Neither Mike Huckabee himself nor his friends and foes made much of his religion while he was governor of Arkansas, but the Republican presidential race is awash in religiosity, both pro- and anti-Huckabee. The First Amendment, keeping church and state separate, never looked better, though both Huckabee and his rivals would weaken it if they could. Like President Bush, they aspire to impose their own beliefs, or those of their political supporters, on the citizenry at large.
A Baptist minister before he entered politics, Huckabee is flogging his faith vigorously and being flogged for it by the other candidates, who're exploiting their own religion for political purposes but apparently not as effectively as Huckabee. His opponents got all in a dither over a Huckabee TV ad that may or may not have employed a glowing cross in the background. Oddly, that's considered unsportsmanlike in a race where all the candidates are waving the cross figuratively.
Mitt Romney, who has pretty well established himself as the worst of a bad lot, accused Huckabee of using religion to win votes. He professed horror, and went on to announce that “Freedom requires religion,” and to promise “When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God.”
Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, went on the Fox Network to say that Huckabee was way out of line:
“What he's trying to say to the evangelicals in western Iowa: ‘I'm the real thing.' You have to sell yourself on issues, not what your religion is.” And you sell yourself on issues by adopting the Catholic Church's position on them, it seems. The Catholic League website bristles with denunciations of Planned Parenthood, of all those who believe in separation of church and state, and of those mysterious sorts allegedly trying to build up Judaism and Islam in America while tearing down Christianity. (They're everywhere, aren't they?) It happens that Huckabee would agree with the League on most of those issues; still, we can't shake the notion that if the race comes down to Huckabee and a Catholic candidate, the League will prefer the Catholic, and hang the issues.
A candidate for the Libertarian Party nomination, George Phillies, speaks more sensibly than Huckabee, Romney and the Catholic League: “When a president takes office, he should place his hand in one place: on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights he is swearing to protect. The president holds a secular role defined by our Constitution. I reject the demands of some Americans that our government should persecute other faiths and beliefs, for example by barring abortions or regulating which marriages are valid.”
A smart man, and a good American. The Republicans could use somebody like him.