In 2004, religious faith and values may have very well decided the election between President George W. Bush and his Democratic rival John Kerry. Controversial issues such as abortion, same sex marriage and stem cell research are the reasons, many political pundits believe, that states such as Ohio and Florida voted red.
However, in 2008 abortion is still a hot-button issue, as is the definition of marriage and stem cell research. How do the candidates stand on the issues of life and how will their religious faith affect their possible presidency?
Obama, who did not grow up in a religious household, has since embraced the teachings of Christianity, and in June 2006 delivered what some consider the most important speech by a politician on religious faith since John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne wrote on June 30, 2006 that, “(Obama’s speech on faith) may be the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy’s Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the Vatican … Obama offers the first faith testimony I have heard from any politician that speaks honestly about the uncertainties of belief.”
In the speech, delivered at an evangelical church, Obama spoke about his own religious conversion and doubts, and the need for religious faith to unite Americans and not divide them.
“We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding but find our expressions of faith sowing division; we believe ourselves to be a tolerant people even as racial, religious, and cultural tensions roil the landscape. And instead of resolving these tensions or mediating these conflicts, our politics fans them, exploits them, and drives us further apart,” Obama wrote in his book The Audacity of Hope.
Nevertheless, McCain’s religious beliefs also seems to play a huge role in his politics as he sees human dignity and the sanctity of life as important issues for the next president. McCain believes Roe v. Wade is flawed and should be overturned. He plans to appoint federal judges who will reverse the 1973 ruling on abortion, and give the question of abortion’s legality to the 50 states.
“At its core, abortion is a human tragedy,” said the Republican nominee. “To effect meaningful change, we must engage the debate at a human level.”
The Arizona senator, who with his wife Cindy adopted a little girl from Mother Teresa’s Bangladesh orphanage in 1993, believe adoption should be encouraged for any woman contemplating abortion. He also wants to remove barriers that prevent interracial and inter-ethnic adoptions.
Religious faith is at the core of the same sex marriage debate. According to McCain’s official website, “The family represents the foundation of Western Civilization and civil society and John McCain believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman. It is only this definition that sufficiently recognizes the vital and unique role played by mothers and fathers in the raising of children, and the role of the family in shaping, stabilizing, and strengthening communities and our nation.”
Joe Biden stated that he and Obama favor the traditional definition of marriage, but Obama has stated that he opposes constitutional amendments that define marriage as between one man and one woman.
Furthermore, McCain favors banning the intentional creation of human embryos for scientific research. He also favors banning all forms of human cloning. McCain believes that schools and libraries should block all children from accessing Internet pornography and favors requiring sexual predators to register all online accounts in a national database, which would result in a 10 year prison sentence if they fail to register.
As a result of both candidates’ religious faith, very few will doubt whether values will play a role in their administration, but only time will tell if religious faith will play a role in the election results like it did four years ago.