Religion pervades political, election talk

Kara Haight

While the fate of the presidency rides on secular issues like the economy and environment, faith and religious-based subjects, too, have become relevant in recent months. Although hard-hitting topics like abortion and social justice stand prevalent and bring heated discussion, other academic programs have just as much at stake with this election.

“If Romney won, he would probably reinstate the ban (on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research),” said Sheldon Kopperl, a religious studies professor at Grand Valley State University. Kopperl explained that groups supporting Romney and his campaign would be opposed to funding the research.

When President Barack Obama was elected into office, he removed the prohibition of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and the state of Michigan decided that both state and federal funds would be used to continue the research. However, that would most likely change with a Romney victory.

Diane Maodush-Pitzer of the GVSU religious studies program, said issues surrounding responsibility will also be important in the upcoming election, since it’s a topic where each candidate tends to differ.

“Obama’s platform is leaning towards a common responsibility, while Romney’s is probably more inclined to say that these are important issues, but other organizations can attend to them,” Maodush-Pitzer said.

The parties behind these candidates have continued to hold similar stances on society.

“The republican party focuses on individuality, and the capability of ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,’” said Landon Hughes, a GVSU political science student. “The democratic party views society as more of a fluid object with a collective attitude.”

The different stances on “responsibility” feed into the debate of social justice, which is another religious concern inherent in the opposing purposes of the Republican and Democratic parties.

The election outcome won’t only affect religion in the legislative branch, though.

“The president is the only person federally elected by everyone,” Hughes said. “(That means) their power is vast and can extend into every branch of government.”

One action that will indirectly affect religion in the U.S. will be the future president’s appointment of Supreme Court judges, who will have to make decisions about religious-based social issues in the country.

Who takes the court seats will depend on who takes the presidency.

“With judges over 70 years old and some sick, the next president may have the opportunity to appoint up to three new judges (during their term),” Kopperl said.

Whoever is appointed must weigh in on decisions such as what aspects of religion are permitted in schools, what is to be done with public prayer and the presentation of the Ten Commandments in public areas, and even what is to come of the ongoing argument of Roe v. Wade.

Though the president himself will not influence these changes, his judges will.

While the election outcome could have an effect on religious practice in the U.S., religion also affects the election. The candidates’ stands on certain issues do have an impact on which religious groups tend to side—and ultimately vote—for each candidate.

“The Jewish vote is usually democratic because of the party’s stance on social justice issues,” Kopperl said. “Romney’s relationship with the Prime Minister of Israel may help him receive more Jewish voters, but Obama will probably still get most of the Jewish vote.”

Polls of Muslim voters have also shown a favor in Obama, which Kopperl said is probably because one of the pillars of Islam centers around social justice.

“Social justice is an important topic in all religions,” he said, adding that Hinduism also values that aspect of the campaigns.

Regardless of what each candidate does or does not propose for this country, one thing is certain: religious practice and the election are interdependent topics that pervade the present society.

For more information on candidates’ religious backgrounds and stances on religious-based issues, visit the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life at

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