WASHINGTON – Last night, the Fox News moderators of the first Republican Primary debate asked several candidates inappropriate and unnecessary questions about whether God spoke to them in their political decisions. Before the debate, Interfaith Alliance Executive Director Rabbi Jack Moline sent a letter to Fox News, and every network hosting a scheduled primary debate, urging them to handle matters of religion more deftly on the debate stage, a charge Fox News failed to live up to.
Following last night’s debate Rabbi Moline issued this statement:
“When we demand that our politicians make public displays of piety to please us with some profession of faith, we will always be disappointed. Nothing could have highlighted that truth more than the question that Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked several of the candidates last night. Rather than prompting an honest conversation about faith and religious freedom, her question spurred a round of grandstanding and puffery about what God wants, who God supports and why God blesses us. This type of chatter demeans our sacred teachings, exploits the passions of voters of faith and isolates those Americans who do not share a particular concept of the divine. The candidates’ response was not a surprise given the nature of the question; Fox News should have known better.
“I remind these candidates how the first and perhaps greatest Republican President framed such use of God in political conflicts. President Lincoln famously said of dividing political factions in his Second Inaugural Address ‘Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other… The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.’ If politicians invoke God for their campaign purposes, they delegitimize the faith of others and misunderstand the mystery and complexity of the Almighty. As many candidates aptly said last night, we do not need more of that kind of divisiveness and discrimination.
“I ask the Fox News team to remember that the Constitution insists that there be no religious test for office. Though we may hope that a candidate has the depth of knowledge and openness of heart to navigate the intricacies of America’s religious landscape, we cannot demand it of them. However, such expectations might be worthwhile for moderators of these debates.”
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.