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PBS journalist speaks on politics and faith

| News Editor

Ray Suarez, senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour and host of the radio program “America Abroad,” spoke at Graham Chapel Thursday evening.

In his speech, Suarez explored the effects that religion has on politics in American society.

His speech, titled “The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America,” followed the subject matter of his 2006 book of the same title. The book, which is composed of a series of essays and anecdotes, investigates the connection between faith and the American political system.

He stressed the importance of understanding and appreciating the relationship between modern politics and religion.

According to Suarez, many political conflicts are grounded in religious norms.

“The economic crisis has taken focus off a lot of issues like abortion and school prayer…but there’s continuing speculation about Islam and America,” Suarez said. “We’re using our religious identity to try and work out ongoing social anxieties, and it’s going to continue.”

According to Suarez, it is important that people are able to respect the nation’s secularity and promote a live-and-let-live social standard, regardless of their personal religious fervor.

“I don’t need my faith to be affirmed or endorsed by having religious statues in public places,” Suarez said. “I don’t feel like America should use specific activities and venues that exclude people.”

Suarez said that the main argument in favor of creating a nationalized religious culture—that it engenders an intrinsic, guiding morality in individuals—is not necessarily true.

“We didn’t need Jehovah to tell Moses to tell us that murder was bad. Morality has a relationship to religion, but it might not be as intimate as religious people think,” Suarez said.

According to Suarez, political candidates should be considered based on their personal merit as opposed to their personal religious views.

Still, he says that personal values of politicians are influential and important for voters to consider.

Suarez cited President George W. Bush as one of the most publicly religious U. S. presidents ever, yet he left his presidency with one of the worst public approval ratings in history.

Ultimately, Suarez said that students should look past the personal dimensions of candidates and focus on the platforms they represent.

“All of this is more complicated than you’ve been told,” Suarez said. “It’s all part of the kind of discernment that you’re going to carry through your life.”

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