What role should a governor’s religion play in his performance in office?

Each Monday now through the election, we’ll pose a question on an issue that’s pertinent to the race for Minnesota governor. Today’s Question: What role should a governor’s religion play in his performance in office?

Independence Party candidate Tom Horner:

My faith is a key part of defining who I am and the values I bring to all that I do in my life. But the tenets of a particular religion don’t define public policy.

Republican candidate Tom Emmer:

People are shaped and influenced by their religious connections and involvement. My wife Jacquie and I and our children are involved with our local church, and it is an important aspect of our lives.

As governor, I believe you are elected to serve and represent Minnesotans of all backgrounds and religious affiliations. The priorities we have identified, such as job creation and making government live within its means are issues important to all Minnesotans.

Democratic candidate Mark Dayton:

A person’s religion shapes his or her values; however, our country was founded on the principle of separation of church and state.

  • Tucker

    Prefferably? Absolutely none.

  • Jon Miners

    I refer you to then candidate for president, John F. Kennedy’s speech before the Houston Council of Ministers in 1960.

  • None

  • DMox

    Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

    It’s public office, not private office. If they want to proselytize they should become a preacher, not an elected official. This country, for too long, has been hijacked by religious interference in civic affairs. Your faith may certainly “guide” you towards a life of public service, but it should, by no means, be a part of that service.

    Religiously zealous excursions into our civil discourse is the root of every failure in this country. It is only when we exorcise mythology, demagoguery, and silly farcical opinions from our legislation, social contract, and justice, that we have made progress in this democracy.

    Why yes, I am a faithful man. I do believe in the after life, a god, a spirit, and a code of morality & ethics. It is that very code that informs my opinion, and knows that it is unwelcome in the very discussion of it.

  • Brian

    The phrase “separation of church and state” comes to mind here. That’s the way it should be.

  • Steve the Cynic

    If the candidate’s religion legitimizes unprovoked war, torture of enemy prisoners, exploitation of the poor by the rich, persecution of anyone, trashing the environment for profit, letting poor children go without health care, cutting off support for the elderly and disabled, and policies that move the nation further down the path to plutocracy, I’d be inclined to vote against that candidate.

  • Tyler

    Religion plays the same role in the life of a governor as it does in any occupation.

    Some religions have ethical content in them, and some don’t. People that confess a religion that contains ethical content should be expected to be influenced by those ethical ideas.

    For example, my own faith proposes the idea that God is a worker who creates things, who is at work in the world, and who creates man in his own image as a worker that should serve in his occupation with honesty, excellence and humility. That’s an ethical idea that might influence a public official.

    Let us not establish a false dichotomy of ideas that are “religious” and ideas that are “secular” and ask that public officials magically desynthesize the two or hold one conscience in the public square and one in private.

    Public office is not a platform or a forum for religious proselytism, but neither do ideas become invalid in the public square just because they are labeled religious in origin.

    I’d ask those who say “none” to clarify their position, because if taken in the literal sense that’s absurd.

  • Sue de Nim

    The governor’s religion should motivate him to do what’s right, not merely what’s politically expedient or what pleases big-money campaign donors.

  • matt

    Well we got the expected answers here, religion frames moral choice response, the pat republican = Christian = evil response, and the none at all response. Not sure that this question starts conversation.

    I would have tried “What religious background/faith is best suited for a Governor?”

  • Jim Shaarda

    @Jon Miners: Having just read a transcript of JFK’s speech, I couldn’t agree more. Kennedy nailed it perfectly.

  • Luke Van Santen

    Religion should not play a role in any government employee’s performance of their work duties. For it to do otherwise violates the Constitution (separation of Church and State).

    Recognizing that many people in government are religious and claim that as the basis for their morals / good deeds / etc reinforces the long held but false conflation of good = religious. It also seems to happen most often when they are in need of votes.

    People everywhere (not just in government) should recognize that it is their their moral compass that guides their actions, not their religion.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Matt, it seems to me you’re a bit hyper-sensitive. You’re the first contributor today to mention any of these words: “Christian,” “Republican,” and “evil.” Perhaps you detected in my earlier comment a not-so-veiled allustion to the previous presidential administration, or to certain policies espoused by the current crop of Republicans, but if you think I was identifying those things with Christian values, you have misunderstood me entirely. Christians who think God approves of plutocracy or American imperialism are not heeding what their Bible actually says.

  • Jeanne

    None. One can have a moral code of conduct without needing to have a religion attached to it.

  • Jeanne

    None. One can have a moral code of conduct without needing to have a religion attached to it.

  • Philip

    Obviously one’s religious views affect a person’s worldview. I don’t believe it is possible to separate a person from their beliefs, nor should it be tried. Whether it is Christian, Muslim, or secular, a person’s opinions and beliefs (even religious) help define who they are. To say that a person can somehow separate their beliefs from the way in which they govern or legislate is disingenuous and simply ignores the truth of the matter.

  • Khatti

    I fall into the “None” camp, and don’t have any grand statements to make on this issue.

    Gee, I don’t even know why I’m wasting your time with this. Sorry.

  • JackU

    What role should it play in his performance in office?


    For those that ask why? If a situation comes before the new Governor that places his beliefs in conflict with state or federal law I would hope that he would be able to put aside his beliefs and enforce the law. While I would expect an individual’s beliefs to inform their policy choices I would hope that they would set aside those beliefs if they are presented evidence that a policy option that may be opposed by their religious beliefs is better for the state as a whole.

  • steve

    religion should be part of decision-making process and a rock and foundation for being who you are. It should not be touted or promoted but the guiding force to make reasonable and equitable decisions!

  • John Robinson

    Religious beliefs should play no part in an elected official’s decisions whatsoever. If a candidate cannot put aside the opinions of his imaginary friend when making real world decisions that actually affect people, that person should not run for office. Be a shaman; stand on the corner with a crazy sign; psychologically abuse your children by telling them they’ll be tortured forever if they don’t believe what you believe – I don’t care. Just keep your superstition out of public office and out of the process that may affect my life.

  • Kyle D.

    Religion can be involved to the point that it is applicable to the things that a governer has to do. If a religion talks about corporate tax policy, redistricting, socioeconomic effects of urban planning, etc., then go ahead and use it.

    But no religion I know of addresses the specifics of governance in modern times. Citing religion as a relevant factor in government is like using a shovel to build a house. It might be able to accomplish some tasks correctly, but on the whole it’s not the right tool for the job.

  • Edward hawkins

    I also believe that religion and politics should not be mixed since we see the effects of such mixing in places like Iran. A governor should govern according to what is in the best interests of the people not his or her religious icon. We have just witnessed a politician using his religious beliefs to dictate public policy in the executive branch it was not a pretty sight. The extent that a religious idea permeates public policy is in direct relation to how many people are hurt by that policy, see stem cell research, children left behind and Iraqi war of adventure.

  • Sue de Nim

    The problem is not religion influencing politics, but the reverse. When the founders of our republic put freedom of religion into the Constitution, they intended for citizens to be guided by their own religious convictions. What they were seeking to avoid was interference by the government in religion, and government using religion to claim legitimacy. Along with the free press and free speech, free religion was intended to be one of the unofficial checks on government overreach. What’s been happening in the last half century is people changing their religious opinions to fit their politics. In the 60s it was left-wingers saying Jesus was a marxist and a pacifist. Later it was right-wingers saying he’s a free-market capitalist in favor of a strong military. Both were wrong, but it’s hard to compromise if you’ve persuaded yourself that you’re siding with Jesus.

  • DNA

    People are bound by the laws of physics and biology. Religion means to bind. If Wisdom and Loving-Kindness/Compassion (towards self and others) are the attitudes our leaders and public servants approach life, work, play and rest, it doesn’t matter what superficial religion they are affiliated with (even if it is agnostic or compassionate atheist) . The purpose of all “True Religion”s is to orient aspirants toward Forgiveness, Understanding, Wisdom, Peace and Love. Fear manifesting as ignorance, greed and hatred is the bane of any “Way” of Life.

    “A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary.” – ACIM

    Humankind could be more of both.

    Also, if wine, coffee, tea and chocolate are allowed in a church or temple, Cannabis and other Entheogens (the Oldest and Surest Sacraments on Earth) certainly deserve their due respect and utilization.

  • Kevin VC

    As long as not a worshiper of greed or the devil (probably the same thing) then I really am not worried.

    Basically as long as they hold teaching similar:

    Teach One another as you would want yourself treated (Do one to others…), and honestly are core to their being, then I am also ok.

    Also of the opinion the don’t shove their opinions of religion on others. There is nothing more annoying then those who do not understand the term “Humble before god.” Everyone MIGHT understand ‘verbage’ differently even when you are in the same religion.

    I am strong believer in separation of church and state for a reason.