Catholics have learned a long time ago of the defects of religious stereotyping as a political tool. It is easy to call into question someone who is not an “approved” or “normal” religious tradition. Their views and beliefs are strange, and so, they must be seen as suspect. It is a kind of xenophobia, and every bit as wrong as racism. Catholics suffered with this xenophobia, and, to some extent, continue to face it today as non-Catholics look at Catholics as weird, and their loyalty to the Pope marks them as questionable.
Catholics, knowing this, should not fall for such xenophobia in our political candidates.
If President Obama plans to ridicule Mitt Romney for his Mormon faith, and to use Romney’s Mormon background against him, this would be a pathetic form of politicking. President Obama should know better, having had many question his own religious faith, and call his loyalty into question based upon his background with Islam before his conversion to Christianity. And, even then, his association with Reverend Wright was used for xenophobia. If he experienced this kind of backlash and unjust prejudice for his own religious faith, seeing the defects this brings to the political scene, he should not act upon it himself. Romney’s religious background should be left alone, no matter how easy a target it can be.The same, however, needs to be pointed out to the Republican Candidates for Presidency. For example, Herman Cain’s outright bigotry towards Islam has no place in the American political scene. While it might be popular with some to hate Islam (and to use that also as a talking point against President Obama, who is not a Muslim), such bigotry goes against the standards behind the founding of the United States. The founding fathers were very interested in working with Muslims, and recognized the rights of Muslims to all aspects of the American life.
It seems the tone of political rhetoric is going to go poisonous in regards to religion. Catholics need to proclaim to all politicians the decrees of religious liberty, of religious tolerance. When a politician goes against such a standard, they must be criticized for their failing. It might not, and probably will not be, all one needs to take into account when dealing with presidential candidates, but Catholics cannot and must not let such bigotry stand unquestioned, and even their favored candidates should be taken to task when they fail basic human decency.