Rick Santorum, Faith Leaders Want You To Quit Using Religion As ‘Political Football’

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has been notable for his use of religious invective in the 2012 race.

A diverse coalition of religious leaders wants the folks running for president this year to quit using religion to get votes.

The collection of faith groups on Tuesday issued what it calls an “Interfaith Statement of Principles,” calling on the presidential candidates and all candidates for public office this election year to help ensure decency, honesty and fair play in elections by conducting campaigns that honor our nation’s traditions of religious liberty and avoid sowing religious discord.

“I have been deeply disturbed by the disproportionate role religion has played during recent election cycles with some candidates seeming to be running for pastor-in-chief rather than commander-in-chief,” says Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, one of the signatories to the principles. “Candidates are free to speak about their faith ––if it’s important to them ––as a way of giving voters insight on who they are, but a line is crossed when a candidate implies that they should receive your vote because of their faith. Religion is not a political football to be used by candidates for tactical advantage, instead it should be a force that brings diverse people together with mutual respect and understanding.”

The coalition, which runs the gamut from the American Islamic Congress to the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, doesn’t name names. But it’s not hard to imagine who their message is aimed at: ascendant GOP hopeful Rick Santorum.

‘Religious Discord’

A former conservative senator from Pennsylvania, Santorum has rocketed to the top of the Republican presidential field even as he and his backers have made a number of statements laced with religious invective.

Notably, for instance, Santorum has attacked President Obama for promoting a “phony theology” not “based on the Bible.”

The coalition behind the new statement of principles says candidates bear the primary responsibility for setting the proper tone for elections, and calls on all candidates for public office to:

  • Serve and be responsive to the full range of constituents, irrespective of
    their religion;
  • Conduct their campaigns without appeals for support based upon religion;
  • Reject appeals or messages to voters that reflect religious prejudice, bias or
    stereotyping;
  • And avoid statements, actions or conduct that are intended primarily to encourage division in the electorate along religious lines.

“Candidates do not have to check their religion at the door of the offices they seek. But they need to understand that they serve people of other faiths and of no faith. Resorting to religious language that sets people of faith against each other harms political discourse and sows religious discord,” says J. Brent Walker, executive director, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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