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"Article VI" good to see before casting primary vote

An interesting addition to the political landscape that connects to politics in Louisiana is the documentary film “Article VI” co-directed by Bryan Hall and co-produced by former Shreveporter Reed Dickens the statewide premier of which occurred Monday at LSUS. It raises provocative questions that, among others around the country, Louisiana voters will have to grapple with over the upcoming days as votes are cast in the presidential preference primary.

Its timing and content contributes to the debate about the next occupant of the White House (the goal of the film, Hall and Dickens say, to make people think about how religious belief affects these choices) because the 2008 presidential election seems to be producing the most specific questioning of particular religious beliefs of candidates in recent memory. To be simplistic if not crass, major candidates include one whose religion just over a century ago practiced polygamy, another who has preached Bible inerrancy, a third who was in his youth educated in schools whose religious backers maintain the acceptability of holy war, and a fourth whose religious leaders forbid him to receive Communion.

Perhaps the central point made by the film through the vehicle of asking people, usually with some prominence in the political, academic, or religious sectors, about the intersection of religion and politics (its title refers to that section of the Constitution which states “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”) is that, while the Constitution does not demand a religious test, some people do supply one when they evaluate candidates. Related to this, it then begs the question whether a myopic view of the specific religious beliefs of individuals would, in the minds of some, disqualify candidates who in most every other respect would gain that particular person’s vote.

By way of example, Pres. Ronald Reagan was divorced (only the second president ever) and, until latter in life, only an occasional attendee of Presbyterian services (he seldom attended services during his presidency because of the public complications and distractions involved). Yet Reagan, who would describe himself as “born-again,” was well-known for forcefully championing a number of issue preferences that Christians, particularly evangelicals, liked and in his private life placed much emphasis on basing his own actions on religious belief.

In contrast, Pres. Bill and his wife, now presidential candidate and Sen. Hillary Clinton were regular attendees of (a very liberal) church in Washington (although they had attended a Baptist church in Arkansas). Yet many faithful questioned not only Clinton’s issue preferences that did not seem very Godly to them, but also acts in his personal life as president as well.

It’s this question about how voters consider the translation of the political beliefs of candidates into actual policy that looms as presidential party nominees are decided. To cite just one example, on issues that matter to Christians one prominent pro-evangelical organization gives high praise to former Gov. Mitt Romney even as it asserts Romney “admitted” his Mormonism was not a “Christian” religion – an inference the Romney campaign says is not accurate. Even if the organization appears to be reticent to appear as granting approval of Romney’s specific religious beliefs, it has no such hesitation concerning his campaign.

Especially for Republican voters in a state which on the one hand is a fertile ground for Protestant evangelical beliefs but on the other hand displays a fair degree of religious tolerance because of the presence of a substantial Catholic population, Louisiana will serve as one of the more interesting laboratories of how people’s perceptions of the prominence of a candidate’s specific religious beliefs play out in their vote decisions. In fact, on the GOP side it may make the difference in who wins the most delegates – especially if things work out so convention delegates a week after the primary end up making that apportionment. “Article VI” would make some good watching for them as they pondered that decision.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yah, it looks like religion will be a big factor among evangelicals supporting Huckabee (and opposing Romney), just as race will in those supporting Obama, just as gender will among those supporting Hillary, from the point of view of their supportive demographics. I wonder what this will portend when so many of these groups portray themselves to be oppressed minorities, when regardless of message they broadcast they receive so much support from those who identify with their struggle, and those who disregard big red flags like Mrs. Clinton and her Saul Alinsky penchant.