Against the backdrop of “can I vote for a Mormon?” unease among many religious voters, the Romney campaign has downplayed the relevance of religion for the presidency. We’re told not to worry about a candidate’s faith because the President is not a “pastor in chief.” In 2012, that may be a politically savvy truism, but is it really true?

With a Mormon challenging President Obama, a Protestant, several Christian leaders have urged voters to consider credentials instead of creed. Franklin Graham spoke for many when he told ABC News: “Listen, we’re not voting for the ‘pastor in chief’ of the United States. We’re voting for the President. We’re looking for the person that is the most qualified, a person that shares common values, a person that loves the country, a person who can lead this nation out of the economic mess that we’ve gotten ourselves in, and that’s I think the main thing for most people today.”

Romney, a former Mormon bishop, has been emphatic in response to questions posed about particulars of his religious beliefs: “I’m not running for pastor in chief. I’m running for commander in chief.”

Romney would, of course, not say otherwise. Suggesting that the President does play a significant, albeit informal, religious role would be perceived as committing theocratic heresy that runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution.

Article VI of the Constitution makes it perfectly clear that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office.” But when the President pledges to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution in his oath of office, he customarily does so with his hand on the Bible and concludes with the words: “So help me God.”

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