Religious Trailblazers in American Politics
A look at those who Broke Religious Barriers on the Campaign Trail
The separation of church and state has been a debated idea in this country since it was founded, but it hasn't stopped politicians from wearing their religion on their sleeves. Here is a list of some of more ambitious politicians that wave their flags and bibles at the same time.
Gov. Culbert Olson (D-CA) (1876-1962)
Raised in the Mormon faith, Olson eventually declared himself an atheist and became Governor of California in 1939.
(See Also: Should a Candidate's Religion Matter?)
Gov. George W. Romney (R-MI) (1907-1995)
Though today perhaps best known as the father of another influential Mormon politician, GOP 2012 frontrunner Mitt Romney, Gov. George Romney is one of the most influential Mormon politicians in American history. In addition to serving as the 43rd Governor of Michigan, he served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Nixon administration. (Nixon defeated Romney in the 1968 GOP primary—a primary Romney was originally expected to win.)
Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA) (1931-the present)
The Dean of the California Congressional delegation is the first openly atheist member of Congress.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) (1939-the present)
Though he grew up agnostic, the current Senate Majority leader converted to the Mormon faith while in college and has argued that contrary to his more high profile Republican counterparts in the faith, he considers the church’s emphasis on helping others very much in line with the political philosophies of the Democratic Party.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (1942-the present)
The former Freedom Rider almost made history by coming thisclose to becoming the first Orthodox Jewish Vice-president in American history. We all know what happened in Florida in 2000.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R/I-NY) (1942-the present)
As the 13th wealthiest man in America and Mayor of the most populous city in America, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, is arguably not just one of the most influential non-Christians in American politics but in America period. So much so, that there was talk at one point that he would become the first Jewish president, talk that has since died down following his tough re-election fight for a third term.
Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) (1947-the present)
The first Mormon Governor of Massachusetts is poised to make history by becoming the first Mormon Republican nominee for president and possible President of the United States in 2012.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) (1963-the present)
Ellison is the first practicing Muslim elected to U.S. Congress.