An Interfaith Statement of Principles

February 26, 2012

Last week, several religious groups released a document entitled "Religion in Political Campaigns - An Interfaith Statement of Principles." Organized by the Interfaith Alliance, 14 groups committed to religious liberty endorsed it. Among the groups endorsing the statement were: Anti-Defamation League, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Islamic Society of North America, Hindu American Foundation, National Council of Churches USA, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Union for Reform Judaism, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, and Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ. Here are a few highlights from the timely statement:

Freedom of religion is one of our nation's most cherished liberties. It is at the very foundation of America. Our nation's Constitution protects religious freedom for all, prohibits religious tests for public office, and mandates separation of church and state. These are essential American ideals and values, which candidates for public office should respect. ... There is a point, however, where an emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours. Appealing to voters along religious lines is divisive. It is contrary to the American ideal of including all Americans in the political process, regardless of whether they are members of large and powerful religious groups, religious minorities, or subscribe to no faith tradition. Voters should be encouraged to make their decisions based upon their assessment of the qualifications, integrity, and political positions of candidates. A candidate’s religious beliefs – or lack thereof – should never be used by voters, nor suggested by political candidates, as a test for public office or as a shorthand summary of a candidate's qualifications. 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.
Amen! The statement also offers four suggestions for politicians. It is good to see these leaders speak out against confessional politics. Hopefully some politicians will heed the advice.

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