We asked the question this summer of whether a Woman could become President of the United States, and we decided that there was nothing in the Constitution that did not permit a woman from running. Now, with the first primaries soon to hit us, the question turns to a different subject– can a Pastor (or religious leader) become President of the United States?
It’s interesting to ask this question, though one could immediately jump to the conclusion of “yes” because it’s not as obvious as you would think.
No Religious Test
The Constitution specifically spells out there is no religious test to hold office. This is something that you can definitely see coming from a group that believed that they came to the new world for religious freedom, particularly from the British Anglican Church.
The interesting part comes into play when you look at some of the state’s laws. Georgia’s Constitution actually had a provision in it that said that no religious leader (pastor, priest, etc.) could hold office in that state. Why? Could it be that they had seen what had happened in the past when other countries had given power to church figures?
And the funny thing is that legally a Pastor can run, but a former pastor (Mike Huckabee) and a former Mormon religious leader (Mitt Romney) cannot escape questions about their faith. Good Morning America and others ask Huckabee about whether his motto of Faith, Family, Country would mean that he would trump the government for his faith. Romney is asked if he is in a cult.
We’re trying to elect a President, not choose a pastor, but the temptation to blend the two together make you wonder whether or not it’s possible for a Pastor to become President.
Years of Taking a Stand
One of the greatest assets a preacher has in running for public office is that they are usually comfortable around people, they know how to give speeches that come to the point (call you to action, point out places that you should change) and they’re generally likable. Huckabee has this in spades. You can’t come away from listening to the guy without appreciating his straightforwardness and presentation skills– even if you don’t agree with him.
One of the greatest problems, however, is that pastors are usually known for taking stands in sermons– and if they aren’t, there are plenty of other pastors that have. That’s why you see all the questions about Creation / Evolution, and other potentially fractious questions being asked of Huckabee and Romney. These questions don’t have anything to do with what kind of President the person could be, but seem more aimed at trying to pit factions in the religions themselves against each other. Which leads to the biggest problem…
A Hostile Media
The media are not neutral. Humans are not free from bias. The media come across as skeptical if not antagonistic towards religion, and any case to make people who are religious look bad, or to fracture them, seems to be taken. So, we have all these questions that are not about policy but are about beliefs. Do I care that my President believes in a literal 6-day creation?
The other negative impact of the hostile media is that in a world with the Internet and decades of footage it’s easy to slip and say something inconsistent. Hence all of the polling questions being dug up from 1992 on Huckabee where he says things that might not have been bad thought at the time, but are not politically expedient now.
It can cause a candidate to start to hedge their answers if they notice that a question does not go away no matter how many times it is asked. And the questions about faith keep coming– even to Romney who probably thought he’d answered them all when he gave that speech in Iowa.
Can a pastor become President? I’m wondering if one can win a nomination!
There’s really two wings of the Republican party trying to see who’s top dog. And whoever comes out on top, if they lose the general election that’s going to make that wing look bad and the other stronger. The trick is not damaging each other so much that they are bruised and beaten going into the general election.