New York, NY, January 6, 2004 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), concerned about the growing emphasis on religion in the presidential race, today called on all candidates to keep in mind that "there is a line that must be drawn when emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate in our religiously diverse society."
"Candidates should feel comfortable explaining their religious convictions to voters," said Barbara B. Balser, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "However, we feel strongly that appealing to voters on the basis of religion is contrary to the American ideal and can be inherently divisive, wrongly suggesting that a candidate's religious beliefs should be a litmus test for public office."
Those remarks were part of a letter sent to President George W. Bush and each of the nine candidates seeking the Democratic Party nomination: Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, Gen. Wesley Clark, Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. John Edwards, Rep. Dick Gephardt, Sen. John Kerry, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Sen. Joe Lieberman and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
The letter was prompted, in part, by recent statements in the campaign. ADL noted that Gov. Dean has made several references to religion in recent days, including "I'm pretty religious … I pray every day, but I'm from New England so I just keep it to myself." Likewise, Sen. Lieberman recently brought up religion when he said: "They (the candidates) forget that the constitutional separation of church and state, which I strongly support, promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."
ADL's letter urged the candidates to bear in mind that, "voters should be encouraged to make their decisions based upon their assessment of the qualifications and political positions of the candidates, not their religiosity."