Voters wondering if they can vote for a Mormon as president of the United States would do well to examine the nation’s “traditions of welcoming religious forbearance,” former special prosecutor and Baylor University President Ken Starr writes in an Op-Ed article published in The Washington Post
Starr notes that the nation's history, Supreme Court rulings and provisions of the Constitution -- “the oldest Constitution in the history of the planet” -- make clear that “no religious test should ever be imposed to hold office. The Founders also made clear that religious dissenters [such as Quakers] should not be compelled to take an oath if doing so would be a violation of conscience.”
Starr added that “a number of great presidents have come to the White House without membership in any faith community.
“Thomas Jefferson was a Deist and was vigorously attacked for his religious views [or lack thereof],” Starr wrote. “Abraham Lincoln, as a matter of conscience, refused to join any church. Yet our nation’s capital rightly dedicates two of its most stately monuments to those two men of unorthodox spiritual world views.”
Starr acknowledges that in his own life he has “drawn great strength from my religious practices” but added that “the litmus for our elected leaders must not be the church they attend but the Constitution they defend.
“Citizens as voters do well when they pause to reflect on our nation’s history and traditions,” he concludes. “If an unbeliever such as Jefferson or non-churchman like Lincoln can serve brilliantly as president, then America should stand — in an intolerant world characterized all too frequently by religious persecution — as a stirring example of welcoming hospitality for highly qualified men and women of good will seeking the nation’s highest office. Life experience, personal qualities and policy views are the pivotal points to guide Americans as they go to the polls in 2012.”
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