Religion should not be end-all in GOP presidential candidates

I continue to be fascinated by the apparent desire of some voters to link religion with their candidate preferences.

Now that the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary for the Republican Party are over, with Romney the victor in both, the New York Times today is focused on South Carolina. There -- reportedly -- Romney's Mormonism will be a greater issue than before, and there is a great scramble by several candidates for the "Christian evangelical" vote. Perry and Santorum especially are going all-out for this vote, using overtly Christian symbols and messages in their campaigns.

The Constitution says, of course, that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States" (Article VI, #3). That is a matter of law, but even constitutional clauses cannot control culture or public opinion. Still, it's an ideal.

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Especially troubling are any signs that some would vote against Romney because he is Mormon. There are lots of reasons someone might oppose Romney, but his religion should not be one of them.

I remember the struggle of John F. Kennedy to overcome anti-Catholic bias. His success made Catholicism a nonissue politically, and the whole nation benefited. Today, the religion of a Catholic running for president is rarely mentioned in the news.

And that's the way it should be. The opinions, political record and issue positions of candidates are relevant in an election, not religious affiliation. That was the vision of our Founders.


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