By Carla Chacon
Chatter escalated in the softly lit Dezember Reading Room on Thursday evening as an estimated group of about 100 people waited for “The Election, Politics, and God” presentation.
The panel, featuring Vice Provost David Schecter, political science professor Jeanine Kraybill, and political science chair Mark Martinez, focused on the voting process, and the effect religion has on politics.
“The Constitution was a design to act as a firewall against human failure, not as an incubator for Christian beliefs,” said Martinez.
Despite the founders’ belief in a secular Constitution, religion has played a significant role in this nation’s politics and continues to do so.
As Kraybill pointed out, “Anyone can run for political office without the need of a religion test…ironically, we, the American people, still have a religion test.”
She offered examples of presidential candidates who had to endure religion tests such as JFK not kissing Pope John Paul VI’s ring and, more recently, Mitt Romney’s explanation about his Mormon faith.
Although the United States is highly religious, “we’re seeing an increase in those not affiliating [with a religion],” said Kraybill.
But how does religion affect political races?
“Whoever wins the popular vote in a particular state, all of those electoral votes go into the bucket for that particular candidate,” explained Schecter.
Candidates use religion where citizens vote according to their religious beliefs as a tactic to get the popular vote and secure the electoral vote.
Attendees left “hopefully, better informed about the relationship between the church and the state in the United States,” said Martinez.
Barbara Ward, 87, a student at CSUB, working on her master’s degree in history said that the presentation, “…was very good. The three that did the presentation were great. I thought Dr. Kraybill was very enthusiastic.”
Clarice Poblete, 19, a nursing major, said the panel was “very informative.”
“I didn’t realize the relation politics had with religion. The most interesting point was the increasing number of nonaffiliated people.”
The Historical Research Center’s “Winner Takes All: The Race to the White House” exhibit runs through Dec. 15.