Why Presidents Can’t Belong to a Church

In Time, Amy Sullivan (liberal Evangelical and author of a widely-noted book on the “God gap” in American politics) observes that American Presidents can no longer maintain church membership. It’s not because of any constitutional strictures. Rather, the intense public attention that surrounds anything a President does nowadays makes church membership a practical impossibility. Any church that a President regularly attended would find itself deluged with Secret Service and members of the media, to say nothing of spectators who would crowd the church for a peek at POTUS. Sullivan regrets this situation:

It’s hard to imagine any future President being able to attend church–much less teach Sunday School [as Jimmy Carter did]–without an attendant hullabaloo. And that’s too bad. The men and women we put in that office will confront serious questions on life-and-death issues and find themselves under enormous amounts of stress. For those for whom religion has been important, it could be helpful to have the outlet of a congregation where they could reflect and be renewed. The individuals who serve as President give up many personal freedoms in order to do so. A community of worship shouldn’t have to be one of them.

 

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