From AUcorbin@aol.com Sun Aug 13 15:17:46 2000
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2000 00:23:20 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: AU Statement on the Role of Religion and Politics in the Presidential Campaign
AU's Lynn Urges Candidates To Reaffirm Church-State Separation
Americans United statement on the role of religion and politics in the
9 August 2000
Contact: Joseph Conn or Steve Benen
The appropriate role of religion in politics has emerged as a major point of
discussion in the 2000 presidential campaign.
Earlier this week, Democratic candidate Al Gore selected as his running mate
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the first Jewish American chosen to run for national
office. In Lieberman's first speech, the Connecticut senator, who is known
for his personal religious devotion, began his address with a prayer and a
quote from the biblical book of Chronicles.
This event and other religion-related developments in the presidential
campaign have sparked national reflection on the relationship between faith
and politics. Today, the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans
United for Separation of Church and State, issued the following statement on
"Forty years ago, Democratic candidate John Kennedy gave a campaign address
to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. Kennedy, a Catholic, sought
to reassure these Protestant clergy that his faith would not undermine his
commitment to church-state separation.
"Kennedy said, 'I believe in an America where the separation of church and
state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President
(should he be a Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell
his parishioners for whom to vote.and where no man is denied public office
merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him
or the people who might elect him.'
"Kennedy's word rang true at the time and are equally compelling today.
"We celebrate the fact that a Jewish American has been added to a national
presidential ticket. This reflects the American respect for religious
pluralism and the full inclusion of religious minorities in our national
life. It also honors a bedrock principle of our Constitution -- Article VI --
which prohibits any religious test for public office. In this country,
individuals' religious or philosophical commitments cannot disqualify them
from government positions.
"However, while Americans are a religious people, many of them get very
nervous, and properly so, when candidates appear to place too much emphasis
on their personal faith in the context of a political campaign.
"Yesterday, Sen. Lieberman opened his first campaign address with a prayer
and a recitation from the Book of Chronicles. This was apparently an
expression of his personal religious devotion, and I think most Americans saw
it that way.
"However, as the campaign proceeds, many voters would be concerned if the
senator -- or any other candidate -- continued to open his appearances with a
prayer and a scripture reading. Americans are more interested in candidates'
stands on the important issues of the day than their personal faith. Repeated
reliance on pious rhetoric would be seen by many as exploitation of religion.
Such manipulation would benefit neither the political process, nor religion
"Unfortunately, this campaign has already been marred with inappropriate uses
of religion. It was wrong for Gore to go to a New York church in February to
receive the pulpit endorsement of the Rev. Floyd Flake. It was equally
troubling when the Republican Convention beamed in the Rev. Herbert Lusk from
his Philadelphia pulpit to endorse GOP candidate George W. Bush.
"It was wrong for Gore aide Elaine Kamarck to insist that 'the Democratic
Party is going to take back God this time.' It was just as wrong for Gov.
Bush to proclaim 'Jesus Day' in Texas June 10.
"It's past time that all the candidates remember that this is a presidential
campaign, not a holy war. This is a race for president, not preacher. The
winner will swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, not the Bible.
"John Kennedy had it just right. This country was built on the separation of
church and state. It has served us well, guaranteeing full religious freedom
for people from many different faiths and those who have chosen no spiritual
path at all. Candidates today would do well to reaffirm this principle, not
ignore it for political gain."
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington,
D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization represents 60,000 members and allied
houses of worship in all 50 states.
National Grassroots Organizer
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
518 C Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002