The Separation of Church and State and Common Sense
Rabbi David Saperstein and Reverend Oliver Thomas, both constitutional lawyers who have taught at Georgetown University Law Center, offer a five-point analysis of the proper intersection of faith and politics at the USA Today article linked above. We agree with their “guidelines,” with one exception.
The first statement they make is this: “It is never appropriate — explicitly or implicitly — to impose a religious test for public office.” So far, so good. It’s true the government must never impose such a standard.
But the rabbi and reverend take this idea much too far when they also state, “Voters should evaluate candidates based on their policies, their values and their character but not on whether or how they choose to worship.”
It’s difficult to understand how two men of faith could overlook the basic truth of this simple syllogism:
1) The purpose of voting for a candidate is to select the person most likely to make the same decisions the voter would make. 2) The most fundamental factor in any person’s decision making process is what they believe or don’t believe about their own relationship to God. 3) Therefore, voters should consider what a candidate believes or doesn’t believe about God when voting for or against a candidate.
Those who disagree with this are most likely to contest point two. But if a candidate truly believes an almighty god has a personal and direct involvement in one’s life, then the candidate will undoubtedly base decisions on what he believes that god wants him to do. If a candidate does not believe in such a god, then he will base decisions on some other criteria, such as self-interest, or a philosophy of life.
Few would question the electorate’s wisdom in voting against a politician because that candidate seems to operate purely from self-interest. And few would question the electorate’s right to vote against a politician because of his affiliation with an abhorrent philosophy. For exactly the same reason, it is artificial and illogical to call upon the electorate to ignore a candidate’s beliefs about something as foundational as religion.
Of course, what a candidate actually believes and what they say they believe are often two very different things, and sadly, most candidates are not above making false statements about faith in order to get votes. But that’s another issue.