Getting Entangled in Church-State Relations: Faith-Based Politics Causes Problems for the Leading Presidential Candidates

All of the major candidates – including Clinton, Obama, McCain, and Huckabee – have made plays for the religious vote by voicing positions on faith and seeking the endorsement of religious leaders. However, they are also discovering that mixing politics and religion is a risky business. This week, both McCain and Obama face some serious baggage that came with religious allies.

John McCain was delighted when he received the endorsement of Rev. John Hagee, a San Antonio pastor with a worldwide broadcast ministry. He had sought the endorsement and said that he was “very honored by Pastor John Hagee’s endorsement.”

However, Hagee has long been viewed as one of the most anti-Catholic and downright weird voices on the religious rights.

This video shows just how bizarre Hagee’s views are on the subject of Catholics, for example. Click here

He has called the Catholic church “The Great Whore” and “the anti-Christ” as well as a “false cult system.”

In 2006 Hagee called for an attack on Iran to fulfill religious predictions: “The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.”

He also said that New Orleans gays caused Hurricane Katrina: ” … All of the city was punished because of the sin that happened there in that city.”

McCain later distanced himself from Hagee’s statements: “Yesterday, Pastor John Hagee endorsed my candidacy for president in San Antonio, Texas. However, in no way did I intend for his endorsement to suggest that I in turn agree with all of Pastor Hagee’s views, which I obviously do not. I am hopeful that Catholics, Protestants and all people of faith who share my vision for the future of America will respond to our message of defending innocent life, traditional marriage, and compassion for the most vulnerable in our society.”

For the Hagee story, click here.

Of course, McCain is not alone. Obama was grilled recently at the Cleveland debate over his support from Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan. Obama was quick to reject the support, to his credit. Click here He has also been challenged about his connections to Rev. Jeremiah Wright who is viewed as equally extreme. All of the candidates have courted Sharpton, even as he deals with ongoing criminal investigations. Click here.

Of course, while Hillary Clinton attacked Obama over Farrakhan, she does not have any qualms about receiving support from Rev. Al Sharpton in past campaigns despite his own controversial background.

As noted in this column, the incorporation of religious themes and positions into presidential campaigns has only invited this type of problem. Candidates cannot cloak themselves in the support of religious leaders but then try to embrace only their votes and not their ideas.

7 thoughts on “Getting Entangled in Church-State Relations: Faith-Based Politics Causes Problems for the Leading Presidential Candidates

  1. Jay,

    I concede your point(s)!

    This is a first.

    Now, about those “moments of silence” in K-12?

  2. DW,

    Ah, you understand MY point! Nobody is “cloaking” themselves in anything! And nobody agrees 100% with their political candidates!

    This is an election isn’t it!? It’s about votes. Period. Since when does ANY candidate really care where the votes come from? Obama’s not telling anyone, especially the Farakan folks, NOT to vote for him. And McCain need not do the same.

    This whole issue is a non-issue. It is ridiculous to assume that just because someone supports a candidate, that the candidate somehow must “embrace” their ideas.

  3. Jay,

    Its a subtle point, but the key to the reasonableness of JT’s statement lies in the word “cloak”, and the unreasonableness of your question lies in your inclusion of “100%”

  4. Perhaps a another twist:

    It is fair to judge a candidate by his own words and deeds (or lack thereof.) McCain was very grateful for the support of Hagee. In fact, he solicited the endorsement.

    It is my observation, McCain merely said he didn’t agree with some of the “Pastor’s” ideas, but he fell short of identifying those ideas of which he didn’t agree. Not a particularly brave clarification.

    Under those conditions he could seek the Al Quaeda endorsement, which I’m sure he’d get, considering his affinity for promoting their business agenda.

  5. “Candidates cannot cloak themselves in the support of religious leaders but then try to embrace only their votes and not their ideas.”

    Why not?

    Are you saying that Presidential Candidates must only accept votes and/or support from individuals with which they agree 100%?

  6. Excellent point, JT, but as I have seen from the majority of candidates going back a couple of decades, they always try their best to have it both ways. What is even scarier is that sometimes these candidates WIN. Like George II, for example, and he’s just the latest one.

    As one who considers herself a secular humanist, or non-religious if you will, I am deeply concerned about the opposition to the church-state separation coming from the “religious right” and have been for quite some time. I am even more concerned when I hear Mitt Romney say things like “freedom requires religion” or Mike Huckabee say “we need a Constitution that meets God’s standard.” In fact, I shudder when I hear these things said publicly. Yes, I know they have the right to say them, but hearing such extremist views expressed still gives me the creeps.

    Thankfully, Romney dropped out, but Huckabee remains in, and even his views are cause for worry. The fact that John McCain is “honored” by some of the extremists in that religious crowd is yet another reason why he will not get MY vote in this election. But I would be happier still if Senators Obama and Clinton would start acknowledging that Americans have the right NOT to “believe” as the religious have to believe. Contrary to the snarky remark George I said about atheists some years ago, those of us who choose NO religion are citizens and patriots too. And we still VOTE at election time.

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