that he opposed denying communion to politicians who take stances opposing the churches teaching. The debate over whether pro-choice politicians should be denied communion has helped fuel the wider debate over the role of religion in politics. Bush’s approach received more support from those who support a more prominent role for religion in...
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