Newsflash: Campaign faith workers think religion doesn’t belong in politics

AP President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talk at the end of the … Continued

AP

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talk at the end of the first presidential debate in Denver on Oct. 3, 2012.

Newsflash: Religion doesn’t really matter in politics. This tidbit comes from an unlikely source, the people who work to mobilize faith communities for the Obama and Romney campaigns.

Even if it flies in the face of all research, this argument isn’t new to the religion reporters who heard it during a politics and religion panel on Friday. That’s because we’ve been largely shut out for many months in our efforts to get the campaigns to open access to their organized faith outreach – where they go, who they talk with, what their strategy is.

Both campaigns had people on a panel at the annual Religion Newswriters Association’s annual conference in suburban D.C. to discuss the campaigns’ efforts to reach various faith communities and to deal with faith-related issues that come up. Even as people on both sides said they were extremely busy in their positions, they said religion didn’t really have much of a place in politics.

“I don’t view myself as having job of speaking about my candidate’s faith. I’m speaking about his candidacy for the office of the presidency,” said Mark DeMoss, an evangelical communications executive who advises the Romney campaign on a volunteer basis. “I don’t go around talking about his faith. I talk about him.”

Michael Wear, national faith vote coordinator for the Obama campaign, said “I don’t feel it’s my responsibility and the president certainly doesn’t feel it’s his responsibility to convince anyone of his faith.”

The campaign advisers told journalists that the focus is the economy, even when it comes to the faith team. For the Democrats, a key faith proxy have been a group of Catholic nuns who have launched visible trips on buses and ferries to put an ethical stamp on the president’s economic vision. For the Republicans, that’s included well-known Christian conservative activist Ralph Reed and his plan to urge religious conservatives to support tax cuts.

There’s no question religion is a risky area for both candidates. Obama saw his campaign four years ago nearly swallowed by debate about his longtime pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Millions of Americans still incorrectly believe he’s Muslim. Romney knows many Americans are unfamiliar with the Mormon faith.

Will faith outreach seem so irrelevant four years from now with potentially two different candidates?


View Photo Gallery: Moments when faith and politics intersect during the 2012 campaign.

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  • sdmnw1976

    It is interesting to note that when Jesus Christ was here on earth, he did not involve himself in politics. In fact, he went out of his way to avoid politics. John 6:15 says “Therefore Jesus, knowing they were about to come and seize him to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain all alone.” He made it perfectly clear to his followers that while they were to be good, responsible, and respectful citizens under whichever government they happened to be living under (“Pay back Caesar’s things to Caeser…” Mark 12:17) they were not to involve themselves in politics. (John 17:14-16, John 15:19, John 18:36, ect) Why? What was the focus and purpose of Jesus’ earthly ministry? Luke 4:43 says “But he said to them: “Also, to other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for THIS I was sent forth.” In his famous ‘model’ or ‘Lord’s Prayer’, he taught his followers to pray for God’s kingdom to come. The work that he commissioned his followers to undertake had nothing to do with politics…it was to “preach the good news of God’s kingdom”. (Matthew 24:14, Matthew 28:19,20)