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August 14th, 2012
11:50 AM ET

Romney-Ryan ticket makes U.S. religious history

By Josh Levs, CNN

(CNN) - In selecting Paul Ryan for his running mate, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has made modern political history: a major party ticket with no Protestant Christian.

Some historians call it the first ever. Others say it's technically the first since Abraham Lincoln. And there is an argument to be made regarding Dwight Eisenhower.

But in any case, "this Republican ticket really symbolizes the passing of an era," said William Galston, senior fellow with the Brookings Institution.

Romney is Mormon. Ryan is Catholic.

It's a trend also reflected in the Supreme Court. Once dominated by Protestants, there are now none among the nine justices, Galston noted. "All the groups that make up the new American population, as opposed to the population of 50 years ago, are now participating on equal" terms, in politics and American society in general, he said.

"It's quietly dramatic."

With or without Romney, Washington’s a Mormon stronghold

For months, it appeared likely that the GOP would choose a non-Protestant for its presidential nominee for the first time in modern history. But the number two slot remained in question.

In choosing a running mate who is Catholic, Romney showed that he is not worried about damaging support among Protestants, "especially those who don't think of themselves as evangelicals," Galston said. "I'm not saying that Romney thought he could afford to take them for granted. But clearly he felt that he could reach out in another direction."

Half the U.S. population identifies as Protestant, while a quarter identifies as Catholic, according to the American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College, published in 2009. Mormons are at 1.4%, just behind Jews at 1.8%. Muslims comprise 0.3% of the population.

The electorate has reshaped over the last several decades, including along religious lines, Galston said. Conservatives within each denomination have built alliances over core issues that outweigh denominational differences.

Opinion: Paul Ryan provokes debate over Catholic politics

"The old lines between Catholics and Protestants which were dominant in our politics as recently as the 1960 election have been replaced by new lines of division, not between denominations but within them. So you now have a coalition of evangelical protestants and traditionalist Catholics, and Orthodox Jews as well. ... It is a very important fact about American politics today."

In 1960, John F. Kennedy faced questions from some voters concerned he would take orders from the pope. That kind of skepticism is virtually unheard of today, Galston said.

Abortion - particularly the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that women have a constitutional right to an abortion - played a key role in building the new alliance among conservatives of different denominations, Galston said.

"From the standpoint of conservative Republicans, the fact that Paul Ryan is down-the-line pro-life is much more important than the fact that he's a Catholic rather than a Protestant," he said.

People within each denomination who support abortion rights and take liberal stances on numerous issues, meanwhile, have formed similar bonds on the Democratic side.

Romney's success in the battle for the presidential nomination also reflects how times have changed.

Neither major party has ever had a Mormon nominee.

Mormons consider themselves a Christian religion, but a restoration of the early church and therefore distinguished from Protestant tradition. Some Christians do not see Mormonism as a part of Christianity.

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Protestantism began as a movement breaking off from the Catholic Church in the 16th century.

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley says Americans have achieved enough comfort with Mormonism to make room for a possible Romney presidency.

"Are we ready for a Mormon president? I think the answer is yes," Brinkley said in an interview with CNN in January.

The Mormon population is growing quickly, and more and more people have Mormon friends, he said. "It's no longer a fringe group growing up. It's a powerful and important religion."

Mormons have been recruiting Southern Baptists and Methodists to join their fold, making inroads in communities across the country and raising money, Brinkley said. "The Mormon Church is booming when some of the other denominations are struggling for cash and converts."

Mark Silk, professor of religion in public life at Trinity College, said most American voters are "prepared to think about people who are not Protestant to be president."

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

On the Democratic side, President Barack Obama is Protestant, while Vice President Joe Biden is Catholic. Obama's race, of course, distinguishes him in another way from the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who have nearly always inhabited the White House.

A survey last month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found "little evidence to suggest that concerns about the candidates' respective faiths will have a meaningful impact in the fall elections."

Among those who know Romney is Mormon, 60% said they are comfortable with his religion, while 19% said they are not.

Among those who know Obama is Christian, 82% were comfortable and 12% were uncomfortable.

The survey found 60% of respondents know Romney's religion. Only 49% know Obama is Christian, while 17% think he is Muslim.

While some headlines declare Romney-Ryan ticket the first ever major party ticket without a Protestant, there may be an exception from the days of Lincoln.

Lincoln himself "didn't belong to any church, wouldn't have described himself as a Protestant," Silk said. Lincoln did express a deep belief in a God.

His first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, was Protestant, according to adherents.com, which tracks the religious affiliations of presidents and vice presidents throughout U.S. history.

In his second run, Lincoln took on Andrew Johnson as his number two. While some sources refer to Johnson having Baptist parents, he "is not known to have ever been an official member of any church," adherents.com says.

Among Democrats, Kennedy; John Kerry, who is Catholic; and Michael Dukakis, who is Greek Orthodox, had running mates who were Protestant.

Republican Presidents Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon were Quakers, and Eisenhower was a Jehovah's Witness but converted to Presbyterianism after his inauguration, according to adherents.com.

The Quaker tradition grew of Protestantism, though Quakers generally reject the Protestant label. Under that reading, one could argue that the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket of 1952, before Eisenhower's conversion, did not include a Protestant.

While the two presidential tickets this year reflect a religious pluralism, it remains centered only on Christian denominations - setting aside the question of whether Mormonism fits a traditional definition of Christian.

Just how much of a chance a candidate of another religion would have at the presidency is another question.

Some believe that Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000 who ran for the party's nomination in 2004, was not hampered by being Jewish. "I don't think that the classic triad Catholic-Protestant-Jew makes a difference at all," Galston said. "Joe Lieberman's candidacy foundered, but not because he was Jewish."

But there has never been a Jewish presidential nominee. And just how a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or member of any other religion would fare is another question.

And analysts agree that voters would quickly reject a candidate who does not believe in God - even if he or she had been raised Christian.

"Whether anyone would accept a professed out-of-the-closet atheist, no," Galston said. "You'd probably have a better chance as a former member of the Taliban."

Weigh in on this story at Facebook or Twitter.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 2012 Election • Christianity • Mormonism • Paul Ryan

soundoff (410 Responses)
  1. TUVIA

    B"H

    Barack Obama AND THE WORLD vs the People of Israel

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU

    ------------------------------------------------

    LET MY PEOPLE GO ---- FREE JONATHAN POLLARD NOW

    August 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      hindu Jew's, filthy secular's, self centered, denier's of truth absolute v/ humanity in their hindu Judaism, filthy secularism. A product of hindu hinduism, filthy racism. hang Pollard and hang him high with his hindu Judaism, filthy secularism.

      August 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  2. TUVIA

    B"H

    IT IS TIME FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO MAKE THEIR DECISION ON THIS SPEECH
    WAKE UP AMERICAN PEOPLE, TIME TO STOP SLEEPING

    CLICK ON LINK FOR VIDEO BELOWl

    Barack Obama vs the People of Israel

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU

    -------------–

    B"H

    LET MY PEOPLE GO – FREE JONATHAN POLLARD NOW

    August 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  3. TUVIA

    IB"H

    IT IS TIME FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO MAKE THEIR DECISION ON THIS SPEECH
    WAKE UP AMERICAN PEOPLE, TIME TO STOP SLEEPING

    CLICK ON LINK FOR VIDEO BELOWl

    Barack Obama vs the People of Israel

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=947by3X6_RU

    ___--------------------------------------------------

    August 21, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • rh

      I sure hope Obama wins, I don't like theocracies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

      August 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  4. Logical Human

    I am really confused when protestants throw around all this being saved stuff. I am fully aware of what being saved is because I have done it in churches and with about 10 different protestant leaders. As far as im concerned you have to profess Jesus as your lord and savior. I have met multiple Mormons and I have seen them do the same thing. It isn't something they practice every week at church but they have nothing against the "being saved" ordinance. In fact I have witnessed 3 very active Mormons go through the "saved" ordinance. I once saw a shirt in a huge protestant book store that said, "being saved is so easy even a cave man could do it". I said in my head, "being saved so easy even the devil could do it".

    August 21, 2012 at 3:47 am |
  5. One for hope

    Although the article was slightly interesting, Most of the comments are completely backwards to be slightly entertaining. Please vote, even if it's not one of the main ticket names. It is our civic duty to study the candidates: their past performance and what you have learned about their specific character – not what you think you know about their religion. People who don't vote are the number one reason why we have mediocre people representing us in congress and the leaders we have had. We all need to be better about holding our representatives accountable instead of just posting intolerant complants. Whether you meditate or pray about who to vote for just learn about the candidates and then vote.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:36 am |
  6. Nietodarwin

    Racist conservatives won't hate Obama so much if they take the time to learn about mormonism. CALL YOURSELF A CHRISTIAN. Google "Lying for the Lord" IT ALL COMES UP MORMON

    August 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Either way Christianity is hindu Mithra ism, savior ism, based on hindu filthy hinduism, racism, Every christian is in violation of truth absolute human equality, foundation of USA, they do not deserve any respect, than, let one of them to be President of USA.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  7. Nietodarwin

    This article says, "Among those who know Romney is Mormon, 60% said they are comfortable with his religion, while 19% said they are not." IF YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN AND IN THIS 60% just take two minutes away from here, and google "LYING FOR THE LORD." You may not vote for Obama, but I doubt you;ll still think you want to vote for Romney. "LYING FOR THE LORD" IS A MORMON TEACHING. DOES THAT SOUND CHRISTIAN TO YOU???????

    August 19, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  8. Ramon F. Herrera

    One wonders: Which is the party where hatred is most concentrated and distilled?

    The only ones qualified to make a statement are the victims of prejudice, persecution and racism themselves. Let's ask them, shall we?

    Here's their response:

    – Black folks voted for Obama, by a 96% margin.
    – Jewish folks voted for Obama, by a 75% margin.
    – Hispanic folks voted for Obama, by a 66% margin.
    – Asian folks voted for Obama, by a 63% margin.
    – Gay folks voted for Obama, by an unknown margin.

    ps: Oh, I almost forgot the largest minority of all:

    http://patriot.net/~ramon/misc/GOP-Hates-Women-and-Feeling-is-Mutual.jpg
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/story/2012-04-01/swing-states-poll/53930684/1

    August 19, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  9. Ramon F. Herrera

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSixNyQFhpM

    August 19, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  10. Rob

    Uh huh, we now have the chance to elect the Templars from planet Kolob to lead this once great nation.

    August 19, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  11. SugarKube

    Who cares just as long as we get the Kenyan out of our white house.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      It never ceases to amaze me how the far conservatives when doing something wrong -like spewing hatred- and told that their words and actions are counterproductive, to tone down the offensive rhetoric, they DOUBLE DOWN.

      Why is that??? Simple: They DO NOT have to face consequences. They insult Black folks and nothing happens, they insult Jewish fellows and nothing happens, they spew hatred against gays, and nothing happens. They cowardly hide in the MAJORITY.

      The problem for them is that soon there will be a new Sheriff in town (in several critical BATTLEGROUND states). They offend the Hispanic folks and... SOMETHING happens.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXaILy3GE7U

      August 19, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  12. muslimmangler

    The HOLY war has begun.
    In this corner we have 2 true blue Americans...
    IN this corner we have a commie dictator wannabe sand ni**er.

    We shall over come !!!!!!!!

    August 18, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • donner

      When judgement day comes, it will be a pleaure to get you up in a tree. Boy.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • Peter Grenader

      Go to h ell

      August 19, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  13. donner

    Do a wiki search on the White Horse Prophecy. Glen Beck, another Mormon, talks about it all the time on his radio show. Do yor own research. then tell your friends. It matters.

    August 18, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • PAUL

      GLEN BECK'S BABES!!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPDirIhy5Zs

      August 18, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  14. John

    Romney is only loyal to the Morman Church not the United States.

    August 17, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Penelope

      Your proof for such an assertion?

      August 18, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • rh

      And Israel is only loyal to Judaism, yet the US makes believe that they play by international rules and are worthy of our unrestricted military aid.

      August 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  15. Richard

    Funny, you outlined clearly what specific religion various politicos are, but you only made passing mention of the Supreme Court having no Protestants in it. What are the religions of the members of the Court?

    August 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  16. Reality

    Dear Messrs. Romney and Ryan,

    How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?: And how many “souls” would be saved?

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror LIKE 9/11.

    – One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    – Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

    – The Mormon empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    – Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses never existed.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    – All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!

    BOTTOM LINE: SAID SAVINGS WOULD PAY FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE !!!!

    August 17, 2012 at 7:49 am |
    • Max

      No .....the funding of sky daddy organisations is waaaay more beneficial than ensuring everyone has at least basic health care covered...... much, much more important.. Look what Jesus have done for us so far.....i mean Allah, err Yahweh.... check that, Buddha ... maybe its Krishna .... Odin ..Zeus .. ... hmmm well we ve created 5000+ of these overlords.... one of them has to have done something positive right?

      August 19, 2012 at 5:38 am |
  17. mark

    I am a born again Christian. I am not affiliated with any denomination. This is the worst election I have ever seen. The choices are horrible. We have Obama, who is an antichrist, or Romney, a Mormon, which is spiritually even worse. I won't be voting for president this time. I hear some say, well you have to vote for the lesser of two evils. Not me, I won't be voting for evil. Why would anyone think they have to go there? You don't! I will just be voting on some local issues, and maybe for some local candidates. "Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven". ....Jesus Jn. 3:3 There is only one way to God, that is through Jesus His Son, who died for our sins. We must accept His atonement on our behave in order to be saved and have eternal life. God has not provided any other way of salvation. May you find peace in God through faith in Jesus and His finished work on your behalf.

    August 17, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Come away from the childish life and grow up...faith is belief without evidence and it's probably a good thing you're not voting...children don't belong at the polling stations!

      August 17, 2012 at 4:08 am |
    • captain america

      Neither do canadians. Take a flying leap liar prevails. There's your sign

      August 17, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  18. fred

    check out the following to see prayer works:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3393937

    August 16, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!
      What a fucking moronic article!
      Guess what, you can get the same psychosomatic effects from normal meditation!
      AHAHAHAHA!

      August 16, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • fred

      hawaiiguest
      Larger study same results:
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10547166
      CONCLUSIONS: Remote, intercessory prayer was associated with lower CCU course scores. This result suggests that prayer may be an effective adjunct to standard medical care.

      Patients were unaware that they were being prayed for, and the intercessors did not know and never met the patients.

      August 16, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • fred

      hawaiiguest

      you are being prayed for
      suggest you continue to hold onto your chair

      August 16, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @fred

      Yea keep praying for me, and I'll keep thinking for you.

      August 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • fred

      Sounds like a winning solution ! Perhaps a win win solution

      August 16, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example; Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine–year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! .

      August 16, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • fred

      Jesus CCU studies have long been debunked which makes your reply suspect even though you biring up other good points.

      August 16, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Jesus

      No they haven't.

      August 16, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • stupid followed to its logical conclusion

      Becomes atheism.

      August 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things wrote:

      "stupid followed to its logical conclusion Becomes atheism."

      wow. someone lost their job at the fortune cookie factory.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • old golfer

      Religion has a very bloody history and still is, bloody.

      August 17, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Penelope

      Agreed. If prayer doesn't work, people would have stopped praying centuries ago. Those who disagree have never really prayed and have no basis for their argument.

      August 18, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • rh

      If I think happy thoughts instead of sad thoughts, that does change things.

      If you pray, and it makes you feel better, and maybe even makes other people feel better that you are praying for them, that's great.

      But just because you picked a religion doesn't mean it's the only right one.

      Tell me, if God is omniscient and omnipresent and all, was he just being a smartazz creating multiple religions? Did he think it would be funny for a bunch of people to argue over whether his name is God, Yahweh, or Allah?

      August 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things .

    August 16, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example; Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine–year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      August 16, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      prayer does nothing but fool yourself. You are talking to nobody.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • skytag

      Since there is no tangible evidence to support your claim I am forced to conclude that if it changes things it doesn't change them enough to matter.

      August 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.