Editorial Exchange: Politics and Religion

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Politics and religion

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published Sept. 4:

Like John F. Kennedy before him, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested to the American people on Aug. 30 his particular brand of faith is not a threat.

President Kennedy, a Catholic, famously said he would not take directions from the church on matters of public policy, and that the Constitution guaranteed the separation of church and state. For his part, Mr. Romney shrugged off his Mormon faith, saying the fact it made him different than most Americans was no big deal.

He also made a point of saying he would guarantee freedom of religion, even though there was no obvious reason for him to make such an assurance other than polls that show some American Christians don't like the Mormon religion.

There was a certain irony about a U.S. leader feeling compelled to trumpet freedom of religion in order to appeal to the better instincts of those who might vote against him because of his religion.

American presidential candidates may not talk about their particular brand of faith, but they all establish their credentials as men of God and faith. And as if to advertise those core beliefs, every president since the Second World War, including Barack Obama, has invited evangelist Billy Graham to the White House for an audience.

Prayer breakfasts and spiritual gatherings are routine.

In Canada, politicians do not feel obliged to declare their religious affiliation and for the most part Canadians don't seem to care if their leaders attend church or not.

It's known that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was raised in the United Church before joining an evangelical church, but it's never been a big issue, except among a few pundits who believe it's evidence of a secret right-wing agenda.

When Mr. Harper finished a speech with "God bless Canada," it caused a stir in the media because it sounded too American, but a subsequent poll found a majority of Canadians had no problem with it and they thought he should continue to use it. …