This is one of several articles in this issue and the next that focus on presidential election themes. Here we examine the Republican party; in the next issue, we will deal with the Democrats.

Twelve years ago, Bob Sweet, an evangelical Christian, was a textbook salesman in Dublin, New Hampshire. Today he works on the White House staff, helping to shape the President’s positions on education policy, religious liberty, the handicapped, and family issues.

Reagan’s moral vision, his determination to translate rhetoric into legislative offensives, and his unabashed courting of conservative Christians like Bob Sweet into the Republican fold, have all worked to turn the matter of church and state into an incendiary campaign issue this fall.

The phenomenon represents something good as well as something troubling about the association between the church and elective politics. On the positive side, the fact that, after decades of conscientious objection, religious people are ready recruits in a political war, signals a mass unwillingness to see the trend toward a secularized society continue. On the negative side, whenever the church has entered this particular battle it has put its reputation at risk. At times, that good name has become a casualty.

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