Church and State Reunite for the 2012 Elections

Mikel Hartsough

“And that is what the perception is by the American left who hates Christendom…..Satan has his sights on the United States of America,”” said the Senator Rick Santorum.  The GOP candidate has brought religion into his campaign.

“Religion definitely plays a major in how a voter chooses a candidate; different beliefs can turn people off from voting for you. There are candidates who push their religion onto people, these people especially affect a voter’s decision.” said Wilkes University Interfaith Coordinator Caitlin Czeh.

Czeh believes Santorum’s sudden surge is not due to his core religious beliefs, but because of his traditional conservatism. Santorum won Colorado and Minnesota convincingly. Santorum’s momentum has slowed in the recent months, barely losing to Romney in Michigan and by a larger margin in Arizona.

Michael Tigue of the Catholic Student Union blames Santorum’s misuse of religion, saying “When a candidate such as Santorum speaks about his religion, he is only doing so to win his primary. Over 80% of Americans identify with a religion, if you present yourself as a strong religious candidate you appeal to a large percentage of Americans. Santorum is Christian, and over 60% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.”

Conservative propaganda has attempted to label President Obama a Muslim in the past, and it looks like it will continue with a new piece of propaganda. The propaganda takes an excerpt from his autobiography stating “How and when the marriage occurred remains a bit murky, a bill of particulars that I have never quite had the courage to explore.”

The President is defending the accusation of his parent’s wedding being Islamic.

“Barack’s father, Muslim, hard-drinker, was married three times, attended Harvard and returned to Kenya. Obama claims his father was an atheist, but, he was raised Muslim and as given a Muslim burial at Barack’s family’s request.” says the excerpt on the piece of Propaganda.

“That form of propaganda should be illegal, and the illustrators should receive jail time. It is just manipulative to voters who are ill informed and might even make them vote for a candidate who doesn’t share the same political views.” said Wilkes University student Julie Engebrecht.

Some political analysts see the spin for what it is and not as a threat to the integrity of the Presidential election.

“I don’t think religion should affect any primary, the republican primary has Romney who is seen as a more centrist candidate, Santorum as being more conservative and central to the Republican base, I don’t think they will be overt to a Muslim versus Catholic election.” said Dr. Andrew P. Miller, political science teacher at Wilkes University.

Although experts such as Miller believe that religion won’t play a large part in the election, those in the religious profession don’t see faith taking a back seat.

“The candidates are pitting religion against each other when religions not meant to be compared. A voter can look at a candidate and say hey that’s my belief, sometimes people can feel like their one with that candidate, help them identify with them.” said Czeh.

Romney got the support of 90-percent of the Mormon voters in Arizona, which is a state Romney dominated the polls.

“If Romney wins the Republican nominee, his Mormonism comes into play with how the Republican base. If Republicans aren’t crazy about Mormonism than you won’t see it come up during the election. The only way religion could become a factor in the upcoming election is if Santorum wins the candidacy.” said Miller.

“A person should not be elected because of his faith, nor should he be rejected because of his faith,” said Romney in response to the massive support from Mormon voters.

Santorum has spoken at several religious establishments in recent months. As soon as he was endorsed by the evangelical Christian leaders he spoke at the Cathedral of Praise in South Carolina during the primary.

After Santorum was endorsed by the evangelical leaders the online donations towards his campaign increased 50%, the US census identifies over two million evangelicals in the US, but states the religion question is open ended and not mandatory to answer.

South Carolina Republican voters define themselves as born-again Christians, which is in association with the evangelistic church.

According to the exit polls conducted during the 2008 elections 69% of voters said that the religious beliefs of the candidate mattered to them. 11% of born-again Christians voted for Romney in the election.

According to a study at Baylor, Professor Wade Rowatt concluded that a higher percentage of people voting in a church instead of a school vote for a conservative candidate or proposition. The study showed that an Arizona school voted on a funding referendum in 2000 and voters who were polled in schools tended to vote in favor of increasing the state tax. While voters in churches tended to vote against the increase.

“Don’t forget the Midwest voters, Midwest Republicans are predominantly protestant. It’s hard for a candidate to force his religious views on a voter because he’s already trying to force his political views. You may see a lot of Santorum, Romney, and Obama’s religious background make news headlines now, but when the presidential election is on their campaigns will be revamped and limit religion.” said Miller.

Obama makes several references to his religious background in The Audacity of Hope.

“I was not raised in a religious household. For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness. However, in her mind, a working knowledge of the world’s great religions was a necessary part of any well-rounded education.”  said Obama.

Greg Emory of Westminster Presbyterian had this to say about religion in politics “I remember when there was serious discussion over Kennedy and his Catholic background, so looking at the history of religion and presidents, there will always be scrutiny. However I feel the majority of voters won’t take it seriously. Candidates like Santorum can gain voters by expressing their religious beliefs, but at the same time they run the risk of alienating themselves to that specific audience.”