My Take: GOP's non-Protestant ticket changes meaning of 'values'
Paul Ryan, a Catholic, and Mitt Romney, a Mormon, make up the first non-Protestant ticket of a major party in recent U.S. history.
August 16th, 2012
09:24 AM ET

My Take: GOP's non-Protestant ticket changes meaning of 'values'

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

There has been a lot of conversation in recent years about the rise of racial and ethnic minorities in America. Census figures show that there are more minority births than white births, and the United States is on schedule to become a white-minority country by 2050 or so.

A parallel story is playing itself out in religion, where Protestants, who have traditionally predominated in the United States, now constitute a little more than half of American adults. But the story of the decline of the Protestant establishment is particularly stark in U.S. public life, where Protestant leaders are giving way to Catholics and Jews, Buddhists and Mormons.

Take the 2012 presidential election, which features in Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, the first non-Protestant ticket in recent U.S. history. Or the U.S. Supreme Court, which now boasts six Catholics, three Jews and zero Protestants.

The 112th U.S. Congress remains solidly Protestant, accounting for 56.8% of the members of the House and the Senate, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

But the hallowed halls of Congress are changing fast. There are now both Buddhists and Muslims in Congress. And Catholics, Jews and Mormons are better represented there than they are in the U.S. population as a whole.

When it comes to religion and politics, things were simpler when Protestants ran the show. To speak of “values” during a presidential campaign or a congressional debate was to speak of Protestant “values.” And to reckon with “religion” in the Supreme Court was to reckon with “religion” as Protestants have seen it.

Throughout U.S. history, “strict separationists” have tried to erect what Thomas Jefferson famously referred to as a “wall of separation” between church and state. For better or for worse, they have failed. Religion and politics mix and mingle nowadays, not least in our political campaigns. But making sense of that volatile mix is getting harder as more and more religious perspectives make their way into our public space.

With the entry into the vice-presidential contest of Ryan, a Catholic and the architect of recent Republican budget proposals, Americans are turning their attention to Catholic social thought, weighing what bishops and nuns have to say about his proposals for lower taxes and cuts in entitlement programs.

So far, Romney has managed to sidestep the questions American voters will doubtless have about what it might mean to have a Mormon in the Oval Office.

On those rare occasions when he has spoken about his faith, he has attempted to underscore the ways in which Mormon values track evangelical Protestant values. But Mormons are not Protestants, so we cannot assume that his religious reflexes will in any way parallel those of Episcopalians such as President George H.W. Bush or Methodists such as President George W. Bush.

It is too early to pity the poor Protestants, but with a Mormon, two Catholics and just one Protestant (President Barack Obama) topping the tickets of the two major parties this fall, it is time to reassess what it means to call God and his values to our side in the rough and tumble of American politics. As our population becomes more religiously diverse, and our public square with it, we will increasingly be asking, "which God?" and "whose values?"

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Catholic Church • Church and state • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Mormonism • Politics • Polls • United States

soundoff (484 Responses)
  1. Science


    May 5, 2013 at 7:09 am |
  2. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    Gravity is not up for debate !

    BY the way ...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !...............bye bye tinker bell !

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    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

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    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

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    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

    Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.

    No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

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    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

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    Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

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    Make sure to read comments

    April 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |

    Breaking News

    NASA: Three planets found are some of best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our solar system.


    NASA: Mars could have supported life

    Star Dust we are


    Holy Hallucinations 35


    The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life


    Scientists have unearthed the first direct signs of cheesemaking, at a site in Poland that dates back 7,500 years.

    Human Evolution


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    BACKFILL on E =mc2.....

    Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'

    By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

    Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist – Albert Einstein – was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.

    “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”


    May 4, 2013 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |

    Cheech & Chong's History of 420


    All cults...........creationists, ID believers and devil cults.................

    The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !.

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

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    Education works for children

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    February 16, 2013 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |


    May 5, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • Science


      May 5, 2013 at 7:09 am |
  3. lucianne

    Mormons are "Christians" with a lot of very strange twists – I know nothing about diapers, but they do believe in retroactive baptism (that is, ater you are dead, and without your permission) and that you are only permanently married in the afterlife if you get married in one of two physical structures, but if you can't get there, you can get married by proxy. I think Romney's grandather went to Mexico becuase he believed in polygamy. Somehow brown people were overcooked and defective white people until fairly recently. It gets stranger from there. I don't prefer Catholics, who dislike women but like pedophiles, but the Mormons are even more peculiar. I'll go with protestant Obama any day.

    September 9, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  4. Sock-Ra-Tease

    God is invoked to explain mysteries, but God is a mystery and mysteries cannot be explained.

    When God is invoked to explain a mystery, you are invoking something that cannot be explained, to explain something that cannot be explained. This is the essential goofiness of theism. Its intellectual fraud.

    That’s why the clergy want you to check your brains at the church house door. Duh!

    September 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  5. donner

    Imagine a world crisis, and Mitt Romney is sitting in the Oval Office, in his snug and absorbent magical Mormon diaper. Do we really want a grown man who wears a diaper 24/7 making decisions?? Diapers are for new borns and the elderly. Not for world leaders. Do some research into the Mormon church before you vote. Then warn all your friends.

    August 20, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • R Burns

      Do your boxers function as diapers? Mormon "temple garments" are a knockoff of traditional Engish winter underwear, with shorter legs than "long underwear" and cap sleeves on the top. They are meant to enforce modest dress, outside the demands of sports or entertainment dress such as dancewear. I wish I could find some similar underwear but the only thing available to outsiders is men's knit undershorts. Now if I were going to make a comparison between some kind of underwear and diapers it would have to be thongs!

      September 1, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • bazoomba

      I'll take a man in diapers over an idiot who believes the earth was created in 6 days ANY DAY.

      September 9, 2012 at 3:49 am |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 20, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • kindless

      oh here we go again – i come back from a nice weekend away, and i see this girl is still huffin jesus – my goodness. (And, if they are huffin jesus. they are usually huffin something else if you know what i mean. They have to use something to keep making all that made-up religious nonsense somehow real to them.) Of course atheism is fine for all people – keeps their heads clear and makes them useful. Mama kindless can tolerate some of these weak-minded people for a while, but if they start hiding their misdeeds in their crazy made-up religions, then she will find you as's and make sure society knows what you're up to.

      Religion is such a dangerous thing that preys on weak-minded, gullible fools. And to think that lawyers and politicians were just trying to make a buck and created all this mess hundreds of years ago – my goodness. Not gonna fool mama kindless. Daddy made me go to school when I was young. And we stayed away from drugs and religion. Thank goodness.

      August 20, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Eric

      Once again why attack someone when trying to make a point? The only reason I can see is that you point is not credable and you are attempting to discredit the OP. If you would like to have an intelligent 2 way discussion on the errors of your ways I am available.

      August 20, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • tallulah13

      Eric, time and time again, the original poster has made this same claim, and time and time again it has been thoroughly debunked. The only defense the poster has provided is that same claim, plus the word "proven" at the end, as if that somehow magically made it so.

      Why do you think it's acceptable to persist in a lie? If there is evidence, it should be presented. If no evidence is to be presented, the original poster should add an "It is my opinion that" at the start of the statement, instead of the false "proven" at the end.

      I'm headed to work now, so if you do respond, I apologize for not getting back to you quickly.

      August 20, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • One one

      Well, where is your evidence ?

      August 24, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  7. howart Dao

    D'Pope RULES !!!!

    August 19, 2012 at 11:04 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.