Interfaith Group to Political Candidates: Ditch Divisive Religious Appeals

This post has been updated.

A coalition of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, and religious liberties organizations has released a Statement of Principles regarding religion in political campaigns, which reads, in part:

Candidates for public office are, of course, free to worship as they choose. And they should feel comfortable explaining their religious convictions to voters, commenting about their own religious beliefs, explaining, if they wish to do so, how those beliefs shape their policy perspectives, and how they would balance the principles of their faith with their obligation to defend the Constitution if the two ever came into conflict.

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.

The complete statement—a plea, really, in light of the distinct uptick in divisive religious rhetoric of late—calling upon political candidates to “[c]onduct their campaigns without appeals, overt or implicit, for support based upon religion” is available on the Anti-Defamation League’s website. It is co-signed by the American Islamic Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Interfaith Alliance, the Islamic Society of North America, the Hindu American Foundation, Muslim Advocates, National Council of Churches USA, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Sikh Coalition, the Union for Reform Judaism, The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society, and the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries.

UPDATE: Perhaps Franklin Graham could benefit from reading the statement as well. From Politico:

Franklin Graham, the evangelist and son of Billy Graham, gave sharply different answers Tuesday when asked whether he believed Rick Santorum and Barack Obama were Christians.

Graham, the CEO and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, also declined to say on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” whether he thought Mitt Romney was a Christian. He weighed in at length on the candidates and their faith:

  • ON OBAMA: “You have to ask him. I cannot answer that question for anybody. All I know is I’m a sinner, and God has forgiven me of my sins… You have to ask every person. He has said he’s a Christian, so I just have to assume that he is.”

Pressed as to whether Obama had “accepted Jesus Christ,” Graham said, “I don’t know,” recounting a conversation with the president over how Obama came to accept Christianity.

* * * *

  • ON SANTORUM: “Do you believe Rick Santorum is a Christian?” asked Geist. “I think so,” responded Graham.

“How do you know, if the standard is: only the person knows what’s in him when you apply it to the president, why is it different for Rick Santorum?” replied Geist.

“Well, because his values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it. I just appreciate the moral stances he takes on things. He comes from a Catholic faith… I think he’s a man of faith,” said Graham.