A meeting of conservative evangelicals in Texas last weekend included James Dobson, John Hagee, and the leader of group that sponsored Rick Perry’s prayer rally in Houston last year. Presumably, they are attempting to influence the Republican primary race to exclude Mitt Romney from the nomination. And Texas is no stranger to religious leaders mixing politics into their sermonizing – after all, just last fall Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas repeated his oft-echoed attack on Romney’s faith, calling it a “cult.”
Of course, even though churches in the United States are forbidden from endorsing candidates, many either come precariously close or explicitly violate this law, such as with “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” organized by the Alliance Defense Fund.
I can’t help but look askance at any religious leader that would use his or her position to influence a citizen’s vote. Are they so certain of God’s political favor that endorsing a candidate seems like a reasonable option? Why, then, do candidates from all points on the political spectrum seem to find religious endorsements? How can God be in favor of both a conservative AND a liberal candidate at the same time?
What about Humanists and Freethinkers, though? I think the same risks apply. Although there may be some significant common ground on certain political issues, secular Americans are by no means plagued by a single-mindedness when it comes to political interests. It’s the common practice of such organizations as the Fellowship of Freethought in Dallas to avoid any pretense of support for any political candidate, and I would encourage any similar group to adopt the same policy.
As it happens, the Texas meeting produced (after several ballots) a coalition of support for Rick Santorum. Unfortunately for him, this endorsement appears to have had little effect.