ADL Letter to Senator Joseph Lieberman
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10 Frequently Asked Questions About Religion and Politics

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August 28, 2000
The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Lieberman:

We are writing to express concern about your statements yesterday to the congregation of Detroit's Fellowship Chapel which, according to various news accounts, included extensive reflections on religious values and expressions of faith.

Candidates should feel comfortable explaining their religious convictions to voters. At the same time, however, the Anti-Defamation League believes there is a point at which an emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours.

Thus, in particular, we were troubled by your suggestion that, "As a people we need to reaffirm our faith and renew the dedication of our nation and ourselves to God and God's purpose" and your argument not to indulge the supposition "that morality can be maintained without religion." To even suggest that one cannot be a moral person without being a religious person is an affront to many highly ethical citizens.

Moreover, language such as this risks alienating the American people. We feel very strongly, and we hope you would agree, that appealing along religious lines, or belief in God, is contrary to the American ideal. The First Amendment requires that government neither support one religion over another nor the religious over the non-religious. The United States is made up of many different types of people from different backgrounds and different faiths -- including individuals who do not believe in any god -- and none of our citizens, including atheistic Americans, should be made to feel outside of the electoral or political process.

Although you cautioned "those who may neither believe nor observe ... that we share with them the core values of America, that our faith is not inconsistent with their freedom, and that our mission is not one of intolerance but one of love," your comments still may serve to unsettle many Americans. Americans should not be made to feel inferior, or left out of the process, because they are in a religious minority.

As this campaign unfolds, we urge you to keep in mind that public profession of religious beliefs should not be an elemental part of this or any other political campaign.

Sincerely,

Howard P. Berkowitz
National Chairman
Abraham H. Foxman
National Director

Related ADL Press Release

ADL to Senator Lieberman: Keep Emphasis on
Religion Out of Campaign
2000 Anti-Defamation League