Last week, Rev. Robert Jeffress stirred controversy when, while introducing Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry at the Values Voters Summit, he called Mormomism a “cult.”

Many Republican lawmakers condemned the Baptist pastor’s statement. They argued that we should be debating political positions, not religious beliefs. Unfortunately, many of these same politicians base their political stances on religious reasoning and language. And as Ron Lindsay writes on The Washington Post web site, they can’t have it both ways:

The problem is that many of our politicians — including Mitt Romney — and many members of the public want it both ways. They don’t want to entertain questions about their religious beliefs, yet at the same time they invoke these beliefs, sometimes expressly sometimes implicitly, as bearing on a person’s qualifications for office. Moreover, on some issues, religious beliefs are frequently invoked as justifications for policy stances.

Romney, along with many others, apparently thinks religion and politics do mix, as long as we don’t examine too closely the basis for anybody’s beliefs. Sorry, but that doesn’t work. To the extent that religious beliefs are interjected into the political arena, they should be subject to examination and criticism the same as any other beliefs. We should ask those politicians who assert that belief in God is the basis for our values: 1. the evidence they rely upon for their belief; 2. the reasons they maintain there is a necessary connection between religion and morality. Any lesser scrutiny would not do justice to principles they have characterized as important.

Of course, that’s not likely to happen. Nor would it be desirable to turn policy discussions into theological debates. But it is also not desirable to allow religious beliefs to be immune from critical examination if they are influencing our politics and policies.