Talk about surprises, the sole Republican to explicitly mention God during this week’s presidential debates was none other than Fred Thompson, the self-avowed non-church attender from Tennessee. A close look at the transcripts by Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning News found that while there was plenty of talk about religion in general during the wide-ranging Q and A, only Thompson ventured to actually use the G word. That’s enough to nudge him ahead of Rudy Giuliani at the bottom of the God-o-Meter’s rankings of GOP hopefuls. The rhetorical flourish came as Thompson offered a word of advice to his fellow Republicans:

“…we stick to our basic principles, we will win next November. But we’ve got to remember our first principles — the fact that what the founding fathers told us a long, long time ago, that our basic rights come from God, not from government; that we have a system of divided government, both state and local and state and federal level.”

Not exactly fire and brimstone, and hardly likely to warm the hearts of social conservatives who so far have been left cold by the Hollywood actor’s lack of fluency in faith talk. But it shows, that, well, at least he’s trying. Needless to say, he’ll have to try harder if he hopes to convince the party’s pivotal Religious Right bloc that he’s their man. For Thompson, the good news is that, so far, none of his GOP rivals have fared much better.
Not that they didn’t try to score points during the debates. Ron Paul talked about religion in the context of marriage: “Well, if you believe in federalism, it’s better that we allow these things to be left to the state. My personal belief is that marriage is a religious ceremony. And it should be dealt with religiously.” Mitt Romney chimed in on the same topic: “I’ve been in a state that has gay marriage, and I recognize that the consequences of gay marriage fall far beyond just the relationship between a man and a woman. They also relate to our kids and the right of religion to be practiced freely in a society.” And John McCain gave thanks for having reconciled with his former nemesis, the late Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell: “When Rev. Falwell came to my office and said he wanted to put our differences behind us, I was more than glad to. And I’m even more glad today that I did.” But it was Mike Huckabee who came closest to Thompson in dropping the divine name:

“When our founding fathers put their signatures on the Declaration of Independence, those 56 brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen, they said that we have certain inalienable rights given to us by our creator, and among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, life being one of them. I still believe that.”

But for now, it is Thompson who wins a promotion and congratulations from the God-o-Meter. Enjoy it, senator.


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