Monday, October 8, 2012

Religion & Poltitics - Do We Have a Right To Even Ask?

In a weekly column on religion in the Courier-Journal, this question was posed: "Is it fair to interrogate a presidential candidate on his religious faith?"

The answer, according to a recent conference of "journalists and scholars" was yes, thought there was disagreement on which questions were fair.

As a semi-retired journalist and Christian I disagree.

Candidates will talk about their religion; that is their right under free speech. But if reporters (or ministers)  try to draw them out with questions about their religious beliefs, or lack of them, ..or what their faith might lead them to do in certain cases if my mind, that is a violation of Article 6 of the Constitution, which says.."no religious test shall ever be required" as a qualification for public office. Such questions unerringly become such a "test." For example, a retired New York Times executive thinks reporters should ask candidates whether they believe the Bible is literally true. For a follow up question how about "Have you stopped beating your wife?" 

Being practical politicians, I feel sure the Founding Fathers knew this section would be honored more in the breach than in the observance, by candidates themselves, but the Constitution still holds up to the rest of us a correct standard "to which the wise and honest may repair."

How far we have come from we readily accept Catholics, Blacks, even Mormons as viable candidates for President. How far we have failed our Constitution is best shown in JFK's famous talk to  the Houston ministers..."I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President--should he be Catholic--how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote."

Now we have, not the Papacy to fear, but a slew of largely right-wing Christian ministers who feel it is perfectly correct--ignoring the Constitution prohibition on a "religious  test"-- to advise their members how to vote. I do not, and I strongly suspect the writers of the Constitution are on my side.

I'm just sayin'...

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