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A religious test for political candidates?

 |  NCR Today

With the midterm elections fast approaching, this week’s "Interfaith Voices" features Damon Linker, who has written a fascinating new book called The Religious Test: Why We Must Question the Beliefs of Our Leaders.

His thesis is simple. With more and more candidates and office holders filtering their policy preferences through the lens of their religious beliefs, it is no longer off base to question candidates’ views of the divine.

He says that the subject of the questions would differ with a candidate’s faith tradition. For example, one might ask an evangelical about his or her beliefs about science and the theory of evolution. One might query a Muslim’s views on sharia law, a Mormon’s views on the role of the Mormon prophet, or ask an Orthodox Jew about working on the Sabbath should a crisis occur.

With Catholics, he would ask candidates’ views -- not on abortion per se -- but on the American bishops’ insistence that public officials work actively to make abortion illegal no matter what their consciences or their constituents demand. Do they feel bound by that?

He believes what John F. Kennedy articulated 50 years ago to the Houston Ministerial Association: “I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.”

He offers six commandments for both believers and atheists in public office:

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  1. Grant to others the religious freedom granted you

  2. Place no authority above the Constitution

  3. Honor worldly knowledge

  4. Do not presume to know God’s providence

  5. Do not covet a "sexual consensus" about right and wrong

  6. Do not preach intolerance in the name of freethinking

When it comes to the last, he is as hard on “proselytizing atheists,” as he is on the Religious Right.

To hear the full interview, go to:


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