Despite rumors that persist about President Barack Obama being a “secret Muslim,” the president is openly Christian — and most of us are aware that opponent Mitt Romney is devoted to his Mormon faith.
Both men have come in for some fair degree of criticism due to public perception of their religion. For Obama, it tends to come in the form of a large swath of Americans believing he is not actually a Christian and is instead a covert practitioner of Islam, and, for Romney, the different tenets of his faith compared to more common sects of Christianity tend to give critics ammo. (Surely “magical Mormon underpants” is Romney’s hassle like “secret Muslim” has been to Obama, at least to a degree.)
Part of what is so wearing about the Obama-secret-Muslim/Romney-magical-underpants debate is that one of the massive founding tenets of this nation, whether you espouse it or not, was freedom from religion and separation of church and state. And indeed, the US was founded in part by groups that had been marginalized in their native England — groups that fled to the US and were eventually welcomed in a country where the government was never supposed to intertwine with any one religion.
Fast forward to 2012, and religion has become a major factor in why people select certain candidates. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney spoke recently on their own personal faith and the role of that faith in performing duties as president.
In answering the question of the importance of his faith in his role at the desk in the Oval Office, Obama explained:
“You know, there’s not much I can do about [the Obama is a secret Muslim rumor.] …I have a job to do as president, and that does not involve convincing folks that my faith in Jesus is legitimate and real. I do my best to live out my faith, and to stay in the Word, and to make my life look more like His. I’m not perfect. What I can do is just keep on following Him, and serve others—trying to make folks’ lives a little better using this humbling position that I hold.”
Romney too concedes that faith is important to him, but part of the job of the Commander-in-Chief is to consider all faiths when governing. He says:
“I am often asked about my faith and my beliefs about Jesus Christ… I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. Every religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These should not be bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.”
Romney also notes that actions speak louder than words when the question of faith and adherence to religious practice arises:
“A political leader’s faith can tell us a great deal or nothing,” Romney said. “So much depends on what lies behind that faith. And so much depends on deeds, not words.”
Obama also reinforced the importance of separating church from state to which Romney added that there is a “large space in which faith-based organizations can do good for the community in which they serve.”