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GOP's Attempt To Distance Itself From Religion Is Misguided

Calum Hayes |
April 3, 2013 | 9:07 p.m. PDT


Michael Steele missed the mark with his statement. (Jens Schott Knudsen, Creative Commons)
Michael Steele missed the mark with his statement. (Jens Schott Knudsen, Creative Commons)
Last week, former GOP National Committee chairman Michael Steele stated that the Republican Party is in no way a religious party; that while many of the GOP's values seem to be tied to religion, that does not make the party inherently religious. He said that he knows the American people are not searching for a religious party, and a religious party is exactly what the GOP should not be striving to be. Quite frankly, Mr. Steele is incorrect.

In recent elections, the stereotypes of each of our political parties have become quite clear. The Democratic Party is the one that embraces people of all colors, sexualities, economic backgrounds and creeds, while the Republican Party is filled with rich, old, churchgoing white men. This has led to a stigma that the Republican Party is a Christian party, while the Democratic Party is all-inclusive. It is this stigma that Mr. Steele felt the need to correct. It is also this stigma that makes me scratch my head and make the sort of confused noise that would lead you to ask questions pertaining to my being fit to attend university.

Mr. Steele unfortunately missed the mark with his statement. He came out and told us that the GOP is not a religious party (it feels safe to say this religion would be Christianity). What he should have come out and said is that the GOP is not the religious party. For all the talk of the rise of atheism in the United States, 77 percent of U.S. citizens still identify themselves as Christians, and 85 percent identify with some sort of faith. To say that either party is not a religious party (yes, I’m putting Democrats and Republicans in the same place here and still trying to do the impossible and get something done) would discount the beliefs of some 269 million people.

Of the 44 presidents the United States has had, every single one of them has been a Christian. Barack Obama is a Christian and closes every speech in the same way all of his predecessors have, by asking for God’s blessing. For all the conspiracy theories that say President Obama is a Muslim, that he can’t be a Christian because he supports a woman’s right to control her own body and supports same-sex marriage, he is, by his own words, undoubtedly a Christian man.

The Republican Party is a religious party, just as the Democratic Party is a religious party. This does not mean that all of their beliefs will come from faith, nor does it mean that only people of faith should be allowed to identify as members of these parties. It simply means that we are a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Our political parties are defined by their constituents: us. If 85 percent of the citizens of this country identify with and draw their beliefs from religion, then there is no way to claim the parties we make up don’t draw their identities and beliefs from religion. Mr. Steele, and much of the rest of the Republican Party, has simply been looking for any explanation as to why they lost the past two elections. In the process, they have tried to dissociate themselves from the idea of faith, an idea upon which this country was founded. Mr. Steele and the Republican Party need to be careful with their steps as they move forward in rebuilding their party, or they risk alienating 85 percent of the country in an effort to gain the other 15.


Reach Columnist Calum Hayes here; follow him here.



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