To what extent should a politician's religious beliefs be an election issue?From the NY Times, Mr. Romney also prays before taking action on decisions he has already made, asking for divine...

To what extent should a politician's religious beliefs be an election issue?

From the NY Times,

Mr. Romney also prays before taking action on decisions he has already made, asking for divine reassurance, a feeling that he is “united with the powers above,” Dr. Hassell said. Sometimes Mr. Romney would report that even though he had made a decision on the merits, prayer had changed his mind. 

It seems that Romney's rational decision-making process takes second place to prayer. If Romney's prayers take precedent over his intellectual decisions, shouldn't the voter be allowed to scrutinise his religious beliefs and ask searching questions regarding his religion?

Why should we be expected to 'respect his private beliefs' if they have this much influence on his 9-5 work life? He's bringing his religion to work, so surely that makes it a work-related issue?

What do you think? Are you comfortable that your future president is willing to reject a rational decision in favour of an irrational decision because of his prayers?

Expert Answers
e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would agree with the notion that a candidate's religious views are only important insofar as they will or do influence his/her political decisions and as they may become somehow ratified or legislated during his or her time in office. 

We can reasonably discuss his/her religious views as they inform his/her moral views because we can expect certain decisions to be made based on those preconceived, systematically defined moral systems. 

It's worth pointing out that everyone has a moral context, a moral basis on which decisions are based. For some this context is religious in orientation and for others it is not religious at all.

The question we have to ask of our leaders should be more driven by what they will do than why they will do it, as pointed out in the post above. 

If a candidate's religious views inform us about what he/she will do in office then discussing and weighing those views is appropriate. 



rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many religious beliefs, indeed any set of beliefs of any kind, can be dismissed as "cuckoo nonsense." Our current president, as well as many others, have claimed on many occasions that they prayed for guidance. I don't especially care what Romney's political beliefs are, though I am inherently suspicious of anyone who claims that they have some sort of divinely conferred wisdom or sanction for their activities. Many polls show, however, that significant percentages of Americans think that it is important for a president to have some sort of religious beliefs, and that many think it is very important that a president share their religious values: Polls also show that presidents should be influenced by their religious beliefs when making important decisions.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I guess I don't see the difference between thought and prayer in this connection.  I don't believe that God actually talks to Romney and tells him what to do.  So what is the difference between him praying for guidance and someone thinking hard about what would be the best policy to pursue?

As far as rational vs. irrational, I don't see where that is objectively determinable.  Would refusing to bail out the car companies have been irrational?  Hard to say that for certain as it's a matter of opinion.  

I'm not likely to vote for Romney, though I haven't completely decided yet.  But I have no problem with him or anyone else saying they use prayer to help them decide.  I think it's similar to just thinking hard about the issue.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that it is technically okay to examine a politicians religious views, but  I wouldn't be comfortable making a sweeping judgment based on a particular religion.

As for Romney's desire to pray about his decisions and potentially change his mind based on those prayers, you should judge him by those actual decisions. What did prayer influence him to do? If it influenced him to make a rational decision, then what is irrational about it? I'd be surprised if you found that Romney or any other national politician made a wild decision based on prayer.

There is certainly no violation of separation of church and state as stated in post #3. Romney's prayers for guidance do not constitute the establishment of a state religion.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While I am not a Mormon, I take exception to the characterization of Mormonism as "cuckoo nonsense," even within the context of this discussion.  I am sure that most religions, including my own, when viewed from the outside, seem like nonsense, since religion is a matter of belief, not of logic.  And while I am not comfortable with the notion that any elected or appointed politician is guided in secular matters by his or her religious beliefs, I do think that in a pluralistic society, we really must have some respect for the beliefs of all. 


literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For many people, a politicain's religious beliefs are important because the voter's religious beliefs are important. Some religions may be staunchly against abortion, while others have different thoughts. Voters like to vote people into the Presidency based upon the candidates similarities to the voter's own personal ideologies. Many times these ideologies are religiously based. So, for some, the politician's religious beliefs are very important, while, for others, they are not.

trophyhunter1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think a politician's religious beliefs have a definite affect on how they will think and feel politically about issues. That said, this country is supposed to be inclusive of all religions and various beliefs-a melting pot. Therefore, one should judge the politician on his or her actions they have done to help their constituency and not merely focus on their religious beliefs.

dano7744 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Religious beliefs of a presidential candidate should be fair game. Voters should feel free to question the candidate about his/her beliefs because those beliefs will influence decisions made. Whether or not religious thought is based on logic is irrelevant because it will still influence the politicians decisions.

elfgirl | Student

I don't see the difference between thought and prayer in this connection... So what is the difference between him praying for guidance and someone thinking hard... I have no problem with him or anyone else saying they use prayer to help them decide.- Pohnpei

The quote from the NY times clearly states Romney often prays to get God's approval after he has reached a rational decision. So obviously there's a difference. And these prayers can persuade him to reject his rational judgement.

So theoretically, Romney can conclude that invading Iran is a bad thing, but then his 'magic conversation' with God can override his own opinion. God's decision trumps Romney's intellect.

That is such an obvious breach of the separation of church and state that I think we have every right to consider it our business and ask Romney probing questions about his relationship with God. If he is going to give this 'God voice' supreme executive power over American politics, then he has no right to ask for respectful silence for his beliefs. 

Especially when you have a little look at what his beliefs are. Here's a 5 minute summary of Joseph Smith's 'revelation'

Personally, I think that anyone who can believe the cuckoo nonsense pervaded by Mormonism is not rational enough to rule the Western world. If he can't see how ridiculous his religion is, then there's something wrong with his senses.