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A Look Back at the Unholy Use of Religion in the Presidential Campaign
Washington, DC – As the presidential primary season winds down, The Interfaith Alliance has compiled a list of the ten worst abuses of religion during the campaign so far. The list highlights the disproportionate role religion has played during the primary season, with candidates and the media shouldering the responsibility. A video companion for the list has been posted on YouTube.com and can be viewed on The Interfaith Alliance website at interfaithalliance.org/elections/topten/.
Unfortunately, the list could easily go on beyond 10, and is likely to expand as the general election gets under way. Just this week, a photo of Senator Obama in traditional Somali garb was leaked to the media with the clear intent to portray him as a Muslim, and in the process disenfranchise an entire religious community in this country.
"I have witnessed more abuses of religion in this primary season than in any election in recent memory. Candidates from both parties seem to be locked in a competition to be 'holier than thou,'" said Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy. "Incidents like these demean the sanctity of religion by inferring that God has endorsed a certain candidate. Far be it for candidates to run for 'Commander-in-Chief' instead of 'Pastor-in-Chief.'"
The top four contenders in both political parties placed high on the list, with the top two spots going to Governor Mike Huckabee's call to amend the constitution to fit "God's standards" and Senator Barack Obama's call for help to "become an instrument of God." The full top ten list follows.
10. Mitt Romney is asked if he believes "every word" of the Bible (CNN/You Tube debate (11-28-07).
9. CNN's Soledad O'Brien asks John Edwards to "name his greatest sin" (CNN/Sojourners town hall 6-26-07).
8. James Dobson tells a reporter he does not think that Fred Thompson is a Christian (3-27-07).
7. Barack Obama distributes a campaign flier describing himself as a "Committed Christian" (1-21-08).
6. Hillary Clinton said we need to "inject faith into policy" (CNN/Sojourners town hall 6-26-07).
5. Mike Huckabee explains his rise in the polls by invoking the Biblical story of two fish and five loaves feeding a crowd of 5,000 people (11-28-07).
4. Tim Russert asks all the Democratic candidates to "name their favorite Bible verse" (MSNBC 9-26-07).
3. John McCain says the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation and that he would prefer a Christian president (9-27-07).
2. Barack Obama asked a congregation to help him "become an instrument of God" and join him in creating "a Kingdom right here on Earth" (10-17-07).
1. Mike Huckabee tells a crowd: "What we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards" (1-14-08).
"In a political campaign, a candidate's reference to his or her religion can be a valid and helpful form of self-identification," said Rev. Gaddy. "However, when a politician suggests that her or his religion should be a primary reason for people to vote for him or her, it crosses the line and creates a religious test for public office."
In order to prevent the unholy use of religion as a political tool The Interfaith Alliance offers guidance to candidates and clergy on how to navigate the intersection of religion and politics. Its election year guides have been updated for 2008 including "A Campaign Season Guide for Houses of Worship" and "Running for Office in a Multi-Faith Nation." This year's house of worship guide also includes a companion DVD.
Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.