Thu. Oct 22nd, 2020
Talking religion with the Biden campaign
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 951 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Friday, Oct. 2. (AP Photo)

Presidential candidate Joe Biden has an initiative to create policy changes that align with religious values. This applies to BYU students of all religions uniting when it comes to political action.

Josh Dickson, the national faith engagement director for the Biden campaign, said religion plays an essential role in the campaign because different faiths can make an impact on policy changes. Dickson explained the campaign’s common good policy agenda aligns with the values people of faith have.

Joe Biden’s national faith engagement director, Josh Dickson creates platforms for diverse faiths to come together. (Eric Stephenson)

Dickson was previously a recruitment director for Teach for America at BYU and worked for the Obama re-election campaign. In his current role, he leads and promotes functions including interfaith events, phone banking, voter education protection and “off the record” conversations to build relationships with various faiths.

One of his team’s main goals is to ensure that people of faith feel valued and important to the campaign, Dickson said. “We are building this broad, robust, diverse coalition that we think very much aligns with the common good values that the vice president and Sen. (Kamala) Harris are fighting for,” Dickson said.

One of the campaign’s main focuses is to ensure that people of faith are able to engage on the state level. Dickson said BYU students of all faiths can make an impact in local and national elections by connecting based on their shared values. 

One of the main ways Biden and his national faith engagement team reach out to people in the religious community and make them feel valued is by hosting interfaith events where the campaign staff hears people of different faiths share experiences and discuss how to better the country’s moral system.

“They may be coming at those values from different perspectives, different faiths, from different traditions, from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. But when they can find those real points of unity, I think that’s where there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity for doing great work together,” Dickson said.

Laith Habahbeh, a senior at BYU who is Muslim said he has seen common values between his faith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Islam is a very conservative religion and has something similar to the Word of Wisdom, Habahbeh said. 

When Habahbeh was asked if religion has been a core focus in this year’s local and national elections, he said politicians utilize religion as a way to get ahead. “I feel like most political parties try to include religion as part of the process. This is just my personal opinion, but I don’t think it is genuine or out of actual honesty from the political candidates.”

Kayla Perry, a Baptist, is a junior neuroscience major. She said politics and religion are closely tied because people hold political views based on their beliefs. “I think religion plays a really big factor in politics because religion often goes hand in hand with policies. For example, whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, that’s strongly tied back to your religious background.”

BYU can see greater unity on racial, religious and political issues when people start listening to understand people with different viewpoints are saying, Perry said. 

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