By Zachary Bailes
With the New Hampshire primaries behind the GOP and South Carolina on the horizon, Mitt Romney seems the likely presidential candidate. Perhaps surprisingly, Romney’s Mormonism has yet to be a major stumbling block, and as time passes it doesn’t appear that it will become a hindrance.
But let’s consider another question. Could America vote for a Muslim?
Say a Muslim arrived on the scene with powerful and equitable ideas and challenged the status quo. Perhaps doubts are cast that a Muslim could actually become president, but the same was once said about Catholics and people of color.
One stumbling block to the potential Muslim candidate would be that many people think America is a “Christian nation.” At one time even this would have been questioned. If you had said to the predecessors to what would become the United States that “America is a Puritan nation” they likely would have agreed.
Simply put, there very well could come a day when a president who prays to Allah sits in the Oval Office. As Christian privilege slowly erodes due to tidal waves of globalization and pluralism, America’s hope is that religious differences will not erode but become respected. This is thanks in large part to the Constitution.
Just this week the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court order striking down an Oklahoma constitutional amendment that would prevent state courts from considering Sharia law. The decision is based not on respect for Muslim tradition, but rather for the First Amendment — the same First Amendment that protected Baptists early in the American experience.
If anyone should be the greatest allies with Muslims in America, it is Baptists. Yet time after time many Baptists lead the charge against religious differences, even at the risk of harming their own self-interest. Many Baptists have kowtowed to political power in order to protect their power and privilege, in the process sacrificing their prophetic voice.
As Roger Williams stated in The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience, “the blood of so many hundred thousand souls of Protestants and papists, spilled in the wars of present and former ages for their respective consciences, is not required nor accepted by Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace.”
A truly Christian nation not only imposes no formal religion on its citizens but also fosters freedom to express one’s own conscience – Muslim, Mormon or whatever.