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God Wants a 10% Corporate Tax

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I'm not certain Rick Santorum is a Catholic, but if he says he is, I don't have any proof to the contrary. If he says so, his word is good enough for me.

I'm following the lead of The Rev. Franklin Graham, who said he's willing to accept that President Obama is a Christian. "If he says he's a Christian I accept that," Graham said to a television host, thereby damning the President with faint praise. Then in an un-Christian double-cut, Graham went on to say that under Islamic law Obama is a Muslim because his father is Muslim: "In the Muslim world, they see him as a son of Islam."

The politicians and public figures making religion part of the presidential campaign are one day going to wish to God they hadn't. If religion and faith are up for debate, religion will be the loser because most of it doesn't stand up to reason.

Newt Gingrich has already given deep thought to three faiths and ditched two. He was raised Lutheran, spent most of his adult life a Baptist, and converted to Catholicism. This man who has an equal record in both faith and marriage has warned against "a cultural elite trying to create a secularized America, in which God is driven out of public life."

Santorum has one-upped Gingrich in that department, claiming Satan is trying to worm his way into American government, making me wonder how long it will be before the Devil has a Twitter account.

Mitt Romney crows about his faith, but doesn't delve into what Mormons believe because millions of Americans think Mormonism is a cult and evangelicals question whether it's even a form of Christianity. I don't know. Most of what I earned about the Mormon faith has come from taxi drivers in Salt Lake City who more than once have asked me, "Did you know that Jesus also preached in the United States?"

The religious beliefs of our current crop of presidential candidates matter because some of them want to bring their dogma to office. As Santorum said most recently, "I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute." This from a man who holds a religious belief against birth control and says it's "bad for women," as if having a dozen children is not.

When religious belief drives public policy we might not be far from a declaration that "God wants a 10% corporate tax rate." And really, who can question that any more than whether Mitt wears Mormon "magic" underwear. It's a matter of faith.

A politician's religion can give some voters an irrational reason love a candidate, and an equally irrational reason for others to hate him. Americans who yearn for God in their government should remember that in some countries fervent religious belief enters public life in a car bomb.

In 1928 American politics erupted into an open fight between Protestants and Catholics when New York Gov. Al Smith, a Catholic, ran against Herbert Hoover. In part because of religion, the country was denied a man who might have been a great president. We all know what we got instead.

More than thirty years later John F. Kennedy broke the Catholic barrier with a careful dance around his Catholicism to convince voters he would answer to them as president, not the Pope. He said, "I believe in a president whose views on religion are his own private affair."

Blame Jimmy Carter for the mess we're in now. He's the one who took us back to 1928 when he campaigned on his strong Christian faith, as if he was going to pray America out of an economic bucket. God, or maybe it was the American voters, gave him only one term.

All this talk about God by politicians reminds me of a story told to me by a reporter friend years ago who was assigned to cover the county government in rural Batavia, NY.

A farmer dressed in overalls and rubber boots smeared with mud and manure sat down just as the meeting came to order. The meetings were broadcast live on the radio and, if you can believe this now, they began with a prayer; "Dear Lord, guide us to intelligent debate and wise decisions." The farmer leaned over to my friend and said, "You know, I don't think they ought to broadcast this prayer live on the radio."

My friend asked, "Really ... why not?"

And the farmer said, "It might give the children of this county the idea that God doesn't listen."