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Religious Freedom

Religion in Political Campaigns


Summary of Policy and Recommendations
  • ADL is opposed to the solicitation of political support on the basis of religion, race, or ethnic background.  


  • Candidates should feel comfortable explaining their religious convictions to voters and commenting about their own religious perspectives.  At the same time, however, we believe there is a point at which the emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours.


  • ADL opposes religious leaders endorsing political candidates from their pulpits.

Background

The Anti-Defamation League is extremely concerned about the appropriate role of religion and attestations of a specific religious faith or tradition in the political election process.  ADL is opposed to the solicitation of support on the basis of religion, race, or ethnic background.
 
ADL is against appeals to religious, racial, or ethnic bias in political campaigns.  ADL believes that voters should be encouraged to make their decisions based upon their assessment of the qualifications, integrity and political positions of candidates.  Appealing to voters along religious lines can be divisive, and contrary to the ideal of including all Americans in the political process, regardless of whether they are in a religious minority or ascribe to no faith tradition.  

Of course, ADL expects that many candidates for public office will be religious and ADL anticipates that these candidates will, from time to time, express their religious beliefs  and how these beliefs shape their worldview and policy positions.  Candidates should not be discouraged from seeking office because their convictions and positions are influenced by their religious faith, nor should they be expected to hide their religious views from the electorate. 

Freedom of religion is one of our nation’s most cherished liberties, and safeguarding that freedom is one of ADL’s highest priorities.  ADL supports and respects the right of any candidate for public office to believe and to worship as he or she chooses.  Candidates should feel comfortable explaining their religious convictions to voters and commenting about their own religious perspectives.  At the same time, however, we believe there is a point at which the emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours.

It is impossible to state exactly when a candidate’s religious speech crosses the line from commenting on his/her own religious perspective to making an appeal to voters based upon religion.  Determining the threshold is not an exact science, nor does it need to be.  Candidates should exercise good judgment and be sensitive to the fact that the American electorate is politically and religiously diverse.
 
ADL opposes religious leaders endorsing political candidates from their pulpits.  As tax-exempt religious institutions, houses of worship are appropriately prohibited from any direct or indirect participation or intervention in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.  This wise restriction has enabled religious institutions to flourish in this country, free from government interference or politicization. 

Printable Version
ADL Recommendations to RNC and DNC Platforms (.pdf)
Related Press Release
ADL Submits Policy Priorities to Democratic and Republican Platform Committees (7/21/08)
RELATED
Statements on Issues Related to the 2008 Campaign
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