God-o-Meter Q&A With Sarah Palin’s Biographer

sarahbook.jpgThere’s been lots of confusion and questions about Sarah Palin’s faith life since John McCain picked her as his running mate last Friday. God-o-Meter caught up with Kaylene Johnson, author of the new book
Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska’s Political Establishment on Its Ear to set the record straight. An important note: Johnson’s book covers the period up to Palin’s 2006 election as governor of Alaska, so she didn’t have much information about the role that religion or religious groups has played in her role as her state’s chief executive.


Sarah Palin was baptized as a Catholic but became active in the Pentecostal Assemblies of God church while still young. How did she go from one tradition to the other?

It was through her mother, Sally. Sarah was baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church. And her mom discovered a more meaningful experience at an Assemblies of God Church in Wasilla, where Pastor Paul Riley had really formed a community. And Sally enrolled her kids in church camps and Bible school. This was when Sarah was about 12. She asked to be re-baptized. The whole family was baptized at the same time, at a lake right here in Wasilla called Beaver Lake. I don’t know that her father was baptized–it was a mom and the kids. It was a milestone that Sarah never really forgot. She knew she claimed a moral compass that would stay with her.


Was that pastor–Pastor Riley–a major influence in her life? Can you talk about him?

Pastor Riley and his wife became lifelong family friends to Sarah because she grew up in that church. Now he is retired and serves as a chaplain in jails. They are known for taking people in, including–sometimes–prisoners that Pastor Riley ministers to. He was at Wasilla Assemblies of God for 44 years.

How active did Palin become in the Assemblies of God once she was re-baptized? 

She was active in high school. She used to sign her yearbook with Bible verses. She was the leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at her high school. She was a basketball star, and as a junior her team went to a state tournament in Juneau and they lost a really close game. The coaches told me a story about the game, where the following morning the coaches met for breakfast and they didn’t see the girls. They waited for the girls to come down from their hotel rooms and wondered if they had stayed up all night and partied. And the coaches got up to walk out and saw the girls walking back from somewhere. They had Bibles in their hands. They’d gotten up early to go the church. And Sarah Palin was kind of the ringleader. It was pretty telling.


Today she attends an Assemblies of God Church in Anchorage and a nondenominational church back home in Wasilla, right?

It’s a Bible church that she attends in Wasilla, a nondenominational church. So her faith tradition is eccentric in the sense that she’s a Christian but doesn’t hold one tradition in higher esteem than the other.

How does her faith influence her worldview and politics? 

It’s really central to who she is and how she views the world and her job. One of the things I felt with talking with her is that, unlike with a lot of politicians who are running for office, there’s not a sense of political ambition as much as there is a sense of service. I think that’ s unique. She comes at her job as a servant.


But how do her religious beliefs shape her policy views?

I can’t talk about how her faith influences policy because I haven’t spoken with her about that specifically.

Adding Palin to the ticket has helped McCain excite religious conservatives a couple months before Election Day. Did she make her faith and values an issue in her campaign for governor?

Her faith didn’t play a big role. It’s a very big part of who she is but she’s also very private. It’s not something she uses as a campaign tool. I don’t think she would hold it secret at all if asked about it directly. She would freely speak her mind about it. It would be interesting to see how she responds to that question because it’s such an important part of her life.


Palin has become a darling of the nation’s conservative evangelical leadership. Was she close to that community in Alaska? Did they play a big part in her election as governor?

No, not really. I would not say that I was sort of amused [by Palin’s rollout as a family values candidate] because she is a family person and is not shy about saying so. But it’s not something used in her campaign. Her campaign was really about her call for ethics in government. That’s what clinched the deal.


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posted September 3, 2008 at 3:26 pm

What most people DO NOT realize is that she potentially is not merely the next Vice President, she could be the next President. Imagine a scenario where McCain is elected in November and the next day he keels over dead from his health and age issues. This is VERY likely, Palin is voted in as President, and now we have a 44 year old beauty pageant winner from the sticks in Alaska as our national leader. SHE is NOT qualified for this and it scares me to death to think that American policy is dictated by a woman that has more interest in how her daughter is raising her illegitimate child than how we as a nation are going to fix the tsunami of economic problems that are coming as we speak. McCain was quoted “She is either going to be a wild success or a spectacular failure.”… WAIT!! Um, I am speechless! Is no one else concerned that this potentially spectacular failure may happen while she is president? I dont oppose a woman in the office, I have to say I MUCH prefer Hillary with Bill’s experience behind her in the White House over someone who has been selling fishing licenses to eskimos for the past 10 years.

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Bill, Virginia

posted September 3, 2008 at 3:39 pm

“a 44 year old beauty pageant winner from the sticks”
Gee, why don’t you throw in “trailer trash” while you’re at it? There’s no end to liberals’ smug elitism. While you claim to represent “the people,” you sure as hell hold “the people” in contempt.
What you should be worried about is a smart, tough governor who has accomplished more in her two years than the smooth-talking, Ivy League-educated empty suit Obama has managed in his entire life.
Be warned: there are a lot more “bitter clingers” and “hicks” and “fly-over people” than you care to admit. And attitudes like yours have got them really, really pissed off.

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posted September 3, 2008 at 3:48 pm

Is no one else concerned that this potentially spectacular failure may happen while she is president? I dont oppose a woman in the office, I have to say I MUCH prefer Hillary with Bill’s experience behind her in the White House over someone who has been selling fishing licenses to eskimos for the past 10 years.

Wonderful, Chad….easy to pick a woman with a few years in Congress over a governor of a state, right? Oh, yeah, Bill was a governor! So are you saying Hillary would be effective because of her man standing behind her whispering in his ear? I see, you don’t respect her on her own, she needs a man to tell her what to do.
Maybe a meteor will fall to earth tomorrow and wipe out all mankind. Does that mean I have to plan for it, or the possibility life may go on for me and John McCain? I’m still putting money into my IRA, thank you.
BTW, Sarah Palin has done more than sell fishing licences to eskimos. She has returned money from Big Oil to her residents. I guess that’s not worth noting, becuase she got it for the people and not the govermental tax coffers. Nice…taking care of the downtrodden by taxing the economy into demise, like Obama plans to do. Of course, if you have a spare $1T laying about he can take in, it won’t hurt the rest of us while you lend us a hand.

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posted September 3, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Amen Bill. The liberal bias in the last two weeks has been completely telling. From MSM’s near worship by Olberman, to the contempt by the media for a working woman who has handled a state budget in the Billions for the last two years (and managed to return to the Federal government leftover cash) . And yet all they focus on is the couple of million she handled as mayor. Newsflash: She’s run the largest state in the nation, gone against her party and stood for ethics reform. If that isn’t what a president should do, then what?

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posted September 3, 2008 at 11:38 pm

@Chad: Voting for Obama puts an unqualified person in as President without even requiring having someone keel over and die. And if you choose to ignore all that she has done and think of her as just a “beauty pageant winner from the sticks”, then Obama is just a pretty boy memoir writer from the city. As she said, a mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except you have serious responsibilities.

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posted September 4, 2008 at 10:09 am

Chad writes:

it scares me to death to think that American policy is dictated by a woman that has more interest in how her daughter is raising her illegitimate child than how we as a nation are going to fix the tsunami of economic problems that are coming as we speak.

To God-o-Meter, that seems unfair. It’s impossible to know how much interest Palin has in how her daughter raises her child, but how do you know that that overshadows her commitment to the nation’s economic problem. It’s a total apples to orange comparsion, anyway. Wouldn’t any mom be interest in how her kids raise their own kids? Does that mean they’re oblivious to the nation’s problems?

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posted September 4, 2008 at 11:57 am

Sarah Palin is a Christian conservative – fine. She hasn’t told the world. That’s also fine but there is something most upsetting about Palin. She’s pro-creation,pro-life- pro-gun. While the first two’s acceptable the last one is not. Christians needn’t be armed with guns. Let her shed her pro-gun image if she dares.
Also, a more disapponting aspect of Palin. She’s does not care an iota for Planet Earth. She wants the polar bears to be extinct.In her view they’re not endangered! Please ma’am get your facts right. There are only a couple of thousands of polar bears and at this moment they’re fighting for survival because we’ve warmed the earth so much that their habitats are falling apart. Is Palin an animal lover? All Christians should be animal lovers for they are also God’s creatures and she wants to dig up the Arctic for the billions of barrels of oil and she would want every American to enjoy the resources of the earth to the last drop. Why can’t Palin, McCain and all the pro-gun Republicans,including Bush, be pro-life in the true sense. The Earth is life. Why don’t they have the courage to tell every American to control the population and save the planet? Why don’t they think of all living creatures including the Polar bears, seals and the whales and other God’s creatures. This attitude would truly be considered Christian. Sarah Palin change your right wing mentality. You’re beautiful but it’s more important to be beautiful inside. Think of preserving the planet and all the living creatures for your children and their children’s children. Amen.

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posted September 4, 2008 at 9:10 pm

“She’s pro-creation,pro-life- pro-gun. While the first two’s acceptable the last one is not. Christians needn’t be armed with guns.”
What kind of criticism is that?!?! Would you prefer Al Qaida have guns?

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posted September 5, 2008 at 12:11 pm

>>> “She’s pro-creation,pro-life- pro-gun. While the first two’s acceptable the last one is not. Christians needn’t be armed with guns.”
Hmmm. Doesn’t the Constitution grant us the right to bear arms? While some people abuse that privilege (i.e., Responsibility) most gun owners do not. The Founding Fathers understood the need. Why don’t you?

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posted September 5, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Hooray for Sarah!
She is Hillarys’ exact opposite!
A Christian can’t hunt?
Would you rather be defenseless when some hoodlum breaks in your house and tries to kill or rape????????
Use your brain!
Evil is everywhere and a woman or man that can fire a gun or is known to own one won’t be bullied by the criminal element.
And as a Chrisian I feel much safer with a war hero and marksman(woman)
in the White House!
Even King David used weapons and he is the going to rule again!

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Phil Newton

posted September 5, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Both Sarah Palin and John McCain voted against aid to pregnant teens.
John McCain voted twice in the Senate against bills to fund programs for unwed teen moms.
Sarah Palin, as governor of Alaska, reduced funding for a successful shelter for unwed moms.
I am a Christian and I believe that the church’s duty is very much the protection and nurturing of life. I am pro-life. I also believe that life must be nurtured after birth, and the church cannot do this alone.
Why did McCain and Palin both vote against these good and Godly programs?

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Jeremy Pierce

posted September 6, 2008 at 4:56 pm

Actually, Phil, you’re wrong. Palin increased funding for that shelter. She increased it from (I believe) 1.1 million to 3.9 million. Some people wanted to increase it to 5.5 million, and she thought they couldn’t afford to spend that much on it, but that doesn’t count as a funding cut, despite how the Washington Post immorally presented it.

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posted March 4, 2009 at 1:21 am

According to second amendment, only citizens who are part of a “well regulated militia” are meant to bear arms. No militia membership, no constitutional right to own a gun.
If you want to argue that having guns freely available to all is a good idea, go ahead, but please read the constitution.

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