During the election of 1800, Federalists attacked Thomas Jefferson as a “howling atheist.” Though historians continue to debate Jefferson’s religious beliefs, he almost certainly believed in God. He also believed in “a wall of separation between church and state.”
Religion played a prominent role in the election of 1960 as well, when John F. Kennedy, questioned about whether his Catholicism would allow him to make decisions independent of the church, answered: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act.”
In the 2012 election, at least so far, both Mitt Romney and his opponents have shied away from discussing his Mormonism. But candidates and voters have certainly made clear religious values strongly influence their political views on a wide range of issues.
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