2016-07-27
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

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

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.

"Maya Angelou pointed out that 'I find it interesting that the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God's will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at commensurate speed.'

"Living a life of faith and working for economic empowerment are intertwined."
--November 25, 2003 speech in Detroit

On Choosing Not to Become a Minister
"I decided that I could do what she wanted me to do and what I wanted to do in the ministry better in politics."
--Quoted in Democracy in Action

On Church-State Separation
"The fact that we cannot allow the government, we cannot have the government, supporting religious views or supporting religion. We've got to have a wall of separation... I understand, and we all have our own philosophy, and we all have our own religious beliefs and our own ethical beliefs, and that's great. That's part of the diversity and wonder of America. But the government has to divorce itself."
--FOXNews O'Reilly Factor appearance, Sept. 29, 2003

"I think saying God is -- I realize there are people that don't believe in God and this is somehow stating something to them that they may not accept. But I think when you go to the point of putting down ten rules of life as part of religious belief, you're promoting only one religion's views of how life should be lived, and I think you're transcending over that line between church and state that we shouldn't do."
--FOXNews O'Reilly Factor appearance, Sept. 29, 2003



John Kerry
Senator John Kerry is Catholic, though he recently discovered that his paternal grandparents were Jewish. Kerry's grandfather was born Fritz Kohn in Austria in 1873. He changed his name in 1902, converted to Catholicism, and moved to Boston, where he married a woman who had also converted from Judaism to Catholicism.

On Prayer
"We had guys on the boat from Arkansas, from South Carolina, from all over the place. But none of that mattered. We were a bunch of guys fighting under the same flag, praying to the same God."
--Speech at a VFW hall in Tacoma, November 2002, quoted in Vogue, March 2003

On Democrats & Religion
"We've got to prove we're as God-fearing and churchgoing as everybody else."
--Quoted in Vogue, March 2003

On Fighting Extremism
"We will not prevent a clash of civilizations with Islam, radical Islam unless we begin to reach out to countries and bring the real world of religion together to understand the similarities even as we look at the differences. To recognize that we all pray to the God of Abraham and Isaac and that we need to find a way to isolate the extremists....If you don't pray that's fine, and that's the country we are also incidentally."
--Speech at a Concord, Mass. campaign event, Aug. 8, 2003

On Church and State
"May I say that one of my objections to this administration is that it has crossed that delicate line that our forefathers drew in the Constitution that separates church and state. And it is vital for us to hold on to that line. But those who pray, pray to that same God. Or they pray in a way that is peaceful and at one with the universe. But they do not accept the notion that martyrdom and killing innocent people is somehow connected to legitimate religious activity."
--Speech at a Concord, New Hampshire campaign event, Aug. 8, 2003

On Not Losing Faith
"Judy, if I do nothing else in my life I will never stop trying to bring to people the conviction of how wasteful and asinine is a human expenditure of this kind. I don't mean this in an all-consuming world saving fashion. I just mean that my own effort must be entire and thorough and that it must do what it can to help make this a better world to live in. I have not lost faith--on the contrary--I have gained a conviction and desire greater than ever before--and now, a sense of inevitability--a weighty fatalism that takes worry out of the small actions of late and makes the personal much more important."
--1968 letter to ex-wife Judy Thorme, after learning of the death of his friend Dick Pershing in Vietnam, quoted in The Atlantic, November 2003



Dennis Kucinich
Rep. Dennis Kucinich was raised a Roman Catholic, but his views about the interconnectedness of the world have appeal for many who consider themselves "spiritual but not religious."

On Church & State
"The essence of our Constitution can be understood to be expressive of high principles, not only of law and ethics which subsume those principles, but of Spirit. Whether we look at the first motto of the United States, E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one), which is a spiritual principle, or in the latter motto "In God We Trust," we have to recognize the Founders were immersed in contemplation of a world beyond our experience, one of spirit, of mysticism, one which saw the potential of the country as unfolding in a multidimensional way, both through the work of our hands and the work of our hearts.

"The Founders meant to separate Church and State, but I don't believe they ever meant to separate America from spiritual values."
--Interview with Tikkun magazine, March/April 2003

On Light & Truth
"The psalms have a phrase in Latin: 'Emitte lucem tuam.' Send forth your light. And we so need to do that at this moment, so that we can describe the entire Persian Gulf in light this evening, and to send the light of peace in that region. To take the light of peace which is in our hearts, and extend that light, and that love, and that compassion. From my studies of the Scriptures and the Gospel of St. John, it begins, in the early verses, it speaks of the light shining in the darkness. 'And the darkness grasp it not.' Light always shines in the darkness. And though this darkness has dropped upon our country, upon our Constitution, upon our highest aspirations for America, upon our historic traditions--the light of truth will shine in that darkness, and the darkness will neither comprehend nor overwhelm it. So we are called upon at this moment, to be witnesses for peace, for truth, for light, for love, for compassion, and for the potential of humanity to evolve from a condition where some believe that war is inevitable, to a condition where our knowledge that peace is inevitable becomes the defining paradigm of a new century and a new world."
--Acceptance Speech for the 2003 Gandhi Peace Award

[His politics are grounded in] "a spiritual sense of the interconnectedness of the world."
--Quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 2, 2004

"With all those who understood the deeper meaning of the Gospels in Matthew 25, when Christ said, 'When I was hungry did you feed me? When I was homeless did you shelter me?' and then went on to say, 'Whatever you did for the least of my brethren, you did for me' - that's the interconnectedness. That is the leitmotif of interconnectedness, right there, it says it all. And so my work in public life resounds with that connection to higher principles and with an understanding of the power of the human heart."
--Interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 2, 2004

"While our fathers understood well the importance of the separation of church and state, they never meant America to be separate from spiritual values. Spiritual values can improve our own health, our spirit, our nation, and the world."
--Interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 2, 2004



Joseph Lieberman
Senator Joseph Lieberman became the first Jew to be part of a national party ticket when Al Gore chose him as his running mate in the 2000 election. An Orthodox Jew, Lieberman speaks openly about his faith and refuses to campaign on the Jewish Sabbath.

On Religious Discrimination
"I have a record here of opposing religious discrimination. I have, along with Senator Don Nickles, I co-sponsored the International Religious Freedom Act. It set up a process, both a religious freedom commission and an annual evaluation of religious freedom, and on the other side bigotry, around the world, and then suggested sanctions against countries that are not doing better at fighting bigotry and discrimination of all kinds, including anti-Semitism.

"And as president, I would carry that particular and, I think, characteristically American value into the Oval Office and make it a centerpiece of our foreign policy. And incidentally, the group that is probably discriminated against most in the world today on the basis of religion are Christians."

--Conference call with members of the Jewish press, Dec. 12, 2003

On Jewish Support
"I do not feel that all Jews should support me because I'm Jewish, but I also believe very strongly that Jews should not oppose me because I'm Jewish or worry about supporting me because I'm Jewish because of some fear of what may happen if somebody who's Jewish becomes president. That's a fear that I will tell you is not shared by the American people generally who, I've said before, are ready to support somebody they feel is best or would be the best president, regardless of religion or any other description. "I always say that I'm running for president as an American who happens to be Jewish, not the other say around. And that, of course, is not only my constitutional responsibility but exactly the precedent that John F. Kennedy set when he ran as the first Roman Catholic to be elected president."
--Conference call with members of the Jewish press, Dec. 12, 2003

On Faith & Fate
"Generally speaking, my faith orders and gives perspective and hopefully purpose to every day. You have a faith in a benevolent God. If things work out, great, but if they don't work out, they weren't meant to be."
--Interview with Beliefnet, March 7, 2001

On Connecting During the Campaign
"As a Jewish American and the first to run for national office, I was extremely grateful that there wasn't visible anti-Semitism. People who were not Jewish [were] bonding with me because they knew I was religious. That was expressed over and over again. People who have spent time on other campaigns have said that as they walked along the rope lines with me at the rallies that there were a disproportionate number of people saying, 'God bless you.' I thought that was a way of making connection that I appreciated deeply."
--Interview with Beliefnet, March 7, 2001



Carol Moseley Braun
Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun was raised a Catholic but now considers herself an Episcopalian. She has said she became a born-again Christian in 1986, the year she got divorced, her mother suffered a stroke, and a younger brother died from drug abuse.

On the Ecnoomy & Spiritual Renewal
"I think that we have a responsibility to get this economy going. It's in the double dip of a recession that is being exacerbated or made worse by tax cuts again that didn't make a whole lot of sense while you're going off to a war that didn't make a whole lot of sense. So, I think that fiscal responsibility will give us the ability, not only to pay our bills on a pay-as-you-go basis, if you will, but also to build the foundations for a stronger future. I really think that's the key, part of the spiritual renewal that America needs to have, the notion that we really can have confidence in a better tomorrow. That's a major part of my message as a candidate for president."
--NPR interview, May 2003

"There are a number of steps that we can take to reinvigorate and rebuild the economic and the physical infrastructure of our country and then to rebuild us, frankly, on a spiritual level. To me, that means getting back to the point where our Constitution means that you don't tap people's phones and poke into their e-mail and you don't arrest people and keep them hidden for a year and a half without charging them. Those are the kind of fundamentals that I think the American people have every right to expect. But also to rebuild our confidence in ourselves, the notion that we are a great country because of our leadership, not our military might."
--NPR interview, May 2003



Al Sharpton
The Rev. Al Sharpton is a Pentecostal minister, though he does not have a fixed parish. He was ordained a preacher at the age of nine.

On God & Republicans
"I can assure you in my talks with God, he is not a registered member of the right wing of the Republican Party."
--December 2003 Democratic debate

On Choosing to Go to Hell
"[Former New York archbishop] Cardinal O'Connor once asked me how I could support a woman's right to choose abortion. I told him, 'God didn't say you have to go to heaven -- he gave you the option of hell. I think you may go to hell, and I defend your right to get there.'
--Rolling Stone interview, November 5, 2003



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