Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney are the first major candidates to form exploratory committees. Other possible candidates – Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Michelle Bachman and Donald Trump among them – may formally throw their hats into the ring in the coming months.
And rest assured, they are all already talking like candidates. Ms. Bachman has said her decision to enter the race will be based on a calling from God. Mr. Gingrich has made faith a central theme as he positions himself telling audiences that the “cultural elite” have “driven [God] out of public life.” And Sarah Palin has repeatedly dismissed the concept of church-state separation. Then there’s Donald Trump, who took the opportunity to shore up his religious bona fides in a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s The Brody File.
The 2008 election cycle saw every major candidate for president – Democrat and Republican – attempt to use religion for political gain. 2012 is shaping up to be no different. Interfaith Alliance is already hard at work to counter attempts by candidates to use religion as a political tool. Our popular election year guide for candidates is being updated and will be distributed to candidates at all levels across the country in an effort to educate them on not just what is legally permissible, but what is ethically acceptable.
Interfaith Alliance’s message to candidates is not that they should avoid all talk of religion, but rather that a line is crossed when the candidate implies that voters should support him or her because of his or her faith, or worse yet, that God is supporting him or her. It is a safe assumption to make, regardless of your belief system, that God will not be making an endorsement in this race.