The Religion Primary

The wall of separation between the church and state looks more like a curb.

Last Thursday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gave a speech defending his Mormonism, though mentioning it by name only once. Romney was hoping to have his own “Kennedy moment” as the then-candidate John F. Kennedy defended his position in front of hostile protestant ministers in 1960. Kennedy said that a person’s religious beliefs shouldn’t matter when determining whether they are qualified to lead.

But Romney, instead of arguing for less religious pandering in politics, is looking to only recalibrate the question from Mormonism vs. mainstream Christianity, to one of all religious people against secularists. America is, according to our currency and our pledge, “one nation under God,” but those words were inserted in 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add them to draw a distinction from the Communist – and Godless – Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is gone, yet the words of the Pledge of Allegiance remain the same.

The “wall of separation” Thomas Jefferson wanted between church and state erodes every time a candidate decides to give a speech, as Romney did, about their religious beliefs instead of their ideas and governing philosophy. He isn’t alone, as presidential candidates of both parties have taken their own faith-based timeouts, shifting the discourse of the race away from outlining their policies to simply trying to prove their religiousity

Last summer, Iowa primary polls had Gov. Mike Huckabee between zero and three percent. Since then, Huckabee has overtaken Romney as the Republican leader in Iowa. Huckabee has done so by identifying with the large Evangelical Christian population in Iowa and by subtly questioning Romney’s Mormon faith. What is more, the press is only encouraging the problem. Katie Couric of the CBS Evening News will now be asking the candidates 10 questions that “go beyond politics and show what really makes them tick.” These questions, which other members of the media already ask in debates, will take away valuable time from what they want to do so we can hear about who they pray to.

It is as John F. Kennedy said while defending his faith, “the real issues in this campaign have been obscured.”