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Religion and politics:
where to draw the line
Posted Oct. 13, 2006

Andres Rivera
Managing Editor

Candidates for public office are in a constant struggle to keep certain facts about their lives away from the public eye, in fear of the information compromising election results. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is no different as his devout Mormon status is conflicting with his qualifications in the voters’ eyes.

In a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll conducted in June, 35 percent of registered voters would not vote for a Mormon for president. Results for Evangelical Christians, Jewish and Catholic candidates were more preferable compared to Mormons. A Muslim candidate received a higher percentage of rejection (53 percent) by the voters.

Is it the whole polygamy thing or their customs of marrying people after they have died and converting the dead that will keep voters away? Is the rejection of Joseph Smith as a true prophet by many Evangelical Christians a part of their disapproval of a Mormon president? It may be possible that a mixture of these tidbits could be a cause for alarm by voters, but to think that voters would use these as excuses is sad.

It should be noted that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints outlawed polygamy years ago and that the church’s beliefs are just that, beliefs. While some of the Mormon Church’s practices are odder than others, they are to be respected just as one would respect the beliefs of other religions.

The poll was a hypothetical question and did not mention Romney specifically. If given further background on the candidate in all cases, the numbers may have changed. Knowing where the person stands on the issues takes precedence over religious beliefs.

In Romney’s case, the fact that he is firm in his Republican views on abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research would outweigh his past as a bishop for the Mormon Church in voters eyes.

In some respects the poll shows the registered voters to have some sort of a prejudice. Not to say that having prejudices is a bad thing altogether, now that the voters have noticed they can now work on not letting those biases get in the way of the task at hand: choosing a leader. Religion itself will probably not be as big a deal later in the campaign, if Romney continues to be a potential candidate for the Republican Party. After all, the candidate’s stand on the issues and qualifications should be more of a concern to voters.

A candidate’s religious background should not be a factor at all. When considering a candidate for political office or for any position really, religious beliefs should not be relevant. A professional should be able to keep his or her beliefs away from the work place. It is one thing to acknowledge a bias, it is quite another to act on a bias. Religious beliefs may have a little influence but should not take over for rational thought.

Every candidate will have at least one characteristic that will not go well with a percentage of the population. The perfect candidate does not exist. They all have skeletons in their closet; they are politicians after all. Instead of focusing on the negative, one should keep an open mind toward all candidates and make an informed decision. Regardless of political party or other social classifications, Democrat or Republican, Jewish or Christian, the decision should be based on who is most qualified for the position.

Andres Rivera, a junior journalism major, is managing editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at arivera@ulv.edu.