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Because Mrs. Bachmann and Mr. Perry are evangelical Christians who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, they were the subjects of extensive media coverage focused on their faith. Very little of it was positive.

When Mr. Perry ended his presidential campaign, his wife, Anita, said he had been “brutalized” by the media for his faith.

No candidate’s faith has been probed as thoroughly as Rick Santorum’s. The Republican presidential candidate is a Roman Catholic, a faith he shares with roughly 1 in 4 Americans.

Mr. Santorum may be a more committed Catholic than most others. But his statements about his beliefs that have generated controversy on the campaign trail - about artificial birth control and the existence of sin and Satan - reflect Catholic teaching. While some of his religious practices - including daily Mass and home-schooling his children - may not be typical, they are hardly unusual, let alone threatening.

But that is exactly how they have been portrayed. “Unlike Catholics who believe that church doctrine should adapt to changing times and needs,” a recent NewYorkTimes profile stated, “the Santorums believe in a highly traditional Catholicism that adheres fully to what scholars call ‘the teaching authority’ of the pope and his bishops.”

Mr. Santorum’s “bold expressions of faith,” the Times continued, could “scare off voters uncomfortable mixing so much religion in politics.”

It would be easy to suppose that the media focus less on the religious beliefs of politicians like Mr. Obama, Mr. Ellison and Mr. Romney because faith plays less of a role in their lives and politics. But that’s not entirely true.

Mr. Obama regularly invokes God and his faith, while Mr. Ellison, a devout Muslim, has said that Islam guides his politics. Mr. Romney doesn’t talk a lot about his religion, but it’s clearly a major part of his life. He has donated millions of dollars to the Mormon Church and spent decades as a lay pastor, a vocation to which he says he devotes up to 40 hours a week.

A more obvious explanation for the double standard is that evangelical Christians and practicing Catholics usually embrace conservative positions on public policy issues, especially on social issues such as abortion and marriage.

In the end, for the mainstream media, the politics is all that matters.

Daniel Allott is senior writer at American Values.