As the presidential campaign trail heats up, so does the issue of religion, but not with the religious right. Sen. Barack Obama underscores faith as a regular item on his campaign docket — while the GOP largely ignores it at campaign stumps.
Bobby Carson, the editor-in-chief of the Ram Republic, a monthly conservative newsletter on campus, said the Democrats are trying to steal the GOP’s stereotypical thunder as “the religious right.”
“The Democrats are coming out trying to take the religious votes from the right,” Carson said. “They haven’t done that in quite some time.”
John Straayer, a political science professor at CSU, echoed Carson’s observation, noting the differences in religious platforms by both candidates.
“The Democrats have been viewed by many as a secular party, not opposed to religion but not into promoting it,” said Straayer. “Now they’re trying to connect with churchgoers and religious voters, and in doing so may have moderate success in softening their image.”
Throughout his campaign, Obama’s platform has advocated tolerance, insisting that America’s diverse culture requires a different religious policy.
“Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation . at least not just,” Obama said in a public statement about the issue.
And Sen. John McCain, the new figurehead of the party of Christianity, emphasizes traditional family values at the top of his priority list, but has replaced faith, which guided much of his predecessor’s campaign rhetoric, with an emphasis on foreign policy experience.
“McCain has attempted to be more moderate than the religious right to differentiate himself from Bush,” Straayer said.
Kama Baugher, president of the Adventist Christian Fellowship at CSU, said while religion had its place in each candidate’s platform, it was not the deciding factor.
“Religion takes a small role in my decision,” Baugher said. “I would vote for an atheist if he or she were in line with my opinions.”
The Democratic National Convention in Denver opened with prayers from various religious groups, including officials from Catholic, Islamic and Jewish faiths.
Seeing the left stray from the previous campaign efforts of the 2004 Kerry/Edwards ticket that placed heavy emphasis on separation of church and state, Carson said the Democrats are trying to take the reigns of Christian influence to dominate the religious vote.
With this reappearance of religion in each campaign, some members of the religious community have begun to look more closely at the candidates and their positions.
However, for many religious voters the issue of religion and faith will play a small role in their decision in November.
A supporter of Senator McCain, Baugher appreciated the lack of religious focus in the senator’s campaign.
“I like how he keeps the religion out with a separation of church and state,” Baugher said. “However, I do appreciate Obama’s honesty in saying ‘This is my faith.’ . Faith is integral to humans but it shouldn’t be forced onto other humans. I vote on a candidate’s position on the issues, not whether they go to church every week.”
Staff writer Alexandra Sieh can be reached at email@example.com.