Should personal religious beliefs shape policy choices?

https://readthespirit.com/ourvalues/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2013/03/wpid-0203_National_Prayer_Breakfast_President_Obama.jpgAmerica is a religiously diverse country, where a broad range of faiths are practiced and accepted. With the probable choice of Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate for the highest office, we’ll have a test of just how much religious diversity Americans accept.

Romney’s rise—and the rising prominence of Mormons in popular culture—has placed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the spotlight. Using data from the Pew Research Center, this week we’ve examined Mormons’ political beliefs, their views of life in America, the LDS church as a Christian faith, and issues of gender equality in Christianity writ large.

The focus on Mormons is the most recent example of a perennial question in American history: How much religious diversity is a good thing? To what extent should our personal religious beliefs dictate our responses to problems, decisions, and challenges? How far does religious acceptance go?

On Thursday, President Obama addressed these issues in his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., an annual event held on the first Thursday of February. Traditionally, the president is one of the featured speakers. Yesterday, he said, in part: “We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can’t dictate our response to every challenge we face. But in my moments of prayer, I’m reminded that faith and values play an enormous role in motivating us to solve some of our most urgent problems, in keeping us going when we suffer setbacks, and opening our minds and our hearts to the needs of others.”

Obama added: “We can’t leave our values at the door. If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union.”

What are those values? Obama cited several, including fairness (Wall Street must play by the same rules as Main Street), shared responsibility, the moral responsibility of those with more to give more, equal opportunities for all, caring for the poor and those on the margins of society, and treating others as you want to be treated.

He concluded: “These values are old. They can be found in many denominations and many faiths, among many believers and among many non-believers. And they are values that have always made this country great—when we live up to them; when we don’t just give lip service to them; when we don’t just talk about them one day a year.”

Are the values the president mentioned still important in America?

Do we just give them lip service?

Can common values unite us?

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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue.

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