The religious right nationally, and persons of Utah’s predominant religion locally, have increasingly put a litmus test on acceptable political leaders. Believe like us or you are not acceptable or qualified to be a political or governmental leader. I find this belief frightening and yet it seems to be growing each year. The holders of this belief seem to have forgotten that one of the primary reasons for Europeans to head to the new world was for religious freedom. The Mormons migrated to Utah for religious freedom. But this growing sentiment that a candidate must espouse the orthodoxy or such candidate is not worthy to be elected is troubling.
One of the things I studied so many years ago in my political science classes at the University of Utah was the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
The next two paragraphs are from (http://www.vahistorical.org/sva2003/vsrf.htm)
The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom is a statement about both freedom of conscience and the principle of separation of church and state. Written by Thomas Jefferson and passed by the Virginia General Assembly on January 16, 1786, it is the forerunner of the first amendment protections for religious freedom. Divided into three paragraphs, the statute is rooted in Jefferson's philosophy. It could be passed in Virginia because Dissenting sects there (particularly Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists) had petitioned strongly during the preceding decade for religious liberty, including the separation of church and state.
Jefferson had argued in the Declaration of Independence that "the laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle [man]…." The first paragraph of the religious statute proclaims one of those entitlements, freedom of thought. To Jefferson, "Nature's God," who is undeniably visible in the workings of the universe, gives man the freedom to choose his religious beliefs. This is the divinity whom deists of the time accepted—a God who created the world and is the final judge of man, but who does not intervene in the affairs of man. This God who gives man the freedom to believe or not to believe is also the God of the Christian sects. (http://www.vahistorical.org/sva2003/vsrf.htm)
Here is Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom. Read it carefully and ask yourself how you feel about.
"An Act for establishing religious Freedom.
Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;
2. That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;
3. That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;
4. That even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;
5. That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry,
6. That therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right,
7. That it tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it;
8. That though indeed, these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;
9. That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;
10. That it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;
11. And finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:
Be it enacted by General Assembly that
· no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever,
· nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods,
· nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief,
· but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.
And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law;
yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right."
I think that the religious right should understand that not only should the government not control the religious right’s religion or anyone else's religion, but the religious right should not have their religion control the government or governmental leaders.