Liberty, through the lens

Get people talking about politics this year, and the conversation is impassioned, often difficult, sometimes searching: What is the proper role for government in America today? What’s a safety net and what’s a handout? Where do my rights stop and yours begin? From now through Election Day, Washington Post journalists are traveling through one of the newest battleground states, Virginia, to listen in as voters wrestle with the issues of 2012. For the third installment of the series, we asked Virginians, 78 percent of whom identify as Christian, about the importance of faith in political leaders in a pluralistic America.

Voters' voices

Q:

Do you think a political leader should or should not rely on his or her religious beliefs in making policy decisions? How much does it matter to you that a candidate for president shares your religious beliefs?

Photo essay

Faith in Virginia

Founding father and Virginia planter Thomas Jefferson revered the teachings of Jesus Christ but raised an eyebrow over much of the Scripture. Those parts that seemed “contrary to reason” – burning bushes, seas that part – he cut out. Then he reassembled his own Bible. He wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom to enshrine a fierce civic desire for separation of church and state in the newly independent colonies. The country is still arguing over that wall. A presidential election about financial security slips back into a struggle over religious doctrine’s role in social policy.

Rollover photos for captions

EXIT

PORTRAITS: Melina Mara; PHOTO ESSAY: Bonnie Jo Mount; WRITING: Ann Gerhart; DESIGN: Grace Koerber and Kat Downs; AUDIO: Nick Kirkpatrick - TWP. Published Aug. 24, 2012.

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