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

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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

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John Edwards
Senator John Edwards is a Methodist. He has been more reserved than other candidates in talking about religion and his personal faith, though he has acknowledged that his faith played a part in helping him recover from the death of his 16-year-old son Wade, in a 1996 car accident.

On Values
"...we cannot concede values to this president, because I think we win a values debate with this president. I don't think his values are the values that I grew up with in that small town in North Carolina. And they show in everything this administration does."
--Appearance on FOX News Sunday, Dec. 28, 2003

On His Faith Journey
"...My faith has been enormous to me in my personal life and of course my personal life is a big impact on my political life. I have had an interesting faith journey over the course of my life. I was born and raised in the Southern Baptist church, I was baptized in the Southern Baptist Church and then later in life joined the Methodist church and like a lot of people, when I was in my college years, and I went to law school and became a lawyer and was raising my young family I moved away somewhat from my faith. And then I lost a son in 1996 and my faith came roaring back and it played an enormous role in my ability to get through that period. It stayed with me and has been enormously important.

On Faith's Role in Politics
"...In terms of my political life I believe there's a lot of the things that are part of my faith belief is also part of my political belief. My responsibilities to others, to help others. My work for instance, with Urban Ministries. I have been on the board of Urban Ministries for years before I went to the Senate. To provide help to the homeless in the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina is an example of that. So I think it's just part of my entire life."
--Interview with the Interfaith Alliance, December 3, 2003

On Prayer
"I believe that God answers prayers."
--Washington Post profile, Aug. 7, 2001

"You know the Lord is in this place. You can feel his presence."
--Campaign stop at a Sidney Park, S.C. church, Dec. 28, 2003

On Faith and the Constitution
"...for any publicly elected official, you're responsibility is to abide by and enforce the Constitution, and meet your constitutional duties. My personal faith guides and affects my personal decisions in my personal life. But as President of the United States I have a constitutional responsibility to all of the American people, which means, to all people of all faiths. So I think you have to be very, very careful to not let your own personal faith beliefs, particularly where they may differ with other faith beliefs, to influence national policy."
--Interview with the Interfaith Alliance, December 3, 2003

On Faith-Based Initiatives
"Faith is enormously important to me personally and to tens of millions of Americans. In addition, religious institutions do wonderful work and make important contributions to our society.

"In a manner consistent with the First Amendment, faith-based charities should be able to participate in delivering services. But they should also meet the same anti-discrimination standards as other charities receiving government support."
--Statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 7, 2004
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Dick Gephardt
Rep. Dick Gephardt was raised a Baptist. He has spoken openly about how some of his early political positions (such as his former pro-life position on abortion) were influenced by his religious upbringing. Growing up, his mother encouraged him to become a minister. More recently, he has tied his religious upbringing to his interest in social justice.

On His Baptist Upbringing
"My commitment to economic and civil justice has roots in my childhood. I grew up on the south side of St. Louis - a place not known for racial diversity. My parents never finished high school, but they had a deep commitment to raising their two sons in a Baptist home filled with God and a passion for education. Their dreams were deferred. But like many of their generation, they nurtured the hopes of their children."
--November 25, 2003 speech in Detroit

On Faith & Social Responsibility
"Even then, as a child, while I knew we had little, I knew we had more than many. The divisions of society were painfully clear. But the common bond of religious teachings can bridge great distances. And in those early years, from parents filled with great love, I was taught much. Fairness, respect, and dignity for all of God's children were central to my upbringing. But today, too many in our country feel too little of that respect and dignity, and it has as much to do with high expectations and low political rhetoric as it does with economic truths.
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