Religion and Politics in the United States
GMF and NPR Worldwide are pleased to bring you an hourlong discussion on religion and politics with Ray Suarez. During his visit in Berlin, Suarez was joined by German politician Dietmar Nietan (SPD) Herman Groehe (CDU/CSU) to discuss understandings and misunderstandings of the politics of faith in America and Germany.
Religion and politics debated in Europe
On March 19-23, 2007, the German Marshall Fund hosted Ray Suarez for a European tour to speak on the issue of religion and politics in the United States. Suarez is a senior correspondent for the Jim Lehrer NewsHour and author of The Holy Vote, a book on religion and politics in the United States.
Suarez visited and talked with people in Paris, Berlin, Istanbul and Brussels. In each city a variety of participants engaged in the issues, including government representatives, NGO and religious organization representatives and members of the media.
Suarez touched on a wide variety of issues, providing first a historical overview of the interaction between religion and politics and then choosing the topic of embryonic stem cell research to show the fault lines and contradictions that increasing involvement in politics brings about for religious activists. He went on to point out that the unity that characterized the religious right over the past two decades seems to be showing cracks.
Using the 2008 presidential race as an example, Suarez showed how increasingly in the United States, religion is a factor in running for political office. Democratic candidates, not previously the preferred Christian right candidates, have to show their religious affiliations more and more in hopes to win the right, while the Republican frontrunners are not clear allies of the religious right, and far from representing their values - Giuliani is on his third marriage, Romney is a Mormon and McCain is more a traditional than a "values" Republican.
At the last stop on the tour, Suarez pointed out some of the main differences in the reactions that he received from different audiences in the four European cities. In Paris people were focused on Muslim immigration/integration issues, while in Turkey, a country with a secular government but very traditional Islamic population, people see the US as a model for maintaining the separation of church and State and minority integration. In Berlin and Brussels, there was a general sense of not understanding how it is that religion and politics are so deeply interlinked in the United States and a general sense of dismay for the historical and social reasons behind Americans' political and ideological polarization.