Republican presidential candidates keep getting asked to sign pledges–not to raise taxes, to oppose abortion, etc.–in order to get the support of key voters. The latest is a pledge about marriage that goes on to include stances on various issues of sexual morality. Signers must promise not only to oppose gay marriage, but also to oppose divorce, extra-marital sex, pornography, women in combat, and to believe that homosexuality is a choice. Michelle Bachman and Rick Santorum have signed it. Mitt Romney refuses to. Tim Pawlenty has said he agrees with the substance of the document but refuses to sign it. (Complicating the pledge was a statement since removed that said African-American families were better off under slavery than they are today. Again, that statement has been removed and the signers are repudiating that part.)
Are such pledges wise? While they might seal up some voters, won’t they alienate many more? Given the cultural climate of today, isn’t a politician who signs a statement like this doomed to defeat? Might Christian activists who demand this kind of ideological purity be engaging in a counter-productive effort, ensuring that candidates sympathetic to their cause will lose rather than win?