Consider candidates qualifications over religion

By Anastasia Dawson
On August 31, 2011

As the race for the U.S. presidency gains momentum, headlines applauding and lampooning candidates have berated the public. The merits of presidential hopefuls are questioned on every platform; however, religion has proved to be the scarlet letter for GOP candidates.

It is one thing for the media and political pundits to warn Americans to be wary of candidates religious viewpoints, but it is quite another to not apply that standard uniformly.

Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) is Lutheran, and receives national attention on an almost daily basis for her strong views and religious comments. Likewise, Republican Gov. Rick Perry has caused columnists at outlets such as The New York Times to fear that America will undoubtedly fall under a theocracy were he to win the presidency.

So far, Perry's Texas is still operating as a democracy, despite the fact that their leader continues to attend prayer meetings and has made no apologies for being an evangelical Christian.

In a recent Times opinion column, editor Bill Keller suggested that American's need to ask tougher questions of religious candidates - likening a religious follower to believing "that space aliens dwell among us," questioning whether a religious president would belong to the "reality-based community" and asking whether one would place "some other authority higher than the Constitution."

While Americans should certainly ask tougher questions of candidates, it is hard to argue that a self-professed Christian, like Bachmann or Perry, would hold their beliefs above the Constitution - a document based on Judeo-Christian principles that was penned by the very Christians who founded America in the first place.

Perhaps a look at the track record of previous U.S. presidents would better answer such questions. At least 34 former presidents practiced a form of Christianity.

If one candidate's religion should be scrutinized, then all candidates' religions should be scrutinized unilaterally. Republican candidates are not the only ones who believe in a higher power.

Where are the lingering doubts about President Barack Obama's loyalties now that he is in office?

According to CBS News, Obama was a member of controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC) for 20 years. Wright has taken many political stands, according to Hot Air, including "his sermon that the U.S. deserved the 9/11 attacks as ‘chickens coming home to roost,' supports Hamas and infamously declared ‘God damn the United States.'" According to TUCC's Black Value System, available on their website, the U.S. is alienating black men by "killing them off directly … or placing them in concentration camps."

Who knows if any of those principals found their way into Obama's policies on social justice and American relations with other countries?

Obama quickly renounced the pastor while campaigning for the presidency, though his chief strategist, David Axelrod, told the Los Angeles Times that, "Rev. Wright married him, introduced him, as he said, to the church, brought him into the church, into Christianity, baptized his children. So this is a painful thing for him because he condemns the things Rev. Wright said, but he also knows him as a person."

Today Americans are quick to defend religions such as Islam and even pay to attend universities to be exposed to new ideas. However, many educated citizens fail to extend such acceptance of "diversity" to their own religious countrymen - labeling them as anti-science, anti-progress and anti-intellect.

Contrary to Keller's beliefs, conversations regarding the upcoming presidential election should center on America's future monetarily and socially instead of religiously. The U.S. has coupled a lack of jobs with out of control government spending and debt - posing problems the current leaders in Washington have proven themselves either too ill-equipped or weak-spined to confront.

Deflecting attention from the real qualifications of candidates with poorly contrived ad hominem attacks on their beliefs could prove fatal for the future of our country. If a candidate is strong enough to stand up for what they believe in against attacks from their fellow Americans, then they would certainly be fit to take stands on policy if elected.

Anastasia Dawson is a junior majoring in mass communications.

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