Does Religion Play a Role in Presidential Politics?

June 16, 2004 -- Posted 6:30 p.m. CDT

Jonesboro, AR -- On Monday of this week, the Supreme Court ruled the phrase "under God" will remain a part of the pledge of allegiance. An atheist had argued that phrase was unconstitutional -- an infringement on the separation of Church and State.

"The fundamental concept behind the separation of Church and State was that the United States government, the national government would not put in place religious tests for candidates and would not endorse a particular Church," said Arkansas State University Political Science Professor Russell Arden Fox.

So while Church and State may be separate, faith and politics appear not to be.

According to a recent Time Magazine poll, those who consider themselves very religious support Bush over Kerry 59% t0 35%.

In the last election, Evangelicals supported President Bush in overwhelming numbers because of his faith based initiatives.

"Brother George Bush has been very obvious about his faith and straight-forward about it," said Pastor Doug Welborn of Cathedral Baptist Church in Jonesboro.

The same Time Magazine poll also shows those who are not religious favor Kerry 69% to Bush 22%.

Asked if a President should be guided by his faith when making policy, 63% of Democrats say no while 70% of Republicans say yes.

"Religious language that would go over well in say Jonesboro Arkansas simply wouldn't sell in urban areas like San Francisco, New York City, other places like that," said Professor Fox.

When it comes to John Kerry, a Catholic, he faces a small squad of conservative Catholic bishops who say they would refuse to serve him communion because he favors abortion rights, and other social hot button issues. But will Kerry lose the vote of 63 million Catholics?

"I can't imagine that there is going to be many many thousands of Catholics that will say to themselves I was going to vote for Kerry, but now that he's been refused communion I guess I'm going to go with the hierarchy and vote for Bush," said Fox.

According to Time Magazine, when asked do you think the Catholic Church should be trying to influence the way Catholics vote? 70% answered no...26% answered yes.