In his column this week, Los Angeles Times Syndicate writer William Pfaff complains about the current crop of candidates flaunting their conservative Protestant religion as if that in itself constitutes a religious litmus test for office. But Pfaff offers no evidence that anyone is pressuring the candidates to name Jesus as their favorite philosopher or to say they have been "born again."

As a matter of fact, the religious preferences of the candidates are already well-known and it seems that they are simply being themselves. This kind of public religious talk by a candidate may at times be hypocritical or manipulative, but no more so than candidate talk about love for spouse and children.

Pfaff praises Bill Bradley for being the only major candidate to refrain from such public talk about his religion—but Bradley is the only mystery man among the candidates. Having once been active in the evangelistic group Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he is now reticent to speak about what he once proclaimed openly.

Pfaff ignorantly tags Al Gore as a Pentecostal because he claims to be "born again." That term is hardly the exclusive property of Pentecostals. Southern Baptists (Gore is one) frequently use the same language. Indeed, Gore takes his faith so earnestly that as a young adult he decided to study it at the graduate level at Vanderbilt University. Gore and the others are simply being themselves. Pfaff should recognize this and, unless he has evidence that they are being false or hypocritical, he should let the candidates be themselves and speak personally about their faith.

David Neff is Executive Editor of Christianity Today.

Related Elsewhere

Pfaff's article appeared in the Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe, among other publications.

The candidates' religious talk was earlier discussed in's Amassed Media department.