Since George Washington, faith has played a very important and often controversial role in the lives of American presidents. Nevertheless, few scholars have carefully analyzed how chief executives’ religious convictions affected their lives, policies, or decisions. Substantial evidence contradicts the frequent claim that a president’s faith matters little in how he governs. Throughout American history many citizens have viewed strong faith as an asset, if not a requirement, for politicians, especially presidents. Most Americans have expected the president to uphold the nation’s highest values and to serve as its moral leader. Many argue that the presidents’ character is as or more significant than their intellect, administrative abilities, or speaking talents. While paying close attention to historical contexts and shifting social and moral values, the book explores the lives, beliefs, character, use of religious rhetoric, policies, elections, and relationships with religious constituencies of eleven of America’s more colorful, charismatic, and complex leaders.
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