Asking questions about candidates' faith

Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, is in favor of asking political candidates tougher questions about their religious faith:



If a candidate for president said he believed that space aliens dwell among us, would that affect your willingness to vote for him? Personally, I might not disqualify him out of hand; one out of three Americans believe we have had Visitors and, hey, who knows? But I would certainly want to ask a few questions. Like, where does he get his information? Does he talk to the aliens? Do they have an economic plan?

Yet when it comes to the religious beliefs of our would-be presidents, we are a little squeamish about probing too aggressively. Michele Bachmann was asked during the Iowa G.O.P. debate what she meant when she said the Bible obliged her to “be submissive” to her husband, and there was an audible wave of boos — for the question, not the answer. There is a sense, encouraged by the candidates, that what goes on between a candidate and his or her God is a sensitive, even privileged domain, except when it is useful for mobilizing the religious base and prying open their wallets.

Keller says he doesn't care about a candidate's personal practices or piety. But...

I do want to know if a candidate places fealty to the Bible, the Book of Mormon (the text, not the Broadway musical) or some other authority higher than the Constitution and laws of this country. It matters to me whether a president respects serious science and verifiable history — in short, belongs to what an official in a previous administration once scornfully described as “the reality-based community.” I do care if religious doctrine becomes an excuse to exclude my fellow citizens from the rights and protections our country promises.

And I care a lot if a candidate is going to be a Trojan horse for a sect that believes it has divine instructions on how we should be governed.

What questions would you ask the candidates about their faith?

Comments (2)

I would still like to hear Rep. Bachmann's full, truthful answer to the question about "submission" (which, of course, does not mean "we respect each other"). It was a legitimate question about which she dissembled. The electorate deserves to know if a -- please, God! -- hypothetical First Husband can give the President orders she would feel obliged to obey. And her evangelical supporters deserve to know if she's snowing them when she says she believes that wives must submit to their husbands.

Thanks for commenting Billydinpvd -- please sign your name next time. ~ed.

I do want to know if a candidate places fealty to the Bible, the Book of Mormon (the text, not the Broadway musical) or some other authority higher than the Constitution and laws of this country.

I considered, as a thought experiment, that question addressed to *myself* (not that it would matter to y'all, as I'm not running for anything!)

Well, I've committed civil disobedience before---arising from my commitment to the Gospel---and I might again. In that sense, one COULD say my "fealty to the Bible" is "higher than the Constitution and laws of this country."

JC Fisher

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