mccain2.jpgYesterday’s New York Times interview with John McCain covered lots of ground of interest to religious conservatives: his church affiliation, gay adoption, same-sex marriage, and evolution in public schools. And from where the Christian Right sits, he answered correctly on all those fronts: he attends an evangelical church, opposes gay adoption and gay marriage–though he respects the rights of the states to legalize gay marriage, a major difference of opinion with the Christian Right–and thinks the question of whether to teach evolution should be left up to local school boards.
So will James Dobson be smiling when he finishes reading the transcript? God-o-Meter doubts it. Read the relevant passages yourself–can’t you just feel McCain squirming in his seat? After years of campaigning for president in a party with a socially conservative base, the hot button issues still make McCain uncomfortable.
Three quick examples.
On whether he’s an evangelical:

“I think it depends on what you call a quote evangelical Christian…”

’nuff said.
On his vision for the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives:

“I would continue along the model of what the president has done.”

He can’t get any more detailed than that? Particularly after Barack Obama surprised a lot of people by unveiling a reasonably detailed plan for expanding faith-based initiatives while changing some rules on hiring and proselytizing?
On whether he’d support teaching evolution in public schools if he were on a school board somewhere:

I’d have to see the proposal, I’d have to see where it lies in the curriculum, I’d have to – I can’t. I’m not running for school board

Smooth as sandpaper.
Is God-o-Meter being too hard on the Arizona senator? Are his responses artful dodges that let him toe the Christian Right line on most issues without coming across as a culture warrior? That’s what George W. Bush did. But he spoke confidently in responding to culture war questions. McCain sweats under his collar.
Here are the exchanges from the Times:

Q: Do you consider yourself an evangelical Christian?
Mr. McCain: I consider myself a Christian. I attend church, my faith has sustained me in very difficult times. But I think it depends on what you call a quote evangelical Christian. Because there are some people who may not share my views on – I mean, that covers a lot of ground. But I certainly consider myself a Christian.
Q: How often do you go to church?
Mr. McCain: Um, not as often as I should. When Cindy and I are in Phoenix, we attend. We’ve been fortunate enough the last few weeks to be in Phoenix. During the primary before that we were not back in Phoenix much so – again, not as frequently as I would like. I do appreciate the pastor of the North Phoenix Baptist Church, his name is Dan Neary (SP), and I talk to him frequently on the phone and I appreciate his spiritual guidance. He’s a great believer in redemption
Q: President Bush believes that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt children. Do you agree with that?
Mr. McCain: I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no I don’t believe in gay adoption.
Q: Even if the alternative is the kid staying in an orphanage, or not having parents.
Mr. McCain: I encourage adoption and I encourage the opportunities for people to adopt children I encourage the process being less complicated so they can adopt as quickly as possible. And Cindy and I are proud of being adoptive parents.
Q: But your concern would be that the couple should a traditional couple
Mr. McCain: Yes.
Q: Do you think religious organizations that get federal funding to deliver social services – faith based organizations – should be permitted to take faith into account in deciding who to hire. You saw Obama’s proposal.
Mr. McCain: I support faith-based organizations and I support a lot of the things that the president did. I was in New Orleans after Katrina and I went to their Resurrection Baptist Church and I saw volunteers from all over America working and helping in the clean-up, and the work that they did and talking with people like Governor Jindal, he said they did great work. I would continue along the model of what the president has done. And I certainly applaud Senator Obama’s, what I heard of his position basically the same.
Q: I think the one difference is whether or not as a condition of getting these monies, that these organization say they will not take into account religion or other factors in hiring decisions.
Mr. McCain: Obviously it’s very complicated because if this is an organization that says we want people in our organization that are Baptists or vegetarians or whatever it is, they should not be required to hire someone that they don’t want to hire in my view. Listen, this is the kind of the issue that goes on with the Boy Scouts, it goes on with a number of other issues. I think the president’s faith-based organization has been successful and I support what he has done
Q: I guess the way opponents describe it means that these groups are allowed to discriminate in hiring.
Mr. McCain: I can only answer it to say that I think faith-based organizations have been one of the more successful parts of the Bush Administration and I would continue it….
Q: If California wants to legalize gay marriage, should it be permitted to do so?
Mr. McCain: I respect the rights of the states to make those decisions. I obviously am personally in favor of preserving the unique status of marriage between man and woman. And I also would point out that we passed a thing called the Defense of Marriage Act, which I know you’re familiar with, where we said that states were not required to recognize in their states the decision that other states made. In other words, if the state of Massachusetts recognized marriage between man and — had allowed same-sex marriage, that does not mean that that decision can be imposed on the state of Arizona. The state of Arizona will make that decision. ”
Q: But if the state wanted to do it on the own, you would not support taking action to stop it?
Mr. McCain: If the people wanted to amend the constitution in order to support the unique status, affirm the unique status, I certainly would support that. But if they decide not to, that’s a state decision that’s made by the state.’
Q: How do you feel about teaching evolution in schools?
Mr. McCain: I think, first of all, it’s up to the school boards. That’s why we have local control over education. So my personal view is that children should be exposed to as much as they possibly can so that they can make their decisions and be the best informed. But I really believe that school boards are elected in order to make a lot of those decisions, and I respect their decisions unless they are unconstitutional in some way or, you know.
Q: If you were on a school board, how would you vote?
Mr. McCain: I don’t know, Adam. I’d have to see the proposal, I’d have to see where it lies in the curriculum, I’d have to – I can’t. I’m not running for school board.


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