God and Caesar in America

Why Mixing Religion and Politics Is Bad for Both

A Feb. 29 update to the print story from the March/April issue: In the wake of the Great Recession it would seem natural that the 2012 election would be fought over economic issues. Yet so far in the Republican primaries, we have seen social issues, and religion especially, move to the forefront. Rick Santorum is only the latest in a series of Republicans who have infused their campaigns with talk about God. Even Mitt Romney, a Mormon who has generally tried to avoid discussing religion, has recently pledged to defend "religious liberty" against the Obama administration. Increasingly, the rhetoric of the leading Republican contenders echoes the Republican fringe of twenty years ago. Then, we heard Pat Buchanan -- the quintessential protest candidate -- bombastically declare that America was in the midst of a culture war. Today, the frontrunners all play to the Republican base by describing the White House's "war on

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