RELIGION AND THE U.S.
IN THE YEAR 2000
||By George W. Bush:
||"When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when
you accept Christ as the savior, it changes your heart and changes
your life and that's what happened to me." At the Iowa
Republican TV debate on 1999-DEC-13.
||"As a public official, I take seriously my duty to encourage
tolerance and respect for the religious views of others." In a
letter of apology to Cardinal O'Connor
||"I don't think witchcraft is a religion. I
would hope the military officials would take a second look at the
decision they made." On ABC's Good Morning America,
1999-JUN-24. His reference was to a Wiccan coven on a Texas army base
having been granted equal rights to other religious groups on
||"At every stage of what we do in this campaign, we rely on
prayer and we trust in God's will. We rely on our faith and we work in
that fashion." Alan Keyes at a New Hampshire campaign stop.
||"We have not since 1960, seen religion injected in such an
ugly way in a presidential campaign." Karl Row, spokesperson
for George W Bush, referring to charges during J.F. Kennedy's campaign
in 1960 that he was the Vatican's candidate.
||"One of the reasons I'm running for president is that a lot
of family issues are headed in the wrong direction," Gary
Bauer, former head of the fundamentalist Christian Family Research
Council, at a New Hampshire campaign stop.
||"I'm a sinner, but by the grace of -- the only difference
between me and a homosexual or an adulterer or a murder is that the
cross of Jesus Christ has separated us." Bob Jones III,
president of Bob Jones University on
Larry King Live, 2000-MAR-3.
Overview of religion and political races:
Religious faith has intermittently surfaced as a major factor in
||1928: The nation debated whether Governor Al Smith, the
Democratic candidate and a Roman Catholic, would put his loyalty to
his church's policies above that of the U.S. Constitution and the
||1960: J.F. Kennedy, who became the first Roman Catholic
president, stated publicly that he would be loyal to the U.S. Constitution even
if he had to go against a position that his church had taken.
||1976: Jimmy Carter discussed his personal relationship with
God. He later talked about feelings of lust that he had experienced
towards women other than his wife.
Religion resurfaced in 1999 and 2000 during the race towards the presidential elections. Every leading candidate, with the exception of
Bill Bradley, openly testified "about their faith in God and how
that would help them should they win the presidency...Republicans Keyes,
Bauer, Steve Forbes and, to a lesser extent, Bush cite the Bible in
vigorously speaking out against what they view as the nation's moral
decay." 4 Even the Democrats got into the
act. Vice-president Gore has repeatedly called himself a born-again Christian;
he has often asked himself "What would Jesus do." "Elaine
Kamarck, one of Gore's top advisors, told a newspaper last summer , 'The
Democratic Party is going to take God back this time." 8
The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of
Church and State expressed concern on 1999-DEC-17 about this heavy emphasis on religion.
"I don't expect that candidates or political leaders will or
should forget all their religious principles when they step into a
government building. On the other hand, one cannot avoid the sense that
this election cycle more than any other is filled with people pandering to
voters on the basis of their religious affiliation." 7
Lynn commented again later in 2000-FEB that: "Right now in Iran voters are trying to
separate religion and politics. Unfortunately, here in the United States, we appear
to be going in the opposite direction. Late last year, I voiced concerns
about this trend. Now we're seeing how divisive this issue can be. All the presidential
campaigns should immediately drop this tactic from their political bag of tricks."
Religion may well remain a permanent factor in this and future
elections. One contributing factor is the large number of unresolved
controversies over social policies which have a strong religious or ethical
component, including: access to abortion,
affirmative action, adding sexual orientation
to hate crimes legislation, expanding employment
discrimination to include sexual orientation, the posting
in public schools of the Ten Commandments,
equal rights for gays and lesbians, including the right
to marry, gun control, etc.
Religious affiliation of presidential candidates:
Candidates for the presidency in the 2000 elections come from a variety
of religious affiliations:
||Baptist: Gary Bauer & Al Gore
||Episcopalian: Steve Forbes & John McCain
||Methodist: George W. Bush
||Presbyterian: Bill Bradley
||Roman Catholic: Alan Keyes 4
The Bob Jones University incident:
Bob Jones University (BJU) is a Fundamentalist Christian college
in Greenville SC. 1 It has had an interesting history:
||It barred African-American students, regardless of ability, until 1970.
||It lost its tax-exempt status in 1983, after the U.S. Supreme Court
upheld an IRS decision that was critical of the school's racist
||Some of the school leadership has attacked Roman Catholicism,
calling it a "satanic cult." They reject Mormonism as well. Bob Jones III stated
on Larry King Live that "Mormonism is pantheistic."
On other occasions he called ex-President Bush a devil, and described the
pope as the Anti-Christ.
||The school banned inter-racial dating, whether Caucasian-Black,
Caucasian-Asian or any other combination. They cancelled the ruling
on 2000-MAR-3. (They have allowed inter-racial married
couples to attend BJU.) Bob Jones III justified
the past policy on Larry King Live, stating that "We stand
against the one-world government, against the coming world of
anti-Christ, which is a one world system of blending, of all
differences, of blending of national differences, economic
differences, church differences, into a big one ecumenical world. The
Bible is very clear about this...we are against the one world church.
We are against one economy, one political system...inter-racial
marriage is a genetic blending, which is a very definite sort of
blending. Later in the program, he admitted that: "We
can't point to a verse in the Bible that says you shouldn't date or
marry inter-racial [sic]...No, we can't back it up with a verse from the
Bible. We never have tried to, we have never tried to do that."
5 They apparently dropped the ban on inter-racial dating
because of public revulsion of the policy from outside the university.
||They have many additional rules limiting student behavior: no
secular music, television, movies, dancing, or hand-holding. Homosexuals are
expelled whenever detected. Internet access is filtered.
The school has traditionally invited conservative politicians and
candidates from the Republican Party to address students for many decades,
including Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, and Jack Kemp. They did not invite John
McCain; Bob Jones III said that McCain is not conservative "to our
way of thinking...he could very easily have the Democratic label upon
him..." During the 2000 campaign, the students heard talks by two
candidates: Dr. Alan Keyes delivered a speech that was critical of the
university's policies and opinions. Gov. G.W. Bush also gave a speech, but
was not critical. Later, on The Late Show with David Letterman, he
commented "I missed a chance. I should have stood up there and
said, listen, if you're going to bash Catholics, I'm going to come after
you...That's the way I feel. I've got a good record in Texas about being
-- bringing people together. I've got a good record, as you mentioned, of
being a uniter not a divider." McCain was critical both of BJU
and of Bush for agreeing to speak at the university. McCain said that if he
had been given the opportunity to speak there, he would tell the school "they
ought to get out of the 16th century and into the 21st
century." In calls made to Michigan voters McCain's campaign personnel
said that Bush "stayed silent [about] anti-Catholic
bigotry...[while] seeking the support of Southern fundamentalists."
Bush wrote a letter of apology to Cardinal O'Connor, saying: "On
reflection, I should have been more clear about disassociating myself from
anti-Catholic settlements and racial prejudice. It was a missed
McCain attacks Bush & the Religious Right:
On 2000-FEB-28, Senator John McCain, Republican presidential candidate, made allegations about front-runner Texas Governor George W. Bush. He
alleged that Bush had tied himself to leaders of the Religious Right who,
he said, peddle intolerance and division. McCain said in Virginia Beach, VA: "Pat
Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and a few Washington leaders of the pro-life
movement call me an unacceptable presidential candidate..."They
distort my pro-life positions and smear the reputations of my supporters.
Why? Because I don't pander to them," McCain said, adding that he
would take steps in office to restrict abortion." He said that:
"I am a Reagan Republican who will defeat Al Gore.
Unfortunately, Gov. Bush is a Pat Robertson Republican who will lose to Al
Gore," There appears to be little or no
difference between McCain and Bush on abortion access. However, during
the Illinois campaign, Pat Robertson allegedly financed a campaign to make mass
random phone calls to voters, suggesting that a vote for McCain would
result in more babies being aborted.
McCain's attack seems to have backfired. On MAR-7, called "Super
Tuesday," presidential primaries were conducted in some very
populous states (CA, OH, NY, etc). During exit poll interviews, most of the people
who said that they were influenced by McCain's comments, had voted for Bush.
McCain ended up with the support of relatively few delegates, compared to Governor
Bush. He withdrew his candidacy on MAR-9. Rosie DiManno noted that TV
commentators speculated that "McCain had sacrificed much significant
popular support with the hard-right Republicans he needed to lure, while at the
same time cultivating no further affection among the populace that was already
on his side." 6
Illegal actions by some churches:
According to Americans United for Separation of Church and State there
have been a number of congregations which have intervened in the presidential
primaries in spite of federal tax law that forbids such activity:
||2000-FEB-13: Rev. Floyd Flake, the pastor of Allen African
Methodist Episcopal Church in New York City, NY, endorsed Al Gore, who
spoke from the pulpit
||2000-FEB-20: Rev. E.L. Branch, the pastor of Third New Hope
Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, MI, told his congregation that
they could help disrupt the primary in Michigan by voting for McCain.
Associated essay on this web site:
Bob Jones University has a web page at: http://www.bju.edu/
Bob Jones III, "A letter to the nation from Bob Jones University,"
2000-MAR-3, at: http://www.bju.edu/response.htm
"Divisive campaign: Religious rhetoric used as a wedge,"
ReligionToday, at: http://www.religiontoday.com/Archive/FeatureStory/
Bill Strab: "God is my vice president: Religion on the campaign
trail," Naples Daily News, Naples, FL. Online at: http://www.naplesnews.com/today/religion/d401498a.htm
Transcript of The Larry King Show for 2000-MAR-3 at: http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0003/03/lkl.00.html
Rosie DiManno, "McCain baits the religious bear to his peril,"
The Toronto Star, 2000-MAR-8, Page A2.
The Americans United for Separation of
Church and State web site is at: http://www.au.org
Their press releases are linked to: http://www.au.org/press.htm
"Presidential campaign descending into 'Holy War,' charges
Americans United," Press release, 2000-FEB-24, at: http://www.au.org/pr22400.htm
Copyright © 2000 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-MAR-9
Latest update: 2000-MAR-9
Author: B.A. Robinson