Charles Haynes brings up an oft-asked question in today's Conversations section: Does religion matter when we choose a president?
Haynes is a first amendment scholar, who I have talked to before, so I don't doubt his legal opinion. Basically he said it shouldn't matter, but he glossed over what I see as the deeper question people are really asking. It doesn't matter as much what religion they profess, but how do they practice it. Do they really believe and follow all that their faith proclaims?
The faith itself can tell you a lot. For instance, I tend to lean toward being socially conservative and economically liberal. I believe we rise and fall together as a society, so we should be helping each other out and raising up those on the bottom. Much of that is informed by my Catholic faith. Similarly, I would expect a Baptist, whose theology is more focused on individual responsibility and salvation to be socially and economically conservative and to lean a little more on the pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality while still being compassionate.
So how well you believe that faith tells me a lot more about your future decisions than if you just check a box marked Episcopalian or Jewish. Rudy Giuliani and John Kerry claim to be Catholics, but their beliefs and actions demonstrate that they reject much of what the church teaches. That raises even more alarming questions in my mind. Similarly, I don't agree theologically with Mormonism, but if Mitt Romney is a faithful Mormon, then I feel I can trust where he's coming from.
What do you think? Should religion matter in the presidential election and how do you evaluate it?