Presidential Candidates and Bible Quizzes: Why JFK Was Right

Church & State, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Presidential Candidates and Bible Quizzes: Why JFK Was Right


What's your favorite Bible verse?

Maybe you have one, maybe you don't. Maybe your favorite inspirational passage comes from some other scripture or is from a secular source.

If you were asked that question at a house of worship, it would not seem strange. What does seem strange is hearing it asked by television journalist Tim Russert during a presidential debate.

Russert's question--which he asked during a gathering of Democratic candidates Sept. 26--was an iconic moment in a presidential race where religion has played a more inappropriate role than any in recent memory.

We are choosing a president, not a national pastor. You'd never know that to listen to many in the media. They seem obsessed with playing "gotcha" games over Bible verses and demanding that the hopefuls explain how their faith guides their personal lives.

We've actually lost ground since 1960, when John F. Kennedy gave a famous speech in which he explained why he would not base policy on the tenets of his church. In a country that includes people of many different faiths and none, Kennedy said it's simply inappropriate to base public policy on the narrow theological dictates championed by some.

It's especially distressing to see our country go down this road this year. …

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