Faith and American Presidency

The first contested election in United States was the one of 1796 when the main contestants were  Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Jefferson lost the election as Adams portrayed him as secularist while painting himself as a man of faith. Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers, who was behind the separation of Church and State learned quickly and for the election of 1800 he changed his tactic.

Both political parties reached out to Christian voters. Federalists praised Adams’ public support for religious institutions; their opponents trumpeted Jefferson’s passion for religious liberty. Each side claimed its candidate was a Christian–or at least as good a Christian as the other guy. By all accounts, Evangelicals still voted overwhelmingly for Adams but not in sufficient numbers to overcome the popular surge for Jefferson’s party, which captured the presidency and both houses of Congress. Adams later blamed his defeat on fears that he was too tied to Evangelicals.[Declarations of Faith]

Faith, thus is an important part of American elections and every candidate makes sure that they assert their religious credentials — even the liberals.

Hilary Clinton’s devout Christianity has shaped her liberalism. She told New York Times that her Methodist faith has been “a huge part of who I am, and how I have seen the world and what I believe in, and what I have tried to do in my life.” She carries a Bible on her campaign travels and confidently quotes from St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and John Wesley, the father of Methodism.

Another liberal, Barak Obama, proudly projects his Christianity and delivers many of his key campaign speeches before church congregations. It comes as a surprise to many secular Indians that the very liberal President Jimmy Carter describes himself as a Bible evangelist, and asserts that his Christian faith provided the moral compass to guide his presidency. [Was the US Senate Attack on Hinduism an isolated Instance?]

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