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A Pew of Separation Between Church and Politics

Gabrielle Topping

A Sunday church service is not the typical place for talking politics. But at Calvary Episcopal in Downtown Memphis, a good breakfast can get the conversation going.

Church member James Dowd said the congregation may swing from right to left, but they manage to get along. At a time when respectful conversations over politics seem rare, they do appear to take place.

“I wish that what we have here this little microcosm of our nation in our little breakfast club each Sunday morning, which consists of myriad thoughts and viewpoints and political persuasions and we all get along,” Dowd said.

When politics are involved, getting along can be difficult. Adding religion to the mix makes it all more complicated.

Carol Susan Lester said that religion doesn’t influence her political decisions. But, she acknowledges that may be different for others.

“Personally I have my own political views and I try to keep that separate from the church,” Lester said. “Of course, I think our faith does influence who you do ultimately choose as a political candidate.”

Lester recently changed her party affiliation. Prior to President Trump's impeachment in the House of Representatives, she was a Republican. For Super Tuesday, she plans to vote a straight Democratic ticket.

Religion, she says, wasn't a factor in that decision.

“I have not been influenced at all by my church,” Lester said. “I must say I make my own decisions. I thoughtfully and carefully considered who I might vote for and I did make the decision to change parties after this recent impeachment inquiry.”

For Darius Clayton, Calvary's community liaison, church and politics typically intertwine when it comes time to elect a politician who represents one's moral outlook.

“I want somebody that I feel like is really speaking towards our community and real-life and not just pretending if they’re supporting to get the vote, but when you look at the track record of certain electives that say that this person has been fighting for equality amongst everyone for a long time,” Clayton said.

If the lead-up to Super Tuesday is any indication, church breakfast will include new sides of hot political topics through November. Keeping it civil: maybe that's where faith comes in.