Religion’s Impact on the 2012 Presidential Race

Media coverage continues to focus on GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, which according to the Pew Research Center represented half of all religion-based stories in 2011.

Looking back a few years ago during the 2008 presidential race, candidate Barrack Obama’s faith made national headlines when bogus reports surfaced saying he was a Muslim.  This undoubtedly had to be addressed not only because President Obama is a Christian, but any links to the Qur’an can have a negative connotation, especially given the Country’s fight against terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.

How important to voters is a president’s belief system?  A simple Internet search will reveal thousands of opinions on the subject.   While separation of church and state is rooted in America’s DNA, a president’s moral belief system can play an important role in America’s future.  This includes picking a Supreme Court Justice for nomination, which can impact landmark decisions like Roe V. Wade granting a women’s right to choose on abortion.

Moral character and religion are not necessarily equal, although some would argue that a faith belief system builds moral character, an issue that can debated indefinitely.  Freedom of religion is a basic tenant of the U.S. Constitution.  America prides itself of religious tolerance, although a candidate’s faith certainty becomes a factor when casting votes for the nation’s highest elective office.

Putting credentials and electability aside, is America ready to elect a Mormon?  What about a Muslim?  No doubt there is a negative spin associated with various faith denominations that can impact an election’s results.   History proved otherwise however when the U.S. elected John F. Kennedy as the nation’s only Catholic president, a key issue for him during the 1960 election.

So, while religion may be a factor in choosing a presidential candidate, it may not be the deciding vote.

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