moving into the summer, the American public found itself staring at a slate of candidates who were unprecedented — with religious persuasion and expression among many stark contrasts. On the GOP side stood golden-maned Donald Trump, a Presbyterian
who has attended Marble Collegiate Church — although that
Manhattan church contends he is not an active member. On the
Democratic side stood a nonpracticing Jew and socialist, Bernie
Sanders, and a lifelong United Methodist, Hillary Clinton, who
invokes her faith sparingly, commenting during a 2008 presidential
primary debate that she is reticent about “advertising” it.
“There are so many subplots that deal with religion in political
campaigns,” says David Hawkings ’82, senior editor of the political
and congressional news service CQ Roll Call. “Like so many things
in campaign 2016, those subplots are more melodramatic. I’m
relatively certain that no viable candidate for federal office, let
alone the presidency, has advocated setting an immigration policy
based on religion. Those of us inside the beltway thought Trump
would be done in by this, but it will be remembered by history that
this was one of his pathways to the nomination.”
EMBRACING THE FAITH — OR NOT
A candidate’s embrace of faith — or lack thereof — has been an
important factor in voting patterns in past presidential elections.
“Religion remains an important part of politically relevant identity
for voters,” confirms Professor Scott Meinke, political science.
“There is a sharp divide in recent political elections between those
who are religious and those who are not. The latter are more likely
to side with Democrats.”
A poll released in July by the Pew Research Center: Religion &
Public Life indicated the trend would likely hold for the 2016
presidential election. The report noted that evangelicals were even
more solidly lining up for Trump than they did for Mitt Romney
Presidential candidates test
the relevance of religion in
this electoral cycle.
By Sherri Kimmel • Illustration by Nancy Harrison