Should voters consider candidates’ religious beliefs?

Don’t get me wrong: I think religious literacy, as in knowing the history and beliefs of various religions including one’s own, is important for every citizen.  And in answer to the question of whether voters should consider candidates’ religious beliefs, I should have added that people need to understand what each of the candidates’ religious beliefs are so as to understand better how that individual might govern. Beyond that…well, read on and let me know what you think.

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Arena Asks: Bill Keller, Executive Editor of The New York Times, writes that the religious beliefs of Republican presidential candidates should be a factor in voters’ decisions. Does Keller have a point? Or does this view, as conservative radiotalk show host Hugh Hewitt suggests, “stoke the fires of religious intolerance by turning this presidential campaign into the occasion for an inquisition into all of the Republicans’ religious beliefs?”

My Answer: I do not care what people believe. I care what they do.

And because we are a diverse lot, all Americans should care deeply whether a candidate is–like Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann, and in fact most of the Tea Party darlings–so arrogant as to force their religion’s theology into laws that usurp not just the religious beliefs of the rest of us but even the bedrock American values of liberty and justice for all.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

3 thoughts on “Should voters consider candidates’ religious beliefs?

  1. Had John Kennedy said “yes, indeed I do intend to follow the Pope’s advice,” he would never have been elected President and rightly so. Some of these Tea Party candidates say they’re going to follow the advice they receive directly from God. At least we had kind of an idea what the Pope would advise. Who knows what “God” will say to Perry or Bachmann. We have ample reason to believe Bachmann’s God suggests that she establish a Christian theocracy in the United States. Who knows what Perry’s God says to him other than “surround yourself with rich Texans, appoint them to important government posts and receive millions in campaign funds from them.” Not the Christian God I grew up with.

  2. I would agree that what people do because of their interpretation of their beliefs is a bigger problem than the beliefs themselves. However, I am extremely skeptical of the benefits of most belief systems, which I do not think were crafted for the benefit of people in general, especially women. I would not go so far as to say religion is the opiate of the masses, since there have been people inspired by their religious beliefs to challenge various injustices (Martin Luther King being perhaps the most famous example), but unfortunately, I see religion being used cynically throughout history by so-called leaders to manipulate the masses. Faith in God has been translated into faith in religious and political leaders, which all too often has proven to be tragically misplaced. Long ago I learned not to place any faith in philosophical systems designed by men. It goes without saying that they were never intended for the benefit of women.

    All that said, I think religious tolerance is a good thing, but there were profound reasons the framers of the Constitution put a good deal of distance between the church and the state. Any politician who seeks to erode or eliminate those barriers is a threat to the rights and liberties of everyone, especially women.

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