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Saturday, March 17, 2012

TEXAS FAITH: How much of a candidate's religion is fair game?

What's the difference between probing a candidate's religious beliefs and probing a candidate's involvement in promoting or even acquiescing in the activities of a religious institution?

Texas Faith panelists respond, here is Mike’s response;

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

Probing into a candidate's personal religious beliefs is necessary to understand if he or she is propped up to push a certain narrow exclusive agenda of his religious group. However, mere affiliation should not be an issue, as each one of us belongs to a group. President Obama's affiliation with Rev Jeremiah's church did not matter. The stuff Limbaugh says should not be slapped onto fellow Republicans either, unless they subscribe to his specific act of bigotry.

Even if candidate Romney was actively involved or directly contributed funds towards the position of the Mormon Church in Los Angeles against the same sex marriage, it was his right, but if that position was exclusively his church's position and no other groups subscribed to it, then it must be evaluated through the democratic process. Indeed, Romney made a clear statement by "telling the reporters with theological questions to ask the church."

President Kennedy passed through that hurdle with utmost clarity, "So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again--not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me--but what kind of America I believe in." No wonder, Mitt Romney has chosen ""Believe in America" as his campaign slogan.

After reciting the issues facing the nation, President Kennedy capped it with, "These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues--for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers." Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has been abundantly clear on where he stands - to create jobs and get the economy going again.

When people don't want to see the other, in anything other than their own fixated image, they have committed the most egregious of all errors; forcing one to be in some pigeon hole that he or she doesn't belong. Indeed, that is the mother of all stereotyping.
America is a unique nation, there is nothing like her on this planet, and I hope we are contagious to pass on our values to other nations. With an exception of a few among us, most of the born and immigrant Americans become an ingredient in the stew, and have learned to respect the otherness of others and accepted the God given uniqueness of each one of us, and we have ways to go.

The Jews and Muslims do not eat pork, but the meat they eat is Kosher/ Halal processed. However, they will never ever dream of forcing others to eat what they eat. The Hindus will never force any one not to eat beef. America does it to all of us, makes us more accepting of the differences. Whether it is a Mormon, Catholic, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Native American or the other, none will fathom pushing his or her values onto others. It is our system that shapes our public stand, despite a few misogynist bigots among the candidate line up.

I can relate with Romney's position; as a Pluralist whose religion is Islam, I face similar criticism every now and then, even here in the pages of Dallas Morning News. As a neutralist on the issue of Israel and Palestine, I still face some criticism from the Jewish right and the Muslim right. If Romney were a pastor of the Mormon Church, he most certainly would have pushed for his agenda, the same Romney running for public office, will not push his narrow agenda on to others.

I believe in American exceptionalism; not the way defined by Gingrich or Santorum, but the way an average American practices it; to live and let live. Romney as a Mormon is as American as any evangelical or an Atheist American. The greatness of America is reflective in our ability to choose the person based on what he can do for the nation and not what he looks, eats, drinks, wears or believes.

Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, commentator on national radio network, writes weekly at Dallas Morning News and bi monthly at Huffington post, The Smirking Chimp and other periodicals. His daily blog is www.TheGhousediary.com

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