Faith not always used fairly

Published 11:47 pm Wednesday, January 9, 2008

By Staff
Catholics believe in God, don't they?” came a seemingly innocent voice from a classmate.
Even in the sixth grade, I felt the question wasn't so innocent. It seemed more like a way to make me feel different - and unwelcome.
So I was not convinced that Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's question to a New York Times Magazine reporter last month - “Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers?” - was entirely innocent.
I'd like to give Huckabee the benefit of the doubt, but it did seem to be a jab at his fellow Republican candidate Mitt Romney's faith, and it wasn't the first attempt in this campaign to make a candidate feel different for his beliefs or religious background - and to make voters believe he or she is untrustworthy because of it. (By the way, Mormons don't believe Jesus and Satan were brothers.)
Democratic candidate Barack Obama was the subject of an e-mail rumor that he was Muslim, because he attended a majority Muslim school as a child.
I'm no supporter of Romney or Obama - in fact, I haven't figured out for whom to cast my vote. But I am sensitive to the use of religion in a political race, especially when it's used as an attempt to degrade someone else.
For the record, Obama isn't a Muslim. In a speech last year, he described the reawakening of his faith as a young man when he attended a Chicago church.
But even if Obama were a Muslim, does that mean he's not qualified to be president?
Does Romney's Mormonism make him less able to serve the country?
(In fact, consider the possible reaction among Muslim extremists if they see “U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama” on TV. Would they still be able to find so many ridiculous reasons to hate us?)
I realize that many people will vote for candidates for a variety of reasons - from their religion to how they wear their hair - and that is absolutely a voter's perogative.
My Irish Catholic grandmother voted for Kennedy in 1960 because he was, like her, an Irish Catholic. (Don't tell her late husband, though. He still thinks she voted Republican.)
And we should consider those factors when choosing a president. Each of us is shaped, in part, by our faith.
But when candidates themselves delve into each other's religious backgrounds - and question their faith - it becomes unseemly and even hypocritical. And if they don't respect each other's beliefs, will they respect yours and mine?
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 251-867-4876 or by e-mail at

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