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NYT Executive Editor Questions Republican Candidates on Faith

Ariela Fleisig — August 29, 2011 – 3:27 pm | GOP Presidential Candidates 2012 | Republicans | Separation of Church & State Comments (0) Add a comment

The New York Times’ Executive Editor Bill Keller contended in Sunday’s magazine that the Republican presidential primary season provides an “important opportunity” to learn how the candidates’ respective faiths shape their views on public policy.

Keller wrote:

... I do want to know if a candidate places fealty to the Bible, the Book of Mormon (the text, not the Broadway musical) or some other authority higher than the Constitution and laws of this country. It matters to me whether a president respects serious science and verifiable history - in short, belongs to what an official in a previous administration once scornfully described as ‘the reality-based community.’ I do care if religious doctrine becomes an excuse to exclude my fellow citizens from the rights and protections our country promises.

And I care a lot if a candidate is going to be a Trojan horse for a sect that believes it has divine instructions on how we should be governed.

He posed these questions, among others, in a questionnaire that he sent to all of the candidates:

•Do you agree with those religious leaders who say that America is a ‘Christian nation’ or a ‘Judeo-Christian nation?’ and what does that mean in practice?

•Would you have any hesitation about appointing a Muslim to the federal bench? What about an atheist?

•What is your attitude toward the theory of evolution, and do you believe it should be taught in public schools?

•Do you believe it is proper for teachers to lead students in prayer in public schools?

Keller also wrote:

I also asked specific questions of the candidates. I wanted Governor Perry to explain his relationship with David Barton, the founder of the WallBuilders evangelical movement, who preaches that America should have a government ‘firmly rooted in biblical principles’ and that the Bible offers explicit guidance on public policy - for example, tax policy. Since Barton endorsed Perry in the past, it would be interesting to know whether the governor disagrees with him.

And what about John Hagee, the Texas evangelist who described Catholicism as a ‘godless theology of hate’ and declared that the Holocaust was part of God’s plan to drive the Jews to Palestine? In the 2008 campaign, John McCain disavowed Hagee’s endorsement. This time around, the preacher has reportedly decided to bestow his blessing on Perry’s campaign. I wonder if it will be accepted.

My note to Representative Bachmann asked about the documentary produced last year by a group now known as Truth in Action Ministries, in which she espoused the idea that all money for social welfare should come from charity, not government taxation. Is that a goal she would pursue as president?

And I’m curious if she stands by her recommendation of that biography of Robert E. Lee by J. Steven Wilkins, who contends the Civil War was a clash between a Christian South and a godless North. Wilkins writes that in the South, contrary to the notion that slaves were victims, there was a ‘unity and companionship that existed between the races’ because they shared a common faith.

Click here to read Keller’s piece. Click here to view his questionnaire.


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