Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Of Presidents and Prime Ministers Who Talk of Faith

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Of Presidents and Prime Ministers Who Talk of Faith

Article excerpt

Obama in America and Cameron in Britain have spoken of how their Christian faith influences their approach to shaping society. The US presidential campaign is also skirting church-state issues. How much should religion and politics mix?

Elected leaders rarely talk of how their faith inspires their governance. That tradition was reinforced Thursday by Barack Obama at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. "Our goal should not be to declare our policies as biblical," the president said.

Still, in both his speech and a recent one by British Prime Minister David Cameron, both leaders proclaimed a religious basis for how they would shape society.

The very fact that Mr. Obama, a liberal, and Mr. Cameron, a conservative, feel comfortable in openly speaking about religion - including prayer - reflects just how much faith remains a public topic in these two secular democracies.

In America's presidential contest, especially, religious issues are becoming nearly as important as job creation.

Dozens of evangelical leaders, for example, have lined up behind anti-abortion Rick Santorum to be the GOP nominee, even though their once-powerful influence in politics has waned. In much of the media, meanwhile, questions are being raised about the ability of Mitt Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ("Mormons"), to attract the votes of other Christians. And the Republican candidates have directly spoken to churches.

Last month, Obama stirred up a religious storm with a new health- care regulation. He insisted that religious-based hospitals that serve the public must provide women with access to birth-control methods, including the "morning after" abortion pill. In church pulpits last Sunday, Roman Catholic leaders spoke out strongly against the rule. They now want a religious exemption in Obama's health-care law. The bishops say that their Christian mission to heal the sick and to follow their conscience should not be violated by a government dictate to dispense contraception and to support abortion.

Even liberal Catholics, many of whom differ from the church's views on contraception, say Obama went too far in threatening hefty fines against a private group that doesn't serve his view on how to meet society's health needs. …

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