The inaugural Republican Party presidential debate in New Hampshire this week had religious undertones.
For starters, the debate was held at an institution run by Catholic Benedictines: Saint Anselm College. Also, two Catholics participated — Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum — along with three evangelical Baptists — Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty and Ron Paul — a Mormon, Mitt Romney, and one evangelical Lutheran, Michele Bachmann.
Though there were no Muslim candidates at the GOP debate, the faith came up. CNN moderator John King asked Cain regarding his recent comments about feeling uncomfortable with appointing a Muslim to his administration:
"I would not be comfortable because you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims — those that are trying to kill us," Cain said. "So when I said I wouldn't be comfortable, I was thinking about the ones who are trying to kill us."
Cain also explained that he does not support Sharia law in American courts. "I believe in American laws in American courts, period."
"We recognize that the people of all faiths are welcome in this country," countered former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, responding to Cain's comments. "Our nation was founded on a principal of religious tolerance. That's in fact why some of the early patriots came to this country, and we treat people with respect regardless of their religious persuasion."
The majority of the religious discussion in the debate revolved around the proper separation of church and state and the role of religion in the public sphere.
"The protections between the separation of church and state were designed to protect people of faith from government, not government from people of faith," said Tim Pawlenty. "We're a nation that's founded under God, and the privileges and blessings that we have are from our creator. ... The Founding Fathers understood that the blessings that we have as a nation come from our creator, and we should stop and say thanks and express gratitude for that. I embrace that."
"Madison called it the perfect remedy," added Rick Santorum. "People of faith and no faith ... (making) their claims in the public square, to be heard."
Ron Paul also lauded religious faith and said that law should possess a the expression of your Christian faith in a public place."