The Republican presidential candidates are trying harder than ever to convince voters about the strength of their faith. How important a role will religion play in next year's election?
"It was evangelicals who helped our first ever divorced president, our only divorced president, Ronald Reagan ... [Christianity] is what this bloc of voters want their presidential candidates to be proponents of. Not so much that they want them to live moral lives, they want them to espouse the sort of apocalyptical politics in which America was found as a Christian nation."
- Michelle Goldberg, author of Kingdom Coming: the Rise of christian Nationalism
Nearly one in five Americans are white evangelical protestants. A majority of them are socially conservative and tend to vote Republican. And in Iowa, where the first Republican contest takes place in less that two weeks, 60 per cent of likely voters identify themselves as evangelicals.
In 1960, many protestants were skeptical about John F Kennedy, a Catholic. And now it is Mitt Romney's Mormon faith that makes evangelicals wary.
Republicans made huge gains in the 2010 midterm elections, and have since pushed for legislation that appeals to the religious right.
Social conservatives want to ban abortions, and next week at least four of the Republican candidates will take part in a so-called presidential pro-life forum.
Some democratic leaning states allow gay marriage and gays can now openly serve in the military. But many Republicans have been pushing back against gay equality.
And nearly all the Republican candidates are opposing the law that bars prayer in the US public schools.
But will those strong positions guarantee that any of the candidates get the evangelical vote? How will religion influence the 2012 presidential election?
Inside Story: US 2012 discusses with guests: Frank Schaeffer, an author and political commentator, and son of Francis Schaeffer, an influential Evangelical theologian in the US; Michelle Goldberg, a senior contributing writer for Daily Beast and Newsweek, and author of Kingdom Coming: the Rise of Christian Nationalism; and Melissa Rogers, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington.
Source: Al Jazeera