Sunday, May 4, 2008

Let’s Get Religion out of Politics

If there’s one lesson to learn from the Reverend Wright controversy, it is that it’s past time to get religion out of politics. While Senator Obama’s pastor occupied the spotlight this past week, preachers with equally ridiculous and offensive views have been linked to GOP leaders for decades. Both Democrats and Republicans should work to keep religion out of the public square.

Both the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence make absolutely clear that religion is a private affair that should not be the basis for any government policy. At the same time there’s no doubt that candidates’ religious views influence their morals, and this is a valid topic for discussion.

It would be illuminating, for instance, to see a presidential debate in which the candidates were called on to discuss how their religious beliefs influence their attitudes towards war, healthcare, education, science, and taxation. Perhaps even more important, it would be great to hear what they think about the separation of church and state in modern-day America.

The least we can ask for is a politics free of the influence of incendiary and ignorant preachers of any stripe.

Unfortunately, as E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post points out, there’s a double-standard at work: if the preachers are white and right wing, they don’t get the same scrutiny as when they’re black and liberal (or associated with liberals). If the media paid close attention to the pastors in John McCain’s circle, the public would soon learn that his are no less offensive than Reverend Wright.

So their views would cancel each other out, and make no difference in November. This would be a great development. Senator McCain doesn’t wear his religion on his sleeve, nor does Senator Obama. That means we might yet get a debate that isn’t about distractions, but focuses instead on the issues that actually matter for America and the world.

P.S. As usual, please make your views known to the traditional media—both carrots and sticks—praise them for covering real issues and rebuke them when they emphasize trivialities. I’m beginning to sense a backlash against the mindlessness, which bodes well for the fall.

Jason Scorse

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