Certainly it cannot be dismissed, she says, but it can easily be used by unscrupulous political candidates to influence voters. Thus, the particular faith a person puts down on paper can be an important point, but there are other things to examine before we let it be our only influence.
Mahoney says there is no clear answer to the question of whether faith belongs in government and politics. While some people may not believe religion belongs in government, there is room to say that values do belong in politics, she writes. How a person's faith influences their values is an important part in choosing a particular candidate. A Christian voter not only must determine how this faith does or does not influence the way he votes but also if faith or values influence the life and leadership of candidates.
Almost every candidate today has listed a religion of some kind in their political platform. The candidates usually espouse some sort of Christian values, she writes. However, the more important question is how those values influence the candidate's decisions and leadership. There are agnostic candidates that demonstrate more Christian values than those who claim to be Christians, and there are good Christian candidates that balance their faith and values well. A label alone doesn't mean the person shares your values, she writes.
Mahoney recommends Christian voters be careful to not get blindsided by a label. She suggests looking at the candidate's history on issues important to them, such as social security, student loan funding, health care or abortion.
What about Christians in Danville? Does their faith and their church influence the way they vote?
In a random survey of some two dozen people who were leaving their respective houses of worship after weekday services and programs, 20 of the 24 said their faith, religious values and, in many cases, the doctrines and dogmas of their respective denominations have at least some influence on the way they vote.
Many of these respondents indicated their voting booth decisions focus on such issues as abortion, capital punishment and euthanasia. The vast majority of those willing to state their positions on those issues said they were "pro-life" and against abortion; some said they also were opposed to capital punishment and euthanasia.
However, several of the respondents - both those who described themselves as "pro-life" voters and those who didn't - said their faith also was reflected in their concerns about such issues as poverty, hunger and lack of accessibility to health insurance.
The four other respondents said their faith and religious values and their church's doctrines were not necessarily reflected in their votes. For example, one of these respondents said they were "pro-life" but could vote for a candidate who was "pro-choice" if that candidate shared his "progressive" views on other issues such as education, the economy and the environment while his "pro-life" opponent didn't share those views.
By and large, most of the 24 survey respondents indicated they were conservative in both their religious and political views. However, some labeled themselves as moderate in their religious and political views; a couple said their religious views were conservative but described themselves as moderate to liberal politically.
A sample of some of the respondents were parishioners at Danville's SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. They were leaving a weekday Mass when they were interviewed.
"My faith is reflected in who I vote for," said Bonnie Kehoe. "Issues such as abortion, capital punishment and euthanasia are important - I am pro life - and I prefer candidates who share those views."
Judy Schaefer said her faith impacts her whole life, not just the way she votes.
"My religious faith can't be separated from any aspect of my life, including politics and the way I vote," she said.
Sue Vogt agreed.
"My faith is my life," she said. "Any decision I make in the voting booth reflects my faith and my Christian and Catholic values, whether it's abortion or helping the poor."