One of the axioms of politics is that it is filled with surprises. Who could have guessed during the spring primaries that by late summer we would be having a national debate over the role of faith in politics, and the candidate at the center of the controversy wouldn't be a conservative Republican but instead a liberal Democrat?

In recent weeks, Christian conservatives couldn't help but feel ambivalent. Many were pleased to hear Senator Lieberman so eloquently refer to his faith and repeatedly thank God for his blessings and the blessings of our country. This is, after all, the language with which many Evangelicals and Catholics are quite familiar. It is the same language that Governor Bush and I used in several nationally televised presidential debates.

On the other hand, the pleasure Christian conservatives felt was tempered by a glaring double standard. When Bush or I mentioned our faith, the words were barely out of our mouths before secular gatekeepers from every corner of the country issued press releases condemning our violation of the "separation of church and state." And here was Joe Lieberman calling on God routinely and getting a free ride from the same censors.

Well, this week, the silence on the subject was broken. Abe Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish group whose purpose is to fight anti-Semitism, sent Senator Lieberman a letter requesting that he leave his faith in the closet. The ADL suggested that Lieberman's faith rhetoric was "inappropriate and even unsettling" in our diverse culture.

Now, I support the Bush/Cheney ticket, but I also support Senator Lieberman's right to include his faith in his public dialogue. The ADL's claims are hogwash. The irony is that an organization formed to protect Jews wants America's most prominent Jew to be quiet about his Jewish faith. That sounds anti-Semitic to me!

Seriously, Senator Lieberman's comments are well within the traditions of American politics and government. And it should be reassuring to voters, not unsettling, to know that both major party tickets have men whose faith will influence how they would govern. Virtually all the big issues facing the country--racial reconciliation, helping the less fortunate, rebuilding the American family, restoring respect for life--are essentially questions that demand moral solutions.

One other thought: Much ink has been used over the years writing about the religious right. Senator Lieberman's speeches may lead to more coverage of the religious left. It exists, although you would never know it from reading the mainstream media. If Reverend Jerry Falwell speaks for religious conservatives, then obviously the Reverend Jesse Jackson speaks for religious liberals. If Evangelical churches that are pro-life and oppose the gay-rights agenda represent the religious right, then so-called "mainline" churches that are pro-abortion and support gay unions are the religious left. If a pastor who speaks from the pulpit against the Clinton scandals is proof of conservatives getting churches involved in politics, what do you call the inner-city pastor who last week in his church, with Al Gore standing next to him, prayed, "And dear God, please let the Democrats win"? The double standard for religious left and religious right has been there for years, but perhaps, with the media interest in Lieberman's faith, it is about to end.

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