In Wednesday’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd cast a critical eye on Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, concluding “Republicans are the ones who have made faith part of the Presidential test. Now let’s see if Mitt can pass it.”
I thought singling out Mormons was wrong, as is the idea of having one’s religious faith (or lack of it) part of the vetting process for Presidential contenders. I put a comment on the NYTimes.com web site, which resonated strongly enough to receive nearly 1,000 reader recommendations. Here it is:
“Outspoken atheists are the only group that is automatically disqualified from the Presidency in this nation. In the movie The Ides of March the charismatic Presidential contender says that his religion is the Constitution. In real life, he would immediately be toast as a candidate. If you don’t believe in magic underwear, or rising from the dead or a burning bush, you are immediately disqualified.
In Tuesday night’s Presidential debate, Newt Gingrich said as much: you can believe in God any way you want–as long as you believe. If you don’t, you’re “un-American.”
Have faith or else–Not exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind.”
According to the U.S. Constitution, elected officials in the U.S. shall be bound by oath to support the Constitution, but “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.”
Yet as Gail Collins wrote in Thursday’s Times, the Texas state constitution specifically prohibits anyone who doesn’t believe in God from holding public office. If it prohibited Jews, Buddists or Muslims from doing so, the outrage would be heard from coast to coast. But agnostics and atheists? Not a peep.
Have people forgotten why their ancestors came to America in the first place? Many did it to escape having to practice the King’s religion, to be free to practice their own as they see fit–or not to practice at all. It’s called freedom. But the reason our Founding Fathers wisely insisted on the separation of church and state seems lost on the current crop of Republican candidates.
They talk more about religion in these debates than unemployment. Most Americans don’t care about a candidate’s religion, as long as he or she doesn’t try to shove it down their throats. They want to talk about jobs, about foreclosures, about how 1% of Americans own 40% of the wealth, with that number steadily climbing.
But the Republicans want to talk about religion, with sleazy Rick Perry allowing himself to be introduced by a man who called Mormonism a cult with strange practices. No offense, but hey, aren’t they all? If you want to practice your religion and it gives you comfort, more power to you. But the truth is that while Romney may be getting some scrutiny about his religion, that’s nothing compared to the abuse an openly atheistic or agnostic candidate would receive.
Michael Huffington, Jim McGreevy and who knows how many more gay men had to keep their sexuality in the closet when they ran for office. I get the feeling Obama may be a closet atheist, but if he said it aloud his Presidency would be over.
The list of American atheists, agnostics and skeptics includes Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Pat Tillman, Clarence Darrow and Mark Twain. All of these noteworthy men would be or have been excluded for running for U.S. President. What’s wrong with this picture?