A near constant refrain of this year’s presidential election has been the persistent rumor that Barack Obama is a Muslim. While many have protested the rumor, virtually no one besides Colin Powell, railed against the rumor for its anti-Muslim slant. Barack Obama is a Christian. But if he were a Muslim, so what? Most Muslims in this country are law abiding, patriotic Americans.
Now atheists, the “Godless” have come under fire in a way that echoes the Muslim smear. In North Carolina, Elizabeth Dole, in a desperate attempt to hold onto her Senate seat, approved the following underhanded ad:
The ad stoops so low as to include a voice over intended to be that of Democratic opponent Kay Hagan, an outright lie.
But perhaps the worse offense is that of Hagan’s response ad:
While you have to give Ms. Hagan credit for strongly denouncing Dole’s smear, the better response would have been “I happen to be a Christian, but what if I did not believe in God? So what? What does my religion have to do with job creation and fixing our economy?”
What has happened to our country that we have so softened the line between church and state? This election season has been plagued at every turn by religious litmus tests, whether it was Mike Huckabee’s pronounced faith, Mitt Romney’s defense of his Mormon beliefs, or Barack Obama’s constant need to remind voters of his Christian faith.
Faith has no place in our politics. If a candidate’s moral or political perspective is informed by his or her faith, that is fine but faith should in no way be a qualification for office. Dole’s ad was reprehensible for two reasons. First, it put words in Hagan’s mouth. Second, it attempted to apply a religious litmus test to Hagan. Instead of Hagan objecting to the litmus test, she objected to being characterized as an atheist. She missed the point.
This preoccupation we have with our political leaders being Christian is an insult to patriotic Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists and a host of other belief systems in this country. We have separation of church and state so that our citizens may freely practice the religion (or non-religion) of their choice. That freedom of worship is restricted if it carries the catch that you can’t pursue elected office if you belong to a non-Christian faith.
If we have learned anything from the 2008 political season, it should be that politics belongs in the state house and religion belongs in houses of worship. Period. End of story.