Keep religion out of politics

It was a bit of a shock this week to see the Anti-Defamation League attack Sen. Joseph Lieberman. But it was the right thing for the ADL to do.

If the ADL wants to have credibility among non-Jews, it needs to show the world that it can be as critical of a Jewish politician as a non-Jewish politician.

In this case, Lieberman has taken his religious beliefs a bit too far onto the campaign trail. While many of us want our political leaders to be God-fearing, we don't want them to be proselytizers.

In a speech in a Detroit church Sunday, the vice presidential candidate said he hoped his nomination would get people talking about their faith and that "there must be a place for faith in America's public life."

He added, "As a people, we need to reaffirm our faith and renew the dedication of our nation and ourselves to God and God's purpose."

Had Gov. George W. Bush or Vice President Al Gore uttered such words, many Jews and non-Jews alike would have accused them of breaking down the wall separating church and state.

In fact, both Bush and Gore have been attacked for their frequent religious refrains. Bush named Jesus as his favorite philosopher, and Gore told the Washington Post that in times of crisis he asks himself, "What would Jesus do?"

If such talk by politicians goes unchallenged, the climate could be set for the return of prayer in public school and public events. And if we sanction such prayer, it may not be long until Jewish kids will once again be forced to sit through readings from the New Testament.

Lieberman should know better than to mix politics and religion on a national stage. It's one thing to profess his own religious beliefs; it's quite another to foist them on others.

The ADL was right on calling him on it. It's just a shame that at the same time the group didn't ask both presidential candidates to tone down their religious rhetoric as well.

As voters we should elect the candidates with the best ideas to govern our country. We can't allow the campaign to become a litmus test of religious beliefs.