It seems U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, has caused a stir particularly with some Jewish groups following comments he made regarding religion and the 2008 presidential race.
McCain, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, was interviewed by Beliefnet.com and in the interview said the U.S. was established as a Christian nation and on Christian principles.
McCain is a Protestant who attends the North Phoenix Baptist Church and said that he would prefer that a person of his own faith be elected president. He also said a Muslim or other candidate could do a good job as president.
On Monday the McCain campaign clarified the senator's remarks claiming that he wasn't saying that persons of other religions have less of a claim to America.
"In the interview he also observed that the values protected by the Constitution, by which he meant values such as respect for human life and dignity, are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition," said Jill Hazelbaker, communications director for McCain's presidential effort. "That is all he intended to say to the question, America is a Christian nation, and it is hardly a controversial claim."
It just shows again how really messy things get when religion and politics get mixed up together. Any politician who shows any appearance of preferential support for one religious stance over another will of course run the risk of alienating all the others.
His campaign comms director is certainly right - the ethics and values of the USA are fundamentally founded in the Judaeo-christian tradition. Where McCain is wrong of course is to assume that the best or only upholders of these values are members of organised religious groups - or that they even need to be theists at all.
The one thing we certainly have maintained better over this side of the pond is trying to keep religion out of our parliamentary politics. We haven't always been good at this either of course. In fact arguably we have been slipping towards this more US approach with both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown actively making reference to their religious roots and beliefs and their political support for the growth of divisive faith schools.
Nevertheless at least we don't suffer from out and out faith based campaigns - yet?