Religion and Politics: Is There Any Hope for a Divorce?

By Boston, Rob | The Humanist, November-December 2011 | Go to article overview

Religion and Politics: Is There Any Hope for a Divorce?


Boston, Rob, The Humanist


Election Day 2012 is many months off, but already we're seeing signs that religion will play an unusually prominent role in the campaign.

Blame it in part on Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who called for a day-long prayer rally at a Houston football stadium in August and, shortly after that, announced that he would seek the Republican nomination for president. Perry's announcement upended the GOP race as he quickly rocketed to the top of the polls. His use of religion to kick-start his campaign has only spurred others to play catch-up.

Candidates like U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum, who had already been using generous amounts of religious rhetoric in their campaigns, found themselves struggling to regain momentum. Former frontrunner Mitt Romney, a Mormon who walks a delicate line when courting evangelicals, watched helplessly as his lead evaporated.

On the other side of the political aisle, President Barack Obama, who highlighted his Christian faith during the 2008 campaign and even wooed evangelicals, is expected to return to those themes as the campaign heats up.

Meanwhile, two Los Angeles Times reporters looked at efforts by the religious right to organize right-wing pastors in Iowa and found an effective political machine in place. Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold quoted Rob Stein, a Democratic Party strategist, who remarked, "The Christian activist right is the largest, best organized and, I believe, the most powerful force in American politics today. No other political group comes even close."

The issue of faith and politics raises two closely related questions: Is the mixing of religion and politics legal, and why does it persist in the United States?

The law is clear: houses of worship--and all nonprofits holding a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status--are prohibited from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. Speaking out on issues is permitted, but telling people who to vote for or against is in violation of the tax code.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It happens anyway, of course. Every year, the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal group founded by religious right leaders, prods pastors to openly violate federal law by endorsing candidates from the pulpit. Every year, some pastors take them up on it. (They almost always endorse a Republican or attack a Democrat.) They are reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS is reportedly restructuring its internal policies for auditing churches, a necessary first step for any investigation of partisan politicking. In the great tradition of byzantine bureaucracies, this is taking a very long time. But sooner or later the IRS will have to do something. We just don't know when.

The underlying question may be more interesting: Why does religion continue to have a stranglehold on U.S. politics? Will we ever get some separation between those two?

Perhaps--but it's going to take a while. Despite language in Article VI of the Constitution that bars religious tests for public office at the federal level, Americans have decided to impose one anyway: You need to be a believer. You also need to belong to a familiar denomination. It's best if you're Christian, but in some cases you can be Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Religion and Politics: Is There Any Hope for a Divorce?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.