And because the republican slate of presidential candidates includes two men who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the issue of religion has once again entered into the vetting process. But should religion be an issue in electing an individual, male or female, president of the United States? The Founding Fathers didn’t think so, because they declared in Article VI of the Constitution that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office (including the office of president) or public Trust under the United States.”
Up until 1960, every president of the United States was white Anglo Saxon protestant. In 1960, when John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, ran for president, religion became an issue, but the voters of the United States overcame their religious bias against Catholics and elected Kennedy.
In 2000, a Jew, Joseph Lieberman, was on the ballot as the vice presidential candidate on Al Gore’s ticket. Lieberman certainly is not Christian, but few took offense to Lieberman possibly becoming the vice president of the United States. Incidentally, Lieberman recently spoke to 25,000 BYU students and declared “My personal experience in 2000 gives me great confidence that the voters will again reject any sectarian, religious test and show their strong character, their instinctive fairness and their steadfast belief in the ideals of the declaration and the constitution, and when they do, another barrier may well be broken for another group in America and the doors of opportunity will thereby open wider for every American.”
Why do Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman now have to face a religious test? On Oct. 30, the Tribune carried a column by Susan Estrich, a law professor and former chair of the Michael Dukakis 1988 presidential campaign, titled “Mitt Romney’s other problems.” Estrich addressed the Mormon issue head on in her column, admitting forthrightly she would not vote for Romney, not because he is Mormon, but because she is a Democrat and he is a Republican. Her words that should bother all Americans most were, “But what is so striking about discrimination against Romney (and Huntsman) is how many people (basically evangelical Christians) are absolutely unashamed of their prejudice.” She goes on to describe the theological issues this body of Christians are concerned about. Estrich then went on to explain Romney’s other issues she would be concerned about.
But should evangelical Christians have a problem voting for a Mormon? Franklin Graham, heir of America’s greatest evangelical movement ever, doesn’t think so.
In an interview last week with CBN News, Graham was asked “So, can an evangelical Christian vote for a Mormon for president? Yes, Graham said. He continued with “Yes. The fact that Mitt Romney’s a Mormon doesn’t bother me. I think when we’re voting for president we need to get the person who is absolutely the most qualified. You can have the nicest guy and he can be a Christian and just wonderful but have absolutely no clue as to how to run a country. You don’t want that, you want somebody who understands Washington, who understands government, who understands how to bring people together so that we can move this country forward.”
Graham continued by calling Romney a “very capable fellow” and similarly praised the other candidates in the field, Graham said this election is a time for Christians to pray.
“We need to pray that God would give the right man [or] woman to lead this country,” he said. “This is probably the most critical election in my lifetime — our country is headed on the wrong course, and we’re going the wrong direction … people have lost their homes, they’ve lost their livelihoods and the politics of Washington right now is not helping.”
Grahams counsel to pray for God’s help in choosing America’s next president is good counsel, regardless of one’s religious beliefs.
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.