The hostile reaction to expressions of religious belief by presidential candidates suggests that the cultural and media elite in America remain deeply uncomfortable with robust Christian witness.

Is Rick Perry, who led a prayer rally before announcing his candidacy, too religious to become president? Is Mitt Romney too Mormon — and therefore a fringe candidate? Is Jon Huntsman not Mormon enough — and therefore acceptable?

And, after winning the Iowa Straw Poll the day before, Michele Bachmann tussled with Meet the Press host David Gregory Aug. 14 over whether a woman who believed in St. Paul’s dictum on wives being submissive to their husbands can be a serious candidate.

Misunderstandings persist about the proper role and place of religion, in spite of surveys showing strong religiosity in America.

Whatever one may think of Ephesians 5, a believer’s effort to understand and follow the word of God in his personal life does not mean he would turn the country into a theocracy.

Life and marriage issues are a different question. Even an atheist can recognize that life begins at conception and marriage is the union of one man and one woman designed for the procreation and education of children. These are not strictly religious principles. Catholic or Christian candidates should not be silenced by a misguided notion that they are imposing their religious values on a diverse populace.

Gregory also had a hard time understanding how Bachmann listens to God. He asked about some of her statements in the past that God told her to do this or that. She tried to explain how she might seek his guidance in prayer.

Any Christian who seeks discernment in prayer knows what Bachmann is talking about when she says it’s “important for us to seek his guidance and pray and listen to his voice.” It’s not about carrying out orders from a dictator in the sky. God gives man intellect and freedom to make what seems to him the wisest decision.

A president who is serious about acting from the basis of an informed conscience and who struggles to conform his or her life and actions to a higher standard can’t be bad for this country. It may be just what America needs at this critical time in her history.

This is not an endorsement of any presidential hopeful. But a Christian candidate should not pretend to be something other than what he or she is, just to be palatable to the chattering classes. And Americans should not fear a praying president.