Why Teddy Roosevelt’s warning to lay off a candidate’s religious beliefs is still relevant today

Eds: This story was supplied by The Conversation for AP customers. The Associated Press does not guarantee the content. David Mislin, Temple University (THE CONVERSATION) In the 2020 campaign, President Donald Trump has used religion to attack his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. During an August speech at an Ohio manufacturing plant, Trump suggested that Biden would harm religious interests. Linking religion to several conservative interests, the president claimed his opponent would “take away your guns, take away your Second Amendment” and “hurt the Bible. Hurt God.” In comments the following week, Trump again invoked Biden’s religion as he criticized recommendations on climate and health policy made by the joint policy task force of Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “I don’t think a man of deep religion would be agreeing to the Bernie Sanders plan,” Trump said at a news conference. As a historian who studies religion in the early 20th century United States, I am reminded by Trump’s attacks of a similar earlier episode. In the 1908 presidential campaign, the religious beliefs of the Republican Party nominee, William Howard Taft, came under attack. In response, another prominent Republican – the outgoing President Theodore Roosevelt – sounded the alarm about such attacks. Catholics, unbelievers and elections In that year’s election, Theodore Roosevelt declined to seek another term as president. Republicans nominated Secretary of War William Howard Taft to succeed him. As the historian Edgar Albert Hornig chronicled, no sooner had Taft secured the nomination […]

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