As the 2008 presidential campaign is now underway, we begin a series on the religion of the candidates.

Some clarifications: (1) we do not rank or recommend candidates based on religious membership; (2) we are not presuming to label candidates saved or unsaved; (3) the full task of relating a politician's religious beliefs and his/her political positions and actions is the work of biographers a generation hence. These things said, we offer some provisional thoughts on each candidate.

In a previous post I briefly raised the question whether Obama's church membership would be an issue. In summary: he belongs to a very Afro-centric congregation belonging to the liberal United Church of Christ denomination. I concluded that it would not be an issue in seeking the nomination, but probably would be in the general election.

Today, Rudy. Official biographical sketch here. TIME magazine profile.

Rudy is Roman Catholic, and earlier in his life considered the priesthood. His public comments refer to a belief in God. His private and public life, however, have estranged him from his church--he is on his third marriage; his public support of abortion rights and gay rights also stands at odds with church teaching and has led to controversy. Perhaps Giuliani is best described as a nominal Catholic.

Will this matter in the nomination process, or in a general election? Probably not. Rudy is like a lot of American Catholics, shaped by their church in significant ways, but picking and choosing which parts to abide by in private and public life.

American conservatives already can see his Law-and-Order record as mayor of New York City, his strong support of the war against militant Islam, and his transformation of the welfare culture of NYC. If conservatives believe that he will nominate and fight for the kind of judges they want, the fact that he is a nominal Catholic will not bother them. They overlooked Reagan's divorce and spotty church attendance.