Religion & Public Life With Mark Silk

Religion & Public Life With Mark Silk

Dabbling into Anti-Christianity

No one complained when Christine O’Donnell’s admission of high school indiscretions with Hecate became a campaign issue, but Jack Conway’s ad attacking Ron Rand Paul’s undergraduate involvement with a Christian-mocking group at Baylor has struck sober-minded pundits like Chris Matthews and Jonathan Chait and my fellow Beliefnet blogger Rabbi Brad Hirschfield as beyond the pale. Never mind that Factcheck has found the ad’s assertions to be accurate. In America, we frown on religious tests for office, don’t we?


Count me with Conway on this one. Here’s the simple argument. As long as a candidate’s religious identity is just something noted on a bio page–“Baptist” or “Catholic” or “Jewish”–then, sure, leave it alone. But once the candidate puts it into play on his own behalf, it’s fair game. Rand Paul, be it remembered, won the GOP senatorial nomination in Kentucky by convincing James Dobson he was not a soft-on-abortion devotee of atheist libertarian Ayn Rand but a staunchly pro-life Christian. It’s not unreasonable to suspect that the sawdust trail he hit was to the ballot box, not the altar.


There is, in short, no difficulty arguing that if a candidate says, “Vote for me, I’m the Christian,” his opponent is entitled to respond, “Then explain these things.” Unfortunately, in the era of the Christian right Republican candidates are not always transparent about the nature of their religious appeal–using coded language a la George W. Bush and Sarah Palin or sending sly anti-Mormon signals a la Mike Huckabee–all the while maintaining a determined reticence about their actual religious beliefs and commitments.

Democrats have tended to respond by saying, “But we’re religious too.” So because the religion card is being played by everyone, I’d say that if there’s reason to question its face value, let the questioning go on. And if the effect is to discourage politicians from playing the card, so much the better.

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posted October 19, 2010 at 11:29 am

Democrats need to read the Constitution whenever the subject of religion and public office comes up.
From Article IV, paragraph 3:
[N]o religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Anyone candidate who gets involved in a who’s more Christian contest with an opponent is justifiably called “Un-American.”

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Theodore Nozick

posted October 19, 2010 at 11:58 am

Perhaps it is a psychological phenomenon that leads people to believe that everything occurs in terms they can understand, but Rand Paul did not need James Dobson to win and a 15 second search of wikipedia or 5 seconds on Fox News would let you know that the “Tea Party” movement is responsible for Rand Paul’s victory. So if pandering gets you elected, perhaps it is legitimate to be challenged on your pandering. But when you are active in a religious community (his wife is a deacon and he is involved in various charities at his place of worship) and you are attacked personally, then there is something wrong. Particularly on baseless unchecked accusations.

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posted October 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Religion has tremendous impact on a person/political figures worldview and ideology. While I don’t like that ambiguous stigmatisms affect social perspectives on candidates, religion is and should be fair game. As for the constitution and “religious tests”, this rule does not apply to popular opinion, just the process. If society has largely decided that they will exercise their individual voting powers in even a religiously discriminatory way, that is their right. They just may not bar a candidate from participating in the system based on religious grounds, to circumvent the election process. Most people make too much of religion, however not always. For example, Mitt Romney has participated in Mormon rituals which require that he dedicate time and talents to the Mormon Church. The voting public has a right to determine how this would affect his Presidency. Romney of course addressed this matter, and so the public is left to decide if this is acceptable. This is the highest office in Government, any aspect of a candidates affiliations and allegiances are fair game and should be scrutinized.

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Tom Morris

posted October 19, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Correction: “Jack Conway’s ad attacking Ron Paul’s undergraduate involvement with a Christian-mocking group at Baylor”
It was attacking Rand Paul, surely, not his father Ron Paul.

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Mark Silk

posted October 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Whoops…corrected. Thanks.

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posted October 19, 2010 at 5:00 pm

With or without James Dobson’s endorsement, Rand Paul wins in a Randslide.
You lost all credibility with that remark.
You further lost all credibility by siding with Jack Conway who is lying and deceiving people into thinking something Rand isn’t.
If you think that is fair game and legitimate scrutinizing, then I think you need to have your head examined, or heart.

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posted October 20, 2010 at 8:48 am

Many thanks for finally posting a piece which was not about homosexuality. Please continue the trend.

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Mark Silk

posted October 20, 2010 at 10:55 am

You’re welcome, I guess, Kimball. I suppose I could point out that no one’s forcing you to read any of my pieces…but that would be churlish.

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posted October 21, 2010 at 2:43 am

Conway and the establishment communist left, who’s beholden to a private central bank called “the Fed” are so desperate they have to stoop to this level of nonsense/crap. Conway must be a homo.

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