Faith and Politics
Nowadays, more so than ever before, religion plays a significant role in American presidential elections. As citizens, our job is to examine that role and decide how it will affect our vote. The Bush/Gore campaign has been very much influenced by religion. Joseph Lieberman, Gore’s running mate and the first Orthodox Jew to run for vice president on a major party ticket, has been extremely vocal about his faith. Both George W. Bush and Al Gore, a Methodist and Baptist, respectively, have also referred to their religious beliefs during this presidential campaign ("Anti-Defamation League Criticizes"), raising several questions about the part religious faith plays in presidential elections.
First, what role does religion play in the campaigning process? A new poll reveals that while seven in 10 Americans prefer a president with a sound religious beliefs, they say they don’t want to hear candidates vocalize their faith (Lester). This majority belief doesn’t seem to effect the opinions expressed by the current presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls, especially by Lieberman. At a speech at the Fellowship Chapel in Detroit, Lieberman expressed his desire to find "a place for faith in America’s public life.
The current Connecticut senator went on to say "As a people, we need to reaffirm our faith and renew the dedication of our nation and ourselves to God and God’s purposes" ("Anti-Defamation League Criticizes").
The Anti-Defamation League, who already criticized both Gore and Bush in the
spring, issued a warning to Lieberman after his comments in the Detroit church. Gore, who called himself a born-again Christian; and Bush, who referred to Jesus as his favorite philosopher, have both shied away from such blatant religious discussion since their spring repercussion. The ADL national director, Abe Foxman, disclosed, "We drew a line during the primaries for Bush and Gore. And now we think Senator Lieberman crossed it" (Pellegrini).
The ADL is concerned partly because of the possibility that Lieberman’s comments will rouse anti-Semitism in the American public. The Pew Research Poll found that of those bothered by the merging of religion and politics, 49 percent supported Lieberman and 30 percent did not. The statistics were virtually the same among those who reported they were not concerned with politicians discussing religion. These results show that, so far, there doesn’t appear to be any hostility against Lieberman. Examining the bigger picture, the poll found that about three quarters of the American public have a positive view of Jews (Lester). This means that while the public isn’t annoyed because he’s Jewish and referring to his faith; but perhaps his references to his faith may be negatively pinned to his being Jewish-changing our perception of Jews.
The Anti-Defamation League is also concerned with the (not-so- popular) principle of separation of church and state. "We do not...