Written by Mary Shaw
If you’ve been following the 2012 presidential campaign season at all, you’re probably aware that religion is playing a big part in it. Combine a widespread distrust of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism with Rick Santorum’s rabid Catholicism and the still-ongoing whisperings about President Obama’s true religious leanings, and it sometimes seems as though the campaign is more about religion than it is about unemployment and the economy.
This is, of course, despite the fact that Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
So a diverse coalition of national religious organizations has issued an Interfaith Statement of Principles, calling on all candidates for public office to honor our nation’s religious freedom and avoid stirring up religious controversy.
Candidates for office bear the primary responsibility for setting the proper tone for elections. Anyone who legitimately aspires to public office must be prepared to set an example and to be a leader for all Americans, of all faiths or of no faith.
What is ethical is every bit as important as what is legal. Therefore candidates for public office should:
• Attempt to fulfill the promise of America by seeking to serve and be responsive to the full range of constituents, irrespective of their religion.
• Conduct their campaigns without appeals, overt or implicit, for support based upon religion.
• Reject appeals or messages to voters that reflect religious prejudice, bias, or stereotyping.
• Engage in vigorous debate on important and disputed issues, without deliberately encouraging division in the electorate along religious lines, or between voters who characterize themselves as religious and voters who do not.
Abiding by these principles, candidates for public office help ensure decency, honesty, and fair play in political campaigns, and they honor America’s oldest and most fundamental values. Likewise, voters who insist on adherence to these principles contribute to the protection of our religious freedom.
The statement was signed by the following organizations:
American Islamic Congress
American Jewish Committee
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
Hindu American Foundation
National Council of Churches USA
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
Union for Reform Judaism
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Will this statement make a difference? Quite possibly not. But it needed to be said, and so I applaud these organizations that made it happen.
To read the full statement on the Anti-Defamation League’s website, go to:www.adl.org/main_Interfaith/Interfaith-Statement-of-Principles.htm
About the AuthorMary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that the ideas expressed here are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty International or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail: email@example.com