Monday, February 21, 2011

More Religion from Reagan to Obama

I love this Huffington Post list of the top ten religious quotations by presidential candidates. The author, Brian T. Kaylor, explains  that presidential rhetoric has gotten much more religious since John F. Kennedy promised us in 1960 that he would not govern according to his Catholic faith. Kaylor gives you a sense of  this dramatic shift in presidential rhetoric by adding a bonus, non-campaign quotation from 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, made during the Reagan presidency:

"I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across the country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in the 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral belief to me? And I'm even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. And the religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected with them recognize that religion has no place in public policy."

It's hard to imagine any elected official getting away with that kind of comment today. It is especially odd that the presidents' rhetoric has gotten so much more religious while the percentage of non-believers has increased considerably during the same era.

The trend continued last week when President Obama attended a National Prayer Breakfast and proclaimed again his Christian faith and described himself as an elected leader whose entry into public service was actually through the church.This is the same president whose administration defended the legality of a National Day of Prayer and determined to celebrate it even if the courts declared it unconstitutional. One of the hopes the president expressed at the prayer meeting was that he might walk closer with God and make that walk [his] first and most important task.  Maybe the country would be in better shape if the president's first task were to take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.

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