DAVID ROSMAN: Leadership qualities, not faith, should govern presidential election

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:36 a.m. CST, Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Huffington Post reported the following under the heading of "Jamie Johnson, Rick Santorum Staffer, Criticized By Bachmann Campaign for 'Sexist' Email":

"The question then comes, 'Is it God's highest desire, that is, his biblically expressed will … to have a woman rule the institutions of the family, the church, and the state?', Jamie Johnson, Santorum's Iowa coalitions director, reportedly wrote."


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My question is a bit more controversial and has nothing to do with the charge of "sexism" leveled by the Michele Bachmann campaign.

Why are our politicians deferring to their god for direction, support and, as in this case, attacks? Didn't we settle this issue in 1789 when our Founding Fathers wrote in Article VI of the Constitution that one's religion was not to be a qualifier for civil office?

Yes, there is the First Amendment's freedom of speech clause, as well as our right to believe as we do as individuals without government interference. Yet, that line seems to be becoming finer and hazier as we continue to travel further into the 21st century. Why?

Listening to and reading news reports and campaign rhetoric, Mitt Romney's Mormonism is being questioned, using religious fear arguments we've seen before as their basis. 

The same arguments were used in 1960 when John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, was running for president.

And, they were used in 1800 when Unitarian John Adams, considered a Christian by some, though he reportedly did not believe in the Trinity, ran against the "atheist" Thomas Jefferson, who was a deist and most likely a non-Christian though he admired the life and morals of Jesus of Nazareth.

Fifty years ago Protestants were worried about a Catholic president; disaster did not come to the United States in 1961.

According to Edward James Larson's "A Magnificent Catastrophe, the Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign," partisan newspapers asked in 1800 if the citizenry wanted an "atheist" for a president, foreseeing some biblical catastrophe; yet, fire and brimstone did not overwhelm the new nation in 1801.

The candidates, media and a small but overly vocal portion of the population are asking the wrong questions of our presidential candidates. An individual's faith or nonfaith should not be our concern. In fact, the Christian Bible says in Matthew 6:5 that one's faith should not be worn on one’s lapel.

Our concern should be this: Does this person have the ability and wherewithal to lead the United States and its citizens? Religion, gender or sexual orientation has nothing to do with this question.

Why are we, as Americans, moving three steps back for every step forward concerning our nation’s religious equality? Is America reverting to the "dark ages," when mythology outweighed reality, and science and religion were used as a form of control of the masses?

Can't we see that demanding that our leaders maintain a specific belief or religion will lead to the same religious atrocities many escaped when they immigrated to this country in centuries past? Or those religious regimes we have been fighting against in this century?

Although I find it somewhat "silly" to hear people claim they live a good life because of their faith, it does not cause me to devalue that individual. And it does not say that I want all religions to be eliminated from this planet. It does say that I am a humanist, a skeptic and a proud, voting citizen of the United States.

It is because of my morals that I refuse to marginalize anyone else's faith because it disagrees with mine. Faith is not a reason for voting for or against a candidate.

Paraphrasing Kennedy's 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, "I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where there is no bloc voting of any kind, and where Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Mormons, Muslims and atheists, at both the lay and the pastoral levels, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood."


David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics.

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Jim Jones January 19, 2012 | 3:11 p.m.

I always distrust those who use 'their religion' as a deflector of criticism. "I'm a christian and I wouldn't do that." Look at how many wars have been fought in the name of religion....even today. Sometimes I just get so sick and tired of the "my god is better than your god" mentality! We, as a nation, seem to be on our way to becoming a land of many gods that is populated by a godless people.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor January 19, 2012 | 4:33 p.m.

When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion.
Abe Lincoln

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Jonathan Hopfenblatt January 29, 2012 | 10:11 p.m.

Reminds me of all the people who voted for Bush because "he looks like someone I could have a beer with." I wonder if they would use the same criteria to decide who's going to build their house, or operate on their brain.

Americans need to take a long, hard look at their priorities, because our problems are real and they require real solutions. Faith doesn't give us real solutions, it gives us Rick Perry's pray-for-rain fiasco.

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