Evangelical bestselling author and speaker Chuck Colson said, in a Tuesday interview with The Christian Post, that Christians should not refrain from voting for someone because they are not a Christian, and recent public debates on the issue have harmed Christians’ witness to non-Christians.
As long as a candidate holds the same values, their religion is not important when it comes to serving in office, according to Colson.
Article VI of the United States Constitutions states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Colson believes that Christians should apply the value imbedded in that phrase – that in a free society a person's religious faith should not preclude them from serving in public office – when they enter the voting booth.
“You've got to weigh these things very carefully and you shouldn't say I'm not going to vote for this person because he's a Mormon, he's a Catholic, he's a Jew,” Colson said.
Colson was responding to a recent controversy in which Dallas megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress said, “evangelical Christians should not vote for [former Massachusetts Governor] Mitt Romney because he’s a Mormon, therefore not a real Christian.”
Jeffress has endorsed Texas Governor Rick Perry, but has since said that he would vote for Romney in the general election if the choice were between Romney and President Obama.
“I want to say this to every Christian listening to my voice: Let’s stop criticizing candidates for their religious convictions,” Colson said in a Monday commentary.
In his interview with CP, Colson said that the main point he wanted to get across in that commentary is that Christians should “stop giving [the media] who don't like us ammunition to bash us. Let's stop talking about this, and certainly let's not give the impression that we would vote for or against a person because of his faith.”
When asked if he would vote for an atheist or agnostic for president, Colson said that a decision to not vote for an atheist or agnostic would be a religious test for public office, which he is opposed to.
“I think we have had a number of presidents who” are atheist or agnostic and “some of them” have been fine presidents, he said. “Let's be realistic here, we've had dozens of [candidates] say they're Christians and I really doubt that they have that kind of commitment.”
Colson believes it is appropriate, and advisable, to ask a candidate to explain how their religious views shape their policy views. “That's a really good question and that's a fair question, and that's not a religious test,” he noted.
“Let's talk about the real issues,” he advised Christians. “The real issues are about getting a president or congressman or Senator who is capable of doing the job properly, who also shares the most fundamental values of Western society – life, the dignity of the marriage of one man with one woman, the freedom of conscience of every individual. That's what I want to see us elect next year.
“And it's a critically important, too important, election next year to be making public arguments like this, which end up really hurting our Christian witness. I don't want to hurt our witness, I want us to be able to speak on these issues without being labeled 'theocrats.'”