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Some non-Christians feel left out of election

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080203/us_nm/usa_politics_nonchristians_dc;_ylt=AmIstcahgeudxScYTa4dN.qs0NUE Some non-Christians feel left out of election By Ed
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2008
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080203/us_nm/usa_politics_nonchristians_dc;_ylt=AmIstcahgeudxScYTa4dN.qs0NUE

      Some non-Christians feel left out of election

      By Ed Stoddard Sun Feb 3, 8:48 AM ET

      DALLAS (Reuters) - In a U.S. election campaign where
      presidential candidates from both major parties have
      talked openly about their Christian faith, some
      non-Christians feel shut out or turned off.

      Despite the constitutional separation of church and
      state, religion plays a big and sometimes decisive
      role in politics in America, where levels of belief
      and regular worship are far higher than those in
      Europe.

      "Non-Christians are concerned that they will be
      excluded from the process," said Ahmed Rehab, a
      spokesman with the Council on American-Islamic
      Relations.

      "I welcome faith values if they inspire candidates to
      do good things. But I worry if it is used as a litmus
      test to include someone in political participation."

      About 75 percent of the U.S. population, long a
      melting pot of immigrants from around the world,
      identifies itself as Christian, according to several
      estimates.

      That is a huge but divergent source of potential votes
      for Republican and Democratic candidates in their long
      contest for the nomination to run for the White House
      in the November election.

      U.S. politicians are not shy of talking about their
      religion and regularly appear in church.

      In recent decades, part of the American political
      drama has been scripted by the "religious right" --
      mostly white evangelical Protestants united by strong
      opposition to abortion and gay marriage who have been
      a key base of support for the Republican Party.

      Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee, who scooped up
      strong evangelical support but whose campaign is
      fading ahead of next Tuesday's nominating contests
      across the country, is a Baptist preacher who peppers
      his speeches with Biblical allusions.

      Mitt Romney is a Mormon who was moved to address
      questions about his faith in a speech in December.
      John McCain has long sought to smooth relations after
      including leaders of the religious right among those
      he called "agents of intolerance" during his failed
      presidential bid in 2000.

      The leading Democratic presidential contenders have
      also been open and candid about their faith.

      That faith, and that of the Republican candidates, is
      Christian, although candidates have also spoken about
      the need for religious tolerance.

      A false rumor that has circulated on the Internet
      about Democratic candidate Barack Obama, whose father
      was Kenyan, is that he is Muslim who has lied about
      his religion. The rumor appears to illustrate the
      importance some voters attach to a candidate being
      Christian.

      LEAVE RELIGION OUT, SOME SAY

      Estimates of the numbers of non-Christians in America
      vary. Some put the percentage of atheists, agnostics
      or "unaffiliated" at between 15 and 18 percent of the
      population of 300 million.

      Jews, Muslims, Hindus and people of other religions
      make up fewer than 10 percent of the population.

      Standing in a Hindu temple in a Dallas suburb before
      statues of his religion's deities, Tejas Karve says he
      understands why the candidates stress their commitment
      to Christianity. But it does leave him with a sense of
      exclusion.

      "I think it's geared more towards Christians because
      that's the majority. It's incomprehensible for them
      (Americans) to have a candidate who's not Christian,"
      the 26-year-old pilot, who immigrated from India eight
      years ago, told Reuters.

      "I do believe they leave (non-Christians) out to a
      point."

      Political professions of faith leave some unmoved.

      "Why is that relevant? Who cares? The great issue is
      where do we stand on Medicare and Social Security and
      immigration ... Why inject religiosity into that?"
      asked Paul Kurtz, chairman of the Council for Secular
      Humanism.

      "Are we (secular humanists and atheists) marginalized?
      No. Are we turned off? Yes!"

      Atheists and agnostics have long been targets of the
      religious right who see moral decay in secularization.

      Some critics say those without a religion were singled
      out in the speech by Romney in which he sought to ease
      concerns among Republican evangelicals about his
      Mormon faith.

      He said "freedom requires religion" -- implying that
      it could not exist without it -- and criticized those
      who "seek to remove from the public domain any
      acknowledgment of God ... It is as if they are intent
      on establishing a new religion in America -- the
      religion of secularism. They are wrong."

      A Pew Research Center survey last year found that 63
      percent of those polled said they would be "less
      likely" to support a presidential candidate who did
      not believe in God.

      But those who say they are "unaffiliated" or atheist
      are very keen to cast their ballots. Pew data shows
      that 82 percent of them are very or somewhat likely to
      vote. At 90 percent, evangelicals are the only group
      more likely to vote.

      (Editing by Frances Kerry)

      (For more about the U.S. political campaign, visit
      Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at http://blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)
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