“Faith Forum” Outright Religious Test for Public Office

News Release & Action Alert: CNN Crosses the Line, Again

Nearly a year ago, when CNN broadcast a presidential faith forum last June, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a statement condemning the imposition of a religious test for public office.

CNN has jettisoned any pretense of objectivity and professionalism by continuing to make candidates genuflect before religious leaders, parrot piety, and pledge allegiance to religion.

The founders of our nation felt so strongly that there should be no religious test for public office that they prohibited it (see U.S. Constitution, Art. VI). That constitutional bar is meaningless in today’s political climate, if politicians, in order to be electable, must not only sing in the choir, but sing from the same hymnbook. When did “faith” become a qualification, much less a prerequisite, for public office?

Sunday’s so-called CNN Faith and Politicis Compassion Forum, bizarrely taking place at the obscure Messiah College in Grantham, Penn., involved such questions from CNN’s hosts as:

“You have actually felt the presence of the Holy Spirit on many occasions. Share some of those occasions with us.”

“Do you have a favorite bible story?”

“So you believe God wants you to be president?”

“Do you believe that God intervenes in hisory and rewards or punishes people or nations in real time for their behavior?”

“Senator, if one of your daughters asked you–and maybe they already have–‘Daddy, did God really create the world in six days?’ What would you say?”

“Can you tell us how he [your pastor] helped bring you closer to God?”

This is a journalistic embarrassment, not bonafide campaign questions. CNN and hosts Campbell Brown and Jon Meacham of Newsweek should be ashamed. The event had no secular representative, but boasted as audience questioners a Catholic, a rabbi, the head of the Southern Baptists, a Muslim. Only one question (from the Muslim) mentioned nonbelievers in passing. Not all the questions were on religious topics (thankfully). But the ugly assumption of the compassion forum was that religion has a monopoly on virtue, and that nonreligious people cannot be part of a debate on compassion. CNN ought to show some compassion . . . to its thinking audience!

While the GOP candidate, who has freely courted the religious right, felt free to skip this forum, the Democratic contenders have been so brainwashed that they fear above all being labeled irreligious if they boycott such “events.” What a dismaying development. It’s a no-win situation for the candidates, for (bored) viewers, and above all, for the Constitution.

Who needs a religious-right lobby when we have the media taking over the religious agenda?

Jonathan Klein, President CNN
One Time Warner Center
New York NY 10019

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., is a national association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics) that has been working since 1978 to keep church and state separate.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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