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What Role Will Religion Play in the Presidential Election This Year?

Will religion play a decisive factor in the outcome of this year's presidential race? Tell us your thoughts.

In my house, as in many others, it’s been said that one should not discuss politics or religion at the dinner table. Forgive me for breaking both of those rules in one fell swoop, but I wonder: what role, if any, religion is going to play in this particular presidential election?

In 1959 many national pundits and a great many Americans believed that John F. Kennedy, the junior senator from Massachusetts who was then running for president, could not be elected. He had plenty of charm, political acumen, and oratorical talent, as well as a lot of money.

Kennedy was a Roman Catholic, and in 1959 there had never been a Catholic president. Many thought it would sink his candidacy, from fear that he would be more beholden to the Pope than the U.S. Constitution. Of course, it didn’t. Kennedy won, but by a small margin.

Four years ago, many people said that a black man with the Muslim-sounding middle name of he Hussein would never get into the White House. But he won by significantly larger numbers than Kennedy. And now he wants another term.

This time, however, his opponent is not only an exceedingly wealthy man—what some might call a bona fide member of the One Percent—but he belongs to the Mormon faith. It is the first time a member of that particular religion has been so close to achieving our nation’s top office.

There are some who believe that those who belong to the Church of Latter Day Saints are members of a cult. Though Mormons call themselves Christians, other Christian sects don’t necessarily agree. A large group of Christian evangelicals are reportedly urging their followers to write in Jesus Christ on their ballots this year, rather than vote for Romney.

And many voters still believe that Obama is secretly a Muslim, though he has emphatically denied it many times, claiming a strong Christian faith. Still, the belief persists with many, and those who believe it will likely vote for anyone else because of it.

Neither candidate has brought any of this up. Though it is no longer considered off-limits to openly discuss religious faith (George W. Bush was very candid about his beliefs), the candidates in this election have been far too busy courting voters with promises of economic revival, and a return to prosperity.

So the question becomes, what role do you think religion will play in this election? Assuming that most voters will cast their ballots for the man who best represents their political leanings, most pundits believe this election will won or lost by a razor-thin margin, and every vote will count. Even a small number of religious-driven voters could decide the outcome. Will those who believe Obama is a Muslim, and thus should not hold office, cancel out those who cannot vote for a Mormon?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments. 

Patrick J. McNamara October 28, 2012 at 05:06 AM
Yes, but it took an amendment of the constitution, requiring agreement by both houses of congress, the president and 2/3 of the state legislatures. It would never happen with anything as divisive as women's reproductive rights. In the case of alcohol and its prohibition, the desire to repeal was unanimous as it could be. Even the original proponents of prohibition openly renounced it as a failure, and favored repeal.
Don't Tell Me What To Do October 28, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Your statement that the Supreme Court doesn't revisit settled law is 100% inaccurate. The Supreme Court revisits settled law all the time, especially when it comes to important issues. Famous examples: Lawrence v. Texas, Brown v. Board of Education, Keyishian v. Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, Loving v. Virginia, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, & Mapp v. Ohio.
Don't Tell Me What To Do October 28, 2012 at 05:49 AM
People use religion to make voting decisions. Politicians are often driven by their religious beliefs. This is nothing new and will exist forever. To believe religion isn't one of the key elements of most decisions is incredibly naive.
Jose October 28, 2012 at 06:03 AM
Lawrence, I commend you for your forthright statement. It takes courage to stand apart from the mainstream. (I know this because I am an agnostic).I believe that one can be a successful capitalist while staying true to Christian values, and it seems to me that Christian values are subservient to making money with the likes of Romney. I do fault him for that. It seems to me that he is motivated by personal success above all. He wishes to do the right thing, but in the end, the ego trumphs all.
Don't Tell Me What To Do October 28, 2012 at 06:06 AM
Mormonism does make for a great musical. If you have a chance to see the musical, "Book of Mormon", you should.
Patrick J. McNamara October 28, 2012 at 06:15 AM
They might refer to those cases. They may cite them as relevant precedent. But they don't reopen them and over turn them because a new justice arrived whose mission is to "correct" a perceived mistake by an earlier court. You have cited a list of commonly famous cases. Now tell me in what way any of them has been overturned by a later court. Citizens United v FEC is only three years old. Which case reopened that one? Please be specific. Look, here is the fact (sorry to break it to anyone hoping a high court decision will be "corrected" in your lifetime). Even sitting justices who disagree with and dissented their colleagues' decision would never reopen (or even hear) a similar case in hopes of overturning, because to do so would politicize the court to the degree that it would diminish the sanctity and the finality of all Supreme Court decisions for all time. It would essentially be eating the seed corn of their importance and station within the constitutional system. Neither wing of the court would dare do it. So cite those overturned decisions for me. I'll be right here.
Don't Tell Me What To Do October 28, 2012 at 06:30 AM
Patrick - Citizens overturned Austin v. Michigan State Chamber of Commerce. The Supreme Court takes cases on settled law all the time and then reverses the previous decision via the new case. To say it doesn't reverse itself is simply incorrect. Roe v. Wade & Griswold v. CT are based on a law that doesn't really exist - the right to privacy. The Court could quite easily take a case regarding a right to privacy & toss Roe v. Wade, as well as Griswold which would allow the State to ban all birth control. There is no specific right to privacy. The Warren Court created it by reading into and stringing together other parts of the Constitution. There's no guarantee that another majority would do likewise. It's always better to specifically list rights via Constitutional amendment than to rely on a Supreme Court ruling.
Don't Tell Me What To Do October 28, 2012 at 06:52 AM
The write-in Jesus campaign is craziness in its purest form. From the votingforjesus.com website: "If President Obama is re-elected, his anti-American, socialist policies will continue, as will his attacks on Christianity and Christian churches. He will continue to support abortion, homosexuality, the enemies of Israel. How can a true follower of Christ vote in good conscience for a man who has proven to be a true enemy of God and His Word and will continue to be so in his next term? If Mitt Romney is elected, he will be the fulfillment of his cult's polygamist, pedophile, racist, con artist, murdering founder Joseph Smith's "White Horse" prophecy that Romney and all Mormon's believe. That prophecy says that the United States will facing great economic and social unrest, a Mormon will be elected President, declare a national emergency and set aside the US Constitution and enact a Mormon theocracy. That may sound impossible, but ever since he was at BYU, Romney was called by his inner circle "the chosen one" to fulfill their cult's prophecy." Jesus. Who could take these people seriously? They are a joke.
Randy Merrell October 28, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Not voting for a man BECAUSE of his religion? Really? Being a Muslim is no different than being a Mormon or a Christian or an Atheist. To the believer, it is their faith. What's most important in a leader is one's abilities to steer the Country. If a leader is overly influenced by his/her religion in decision making or setting policy, it can have adverse effects, just like being overly influenced by ANY factors. But those who would NOT vote for a man because of his religion are practicing a form of bigotry. I don't know which is worse!
Patrick J. McNamara October 28, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Exactly, that is why few would take them seriously. I'm sure many zealot Catholics (as compared to the 99% of everyday Catholics) were giddy at the prospect of JFK steering the USA toward a European-style Catholic behind-the-scenes rule that was acknowledged at the time. Those were heady days in the Vatican. Those days are gone. And, by "these people" I hope you mean the inner-circle zealots, and not "all" these Mormon people (or all those Catholics of the 50's, etc.). The hopes and dreams of the zealot faithful of any group can proclaim the coming fulfillment of this or that prophesy embodied in a political candidate, and as always, they will be disappointed.
Chris Nicholson October 28, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I make all of my decisions based exclusively on my religion. The core of my religion is that I should always try to do the right thing. People who do not have such a religion will never understand this. I pity such people. I think the right thing to do is to vote for Romney. Therefore, I am religiously compelled to do so.
Don't Tell Me What To Do October 28, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Religious commitment and doing the right thing are often inversely related.
Chris Nicholson October 28, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Then those are bad religions. My religion requires me to do the right thing.
Don't Tell Me What To Do October 28, 2012 at 05:28 PM
It must be one of those religions based on Star Wars or Star Trek or something. It definitely can't be one practiced by mainstream folks. Beam me up, Scotty.
Patrick J. McNamara October 28, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Mainstream shmainstream! This is America where we are able to be spiritual entrepreneurs and start our own religions at will. I suppose the success of any of these "new" religions will be measured in "Likes" and "Followers."
Lawrence Hornbeck October 28, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Well, we do have us "dialogue" don't we. So far, since I last wrote (I just can't spend all my time here) some want to convince others that Romney never destroyed any companies by "stripping" (this is not about removing clothes - just being dramatic - or better at writing then some of the contributors) them down and walking away ( good source for this is reasearch done by the Wall Street Journal - oh, wait - is that a socialist rag?). Roe v. Wade could never be overturned. Ok, how about Roe v. Wade just plain negated. If this can "NEVER" happen why do soooo many politicians use the abortion word as a platform? Someone must think something about the A word can be changed. Perhaps I'll wade in later but for now I'll just continue in life. Almost forgot! This country has been in far dire straights economically ie. The Great Depression and the "savior" (figure of speech) on the white horse was FDR & WWII.
Chris J Kapsalis October 28, 2012 at 06:49 PM
One popular religion is based on you are already forgiven and you are a sinner, though it does say a lot of good things you should do. I'm an atheist , however, I want to be good and not have a guilty conscience or hurt people, or suffer the consequences of dong wrong. I have made mistakes of course in my life. Lot's of things keep people good, or better, religion itself does good for some people. But check the US prison population. See who is behind bars. It is pretty much a reflection of the general free public as far as percents go. So religion I believe has nothing to do with if someone is good or not.
William H. Thompson October 29, 2012 at 04:22 AM
While it may be a provocative topic for Patch to play this "religion" card, and some few votes will be cast because of it, the vast majority of Americans left that behind in '60 when Kennedy was elected. The question now is results in leading this nation, otherwise Obama would not be in dire peril of losing reelection.
SalthePlumber October 29, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Lawrence you are correct. Mitt Romney is such a creature of convenience. He is rather "A man without a Country" when it comes to pinning him down on his "Beliefs". He says he will "Take on the Chinese" and produce" High Wage" manufacturing jobs in America. HAH! Look at what Bain Capital is doing to Sensana, a profitable factory in Illinois, recently purchased by Bain. Bain told the employees that they would close the plant by the end of 2012 and that Chinese personnel were to be trained by the Americans losing their jobs. The Chinese government is building the new factory for free! Tough on China ?? Hogwash! Creating new high wage jobs? Dont be ridiculous. Romney is the boldest faced LIAR in a long time... And he is the largest shareholder of Bain Capital.
SalthePlumber October 29, 2012 at 05:04 AM
Chris N. Unfortunately, my religion tells me that your religion is a bad one and therefore your positions are not valid. So sorry, but that is how the cookie crumbles. I think the right thing to do is to vote for Obama, therefore I am religulously required to do so...
SalthePlumber October 29, 2012 at 05:09 AM
When I see Mitt Romney spouting DoubleSpeak, I am reminded of the old saying, "What does it avail a man, to gain a fortune and lose his Soul?"
MIKE ALFORD October 29, 2012 at 09:29 AM
well the most important thing is we are a free people with the first admedent now i myself hope that we will be aable to say merry christmas with out having to hide our thoughts in public ! i hope to god that better minds overcome the ass-nine thoughts that we should be worried about offiending people that have no beliefs or fath our country was built on our belief in our freedom of worship do you not see what has happend to country --- we have lost all sense of what made us the strongest country in the world im not a bible thumper just look what and where we are at right now -- in judao - christian america we have lost our spirit ! i see people going to church every week listening to a sermon and they are afraid to say merry christmas ! whats wrong with this picture ?? --- no its time we start seeing what is wrong with america --- we need to beleive to stand up and be & say what and who we really are as a country ---- its about time and were running out of it !!! oh by the way ------- merry christmas and i will always say that ! buy the way dec 25th is Christmas !
c5 October 29, 2012 at 01:55 PM
it doesn't look like religion is playing much of a direct role in this election. if it were, romney would be totally out of contention instead of fighting neck and neck with the president. while it certainly plays an indirect role in that for many people in the country, organized religion is a major part of their lives (seemingly much less so in our neck of the woods), and that tends to give many a 'leaning' in their votes, this election has been very silent on the topic.
Don't Tell Me What To Do October 29, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Happy Hanukkah.
MIKE ALFORD October 29, 2012 at 05:35 PM
happy Hanukkah & Merry Christmas to you also ! thank you for at least having the class and guts to act like an American (and I love your name on patch) I dont believe anyone will even try and tell you what to do ! -------- and let me just say in the words of tiney Tim ----- God bless us each and everyone !
DONALD E. BARKLEY October 29, 2012 at 08:27 PM
This is a rather off the beat subject, face it we live in California and all our 55 electoral votes,shall, be cast for Obama Period with Calif voting over 25-20+ % in his favor! As we by some oddity are "On Religion" I am PROUDLY a CHRISTIAN! However that a person of Good and Solid Morals that I agree with is the Candidate I shall cast my "Popular Vote for"! The Statement that we voted for Obama, as a BLACK MAN... is 1/2 true! Look at his Mother she was from Kansas and was as white as Lincoln! His father was indeed Black from Kenya, and in no place in President Obama's history do we see the pain of "America's Great Sin", Slavery in his family at all. Most Black Americans do in their Family have that sad history! Plus he was raised almost exclusively by white people in his family! I care not to "Get into" His 20 Year History With his "Uncle Like Minister Jeremiah Wright" /Who mad raciest and anti American Remarks From his Pulpit. that the President in 20 years "MISSED"! FOR ME I SHALL CONTINE TO SAY "MAY GOD BLESS" as I Please/no disrepect! but in PRIDE! Donald E. Barkley
DONALD E. BARKLEY October 29, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Pat: very correct and to the point..... you may not survive on here.... // overly "thought or stated" seems to be the rule!! :) be well Donald E. Barkley
Don't Tell Me What To Do October 30, 2012 at 04:53 AM
Was this written in code because I couldn't decipher half of it?
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 01, 2012 at 04:02 AM
In the 70s, I had a brother-in-law that moved to Logan, Utah, to start an air-conditioning business. He had a tough time making a go of it here and, because his family was there and Mormon, he thought he'd have some better success. He failed miserably, until he joined the Mormon church. Things got better almost immediately. They soon had purchased a home and were on their way financially. While it was tough going, they were shy about having visitors because they appeared so 'unsuccessful'. They were ashamed of themselves. When things turned, they invited my girlfriend and I to visit. We were living together but not yet married. They asked us to'adjust' the truth about that should we be in a social situation. Mormon's frowned on such behavior (but secretly condoned the practice of multiple wives, a sort of slavery, sexual and otherwise) and they said it would make things 'easier' for them. Word was out that we were in town somehow and one evening the doorbell rang. A young couple came in, introductions were made, and soon a none too subtle interrogation ensued. They also sniffed the air for signs of marijuana, and we all laughed. Soon the natural point arrived (dinner was ready) when they should have left. But they stayed and stayed, waiting I assume for us to confess. It got extremely uncomfortable. When they finally left, my brother-in-law thanked us for being so 'normal'. if we had been perceived as anything but so...
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 01, 2012 at 04:15 AM
...they would have thoroughly vetted, and suffered punishment expressed in a loss of business or the like. They were anxious to distraction and finally asked us to leave. They needed to determine what the 'conclusion' drawn about us was going to do to their lives in Utah. They were warned that Californians, particularly from the SF Bay Area, were highly suspect and that the 'Church" was concerned about the introduction of subversive and immoral influences into their lives. They were informally placed on a sort of 'probation' and advised to visit us if they had to fulfill family obligations. This is not a fabrication. This draconian nonsense was very real for them, their very livelihood depended on their cooperation. They had 'spies' in their home to 'inspect' their visiting family! This "religion" is very akin to the mafia in its demand for absolute loyalty and the penalty for failing to play along is financial death and banishment. These folks lived in fear. Do we want a President with deep roots in such an oppressive, totalitarian regime? That someone would submit to required submissiveness, to an array of unconscionable precepts so contrary to basic American rights and freedoms, horrifies me. The acceptance of a philosophy of amoral control and utter the lack of reason in a framework of subservience does not a President make. Of course he sold American jobs to gain his wealth. It is not only acceptable, it is wrong if he did not. Mitt=Unfit!

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