Ken Starr: “Can I vote for a Mormon?”

In an op-ed published yesterday, Ken Starr asked, “Can I vote for a Mormon?” Starr argued yes, the tradition of American constitutional democracy promotes religious tolerance for elected officials:

“In fashioning [the constitution], the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia made it absolutely clear that no religious test should ever be imposed to hold office. The Founders also made clear that religious dissenters (such as the Quakers) should not be compelled to take an oath if doing so would be a violation of conscience. Building on those twin pillars of tolerance, the Supreme Court at its finest moments has likewise vigorously defended the right of all persons to participate in the democratic process, including holding office, without the burden of religious tests or qualifications."

"In fact, a number of great presidents have come to the White House without membership in any faith community. Thomas Jefferson was a Deist and was vigorously attacked for his religious views (or lack thereof). Abraham Lincoln, as a matter of conscience, refused to join any church. Yet our nation’s capital rightly dedicates two of its most stately monuments to those two men of unorthodox spiritual worldviews."

"Citizens as voters do well when they pause to reflect on our nation’s history and traditions. If an unbeliever such as Jefferson or non-churchman like Lincoln can serve brilliantly as president, then America should stand — in an intolerant world characterized all too frequently by religious persecution — as a stirring example of welcoming hospitality for highly qualified men and women of good will seeking the nation’s highest office. Life experience, personal qualities and policy views are the pivotal points to guide Americans as they go to the polls in 2012."

Read the full piece here.

Weigh in: What role does a politician’s religion play in your decision to vote? Should it be a factor? Has Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith negatively impacted his chances at being elected in 2012?

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