Presidential Candidates on Religion

An ongoing record of the Democratic presidential hopefuls' comments on religion and spirituality

 

All the Democratic candidates brought religion and their own faith journeys into their campaign speeches, interviews, and platforms to some extent during this campaign season. Here is a look at what the Democratic candidates have said about God, faith, prayer, the separation of church and state, their religious upbringing, and more.





Wesley Clark


General Wesley Clark was the son of a Jewish father and a Methodist mother. He was raised Baptist, but converted to Catholicism when he married. He now attends a Presbyterian church, but still considers himself Catholic.



On His Childhood Church


"[Church life] was of tremendous comfort. I always said my prayers at night. My mother taught actually me to say prayers at night but most of it came from the church."


--

Interview with Beliefnet, November 2003



On Feeling Close to God


"...when I was wounded and recovering in Japan. I went to church there and I remember on the air base where their hospital was, I remember coming out of that church and feeling like I had been - at that point I just felt very, very close to God and that I'd done the right thing with my life. And I knew I wasn't going back to Vietnam. I just knew I wasn't going back."


--

Interview with Beliefnet, November 2003



On What He Considers Himself


"I'm spiritual. I'm religious. I'm a strong Christian and I'm a Catholic but I go to a Presbyterian Church. Occasionally I go to the Catholic church too. I take communion. I haven't transferred my membership or anything. My wife I consider ourselves---she considers herself a Catholic."


--

Interview with Beliefnet, November 2003



On Democrats & Religion


"But the Republican Party does not have the monopoly on faith in this country, and there are just as many Democrats who believe in religion, they go to church, they read the Bible, they say their prayers, they believe in God as there are Republicans. And I think that you'll see that in this next election."


--

Nov. 24, 2003 candidate debate in Des Moines, Iowa



On Prayer


"And I certainly do. I do pray. I do believe in the good Lord. And he's been a very important influence in my life. And I'm not afraid to say that."


--Nov. 24, 2003 candidate debate in Des Moines, Iowa



On Faith & Caring for Others


"If you're going to live your faith, you've got to take care of people. We're not just going to talk family values, we're going to help people live them."


--

Baton Rouge, La. campaign event, Dec. 29, 2003



On Church & State


TOM BROKAW: General Clark, faith is a big component in South Carolina, and throughout the South, for that matter. There's been a big, big dispute down here about the display of the Ten Commandments on public property. Should there be, in your judgment, some kind of a compromise so people who believe in the Ten Commandments, or people of the Jewish faith who want to put something out there that reflects their faith, or the Islamic faith, on public property have the right to do that?



CLARK: Tom, I grew up in the South and I went to church every Sunday and I did all that and I can quote Scriptures and so forth. But, you know, I think that we need to preserve the separation of church and state. I think that kids in school should have the opportunity to pray voluntarily. But when I was a kid in school in Little Rock, we read the Bible and we prayed in home room every morning. And it never occurred to me that I had Jewish friends sitting right there. Now I think, "What must they have thought?"



I think we have to be sensitive to other people in this country, and that's why we need to protect the separation of church and state.



--

Greenville, S.C. Democratic Debate, Jan. 28, 2004





Howard Dean


Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean grew up an Episcopalian but now considers himself a Congregationalist. He left the Episcopal Church after a dispute over a bike path--the diocese in Burlington refused to cede a stretch of land to the city to create a trail. Dean is now married to a Jewish woman and their kids are being raised Jewish.



On Christ


"Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind. He fought against self-righteousness of people who had everything. ... He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2,000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it."


--

Boston Globe interview, published Dec. 25, 2003



On Religion & Homosexuality


"From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people."


--

Interview with The Washington Post, January 7, 2004



"My view of Christianity ... is that the hallmark of being a Christian is to reach out to people who have been left behind. So I think there was a religious aspect to my decision to support civil unions."


--

Quoted in The Washingotn Post, January 8, 2004



On Talking About Religion


"I don't get offended when George Bush or Joe Lieberman talk about their religion. ... I have a feeling it has something to do with them as a human being, and they are entitled to talk about what makes them human."


--

Boston Globe interview, published Dec. 25, 2003



"Let's get into a little religion here. Don't you think Jerry Falwell reminds you a lot more of the Pharisees than he does of the teachings of Jesus? And don't you think this campaign ought to be about evicting the money changers from the temple?" --

Waterloo, Iowa campaign event, Dec. 27, 2003



"I'm still learning a lot about faith and the South and how important it is... It doesn't make me more religious or less religious than I was before, but it means that I'm willing to talk about it in different ways."


--

Quoted in The New York Times, Jan. 5, 2004



On the Bible


"If you know much about the Bible-which I do-to see and be in the place where Christ was and understand the intimate history of what was going on 2,000 years ago is an exceptional experience."


--

Speaking to reporters, Jan. 2, 2004



"But I don't like the way it [the book of Job] ends. Some would argue, you know, in some of the books of the New Testament, the ending of the Book of Job is different.... I think, if I'm not mistaken, there's one book where there's a more optimistic ending, which we believe was tacked on later.... Many people believe that the original version of Job is the version where there is not a change, Job ends up completely destitute and ruined. It's been a long time since I looked at this, but it's believed that was added much, much later. Many people believe that the original ending was about the power of God and the power of God was almighty and all knowing and it wasn't necessary that everybody was going to be redeemed."


--

Speaking to reporters, Jan. 2, 2004, after saying his favorite book from the New Testament was Job (a book in the Old Testament)



On His Jewish Family


"We were sort of a mixed family; we do celebrate both Christian and Jewish holidays. But the family rituals around the seder were what really led them to decide they wanted to be Jewish."


--

Interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 2003



On the Role of Religion


"Faith is important in a lot of places, but really important in the south. I think I did not understand fully how comfortably religion fits in with daily life for both black and white populations in the south. As I have gotten older I've thought about what it means to be a Christian and what the role of religion is in my life."


--

Speaking to reporters, Jan. 2, 2004



On Prayer


"I am pretty religious. I pray every day but I'm from New England, so I just keep it to myself." --

Waterloo, Iowa campaign event, Dec. 27, 2003



On Religion in the Campaign


"I think religion is important and spiritual values are very important, which is what this election is really about."


--

Waterloo, Iowa campaign event, Dec. 27, 2003



Continued on page 2: »

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