New York Times to press candidates on their religious beliefs

Bill Keller of the New York Times announced that the Times is planning to ask GOP candidates for president specific questions on how their religion or religious beliefs would affect their actions as president. (Read) I think this is a good idea, particularly for Mitt Romney, who has often looked like a deer in the headlights when asked questions about certain doctrines of the LDS Church.

I just finished reading, for the second time, a yet-to-be published biography of early Mormon leader Parley P. Pratt, and I’m amazed at how conventional my church has become 180 years later. The questions that Mitt dodges would have been eagerly answered by Mr. Pratt.

Here are some of the questions that will be asked of all candidates by the Times:

•Do you agree with those religious leaders who say that America is a “Christian nation” or a “Judeo-Christian nation?” and what does that mean in practice?

•Would you have any hesitation about appointing a Muslim to the federal bench? What about an atheist?

•What is your attitude toward the theory of evolution, and do you believe it should be taught in public schools?

More questions from the Times can be found here. Specific questions for Romney and Jon Huntsman are as follows:

For Governor Mitt Romney:

1. In your 2007 speech on religion, you said that “freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” Where does that leave unbelievers, in your view?
2. This year, as in the 2008 election, polls show that there is some resistance to voting for a Mormon — including among some evangelical Christians, who have been taught that the Mormon church is a “cult.” Do you sense that this prejudice is still a factor in the campaign? If so, how do you address it?
3. Was your religion a factor in your decision to oppose gay marriage and civil unions?
4. Do you believe that your upbringing in the Mormon faith provided you with some qualities that enhance your abilities as a political leader?

For Jon Huntsman:

1. Though you were reared Mormon, you have described yourself as “not overly religious.” I can imagine that is doubly unhelpful in winning the votes of evangelical Christians who figure so heavily in the Republican primary season: on the one hand, many of them have been taught that the Mormon church is a “cult”; on the other, many of them are looking for a candidate they regard as godly. How do you persuade conservative evangelicals to vote for you?
2. If not religion, what do you use as your guide in deciding what is right and what is wrong?

There are also tough questions for candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, which include inquiries into their associations with some bigoted preachers and Bachmann’s endorsement of a biography of Robert E. Lee by a sympathizer of the slave-holding South in the Civil War.

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24 Responses to New York Times to press candidates on their religious beliefs

  1. Owain says:

    Will the NYT take this opportunity to ask Obama more penetrating questions involving his participation in Reverend(?) Wright’s church, or why after years of attending that church, he suddenly refrains from regularly attending any church?

    Didn’t think so…

    Not that I think that those questons are particularly important, but this sudden interest on the part of the NYT does demonstrate media hypocricy, and the distinct double standard that exists with respect to conservative candidates and liberal candidates.

    • Doug Gibson says:

      You make a good point Owain. I think the president’s association with Rev. Wright was well known in 2008, however it’s true that many in the heavyweight press didn’t accord it much significance. If religious issues involving Republicans are pushed as highly controversial by the New York Times and others, there will be a double standard. However, because the press failed to do its job with Obama is not a reason to ignore similar issues if they develop.

      • Owain says:

        Well, given all that is going wrong on multiple fronts, in arenas both foreign and domestic, this topic is WAY down on my list of priorities. Once we have addressed more pressing concerns, perhaps we can turn to such trivial pursuits.

        • J Hartwell says:

          Trivial pursuits such as flag lapel pins, teleprompters, birth certificates, bowing to foreign royalty and college grades?

      • Bob Becker says:

        Well, there is another point to keep in mind. President Obama has been in office for three years, or close to that now. He has a record. If no one can produce any evidence that he’s bent public police to suit the extreme religious positions of his former minister, then the question with respect to Rev. Wright’s rantings seems to me largely moot. Just as the Catholic question was largely moot after President Kennedy had been in office for some years, and had not provided federal funds to Catholic Parochial schools and had not run American foreign policy decisions past the Pope for his approval.

        I don’t think the questions you list above Doug the Times wants to ask all the candidates are much of a problem. But I absolutely do not like the Times crafting candidate and religion specific questions for various candidates.

        The Founders included in the Constitution a provision establishing that there should be no religious test for holding federal office. I think they were wise to do that. If a candidate wants to make a statement about his faith and how it would affect his Presidency if he [or she] won, they are free to do so. But that sort of thing should come from the candidates, and be their decision. They should not have to undergo a general press inquisition on their various faiths unless they themselves have made statements about faith-based policy positions they’re defending.

        The extent to which religion — which mostly involves the Religious Right demanding Christian [as they define it and only as they define it] belief as a necessary condition for election to office — is a scary thing and is not serving the Republic of Washington and Jefferson and Madison and Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and FDR and Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan well.

        • Bob Becker says:

          That should have been “public policy” not “public police.”

        • Erick says:

          I don’t see a problem with religious questions from the press, nor do I see it as anything like unto a “religious test”. A religious test would be an institutional pass/fail requirement for presidency. The press is supposed to represent the public, and each member of the public is entitled to use whatever “tests” they would like in determining how they will cast their ballot.

    • willbike says:

      You don’t make a good point Owain. Their are literally hundreds of articles on the NYT site that cover this topic. The site is free to the public, see for yourself. The only reason that you claim otherwise is because of the deep partisan dishonesty that you are accusing others of.

      • Owain says:

        Articles that cover what topic? The in depth grilling they gave Obama regarding Rev Wright? If they are so easy to find, do us all a favor, and post the one you think really applies the thumb screws to Obama.

  2. Lang says:

    Owain what penetrating things do you want to know? Share with us your questions. The last President to regularly attend church services was Jimmy Carter.
    Is Jimmy your standard measure in a President; or is “going to church” just another in a long line of irrelevant arguments you use to reconfirm your delusional narrative?
    Please respond with your usual drivel… but in doing it please share with us your penetrating religions concerns with Obama attending Christian church services.

    • Owain says:

      As indicated, had you been paying attention (which you haven’t, of course), I don’t give a damn about church attendance, but if the NYT is suddenly going to start asking religious questions of Romney or Huntsman, they should have been equally diligent with Obama/Rev Wright, but they were not. Why should that be?

      Some of the questions I’d like answered (among many others) involve the smuggling of guns under the blessing of the ATF to drug lords in Mexico, guns that were used to kill hundreds of Mexican citizens, and at least one U.S. Border Agent. All sorts of questions spring to mind over that, including why hasn’t Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, been fired for this. If he new about it, he should not only be fired, but also brought up on charges. If he didn’t know about it, he should be fired for incompetance.

      • J Hartwell says:

        Where do you hear these stories Owain?

        Were you demanding Cheney be prosecuted for outing a CIA agent? Or manufacturing and lying about the reasons for the crusade in Iraq? Yeah, I thought not.

        I’m sure you were all for the persecution and resignation of then defense secretary Les Aspin in 1993, for the Rangers not having adequate armor in Somalia. But soldiers that questioned Rumsfeld about the same problem in Iraq are, in Rush Limbaugh’s words “phony soldiers.”

        Rep. Anthony Weiner is a terrible person that should resign, but Tom Foley was simply a victim of “egging on by precocious kids.” according to Chris Cannon.

        Conservative hypocrisy knows NO bounds.

        • Owain says:

          “Where do you hear these stories Owain?”

          The news. Why, haven’t you been keeping up with current events? Here’s a link:

          What CIA agent did Cheney out? Valerie Plame? According to Wikipedia “On July 14, 2003, Washington Post journalist Robert Novak, from information obtained from Richard Armitage at the US State Department, effectively ended Valerie Plame’s career with the CIA (from which she later resigned in December 2005) by revealing in his column her identity as a CIA operative.”

          I’m not sure how Cheney was involved here. Do you have a link?

          “Or manufacturing and lying about the reasons for the crusade in Iraq?”

          Again, do you have any links to substantiate this? Just because you believe it to be true doesn’t make it so.

          As far as Les Aspin is concerned, equipment is never perfect. If better armor could have been had, but was not procurred, that is not against the law.

          I don’t see how what you have posted advances your argument, but by all means. Provide proof, and make your case. At the same time, perhaps you can explain how, even if you are correct, how this excuses the ATF from running guns to Mexican Drug Lords, resulting in the the murders of hundreds of people.

          • Lang says:

            Owain you are so convinced of your opinion. Have you ever considered that you might not know what the hell you are talking about?

          • Owain says:

            Lang said, “Owain you are so convinced of your opinion…”
            I’m fully prepared to admit I was mistaken if you can supply a convincing argument. If you cannot, why should I change my opinion?

            And sputtering is not considered an effective argument…

          • mcb9 says:

            Where Cheny’s/Bush’s WMD that was the reason for going to war as of this date none have been found.
            I know a Navy EOD that to be on one of streach teams to find these WMDs strange no WMDS where found by any pf these teams……
            A mig buried in the sand does count as WMD.
            Did Cheney and his puppet Bush lie to go to war in Iraq? Yes they di…..

            There was no Nukes in Iraq as claimed by Cheney and puppet Bush….

            There was no Bio. Weapons as claimed by Cheney and bush in Iraq.

            There was no WMDS as claimed by Cheney and puppet Bush.

            Thus yes they lied about WMDS as the reason for going to war in Iraq……..

          • Owain says:


            Being incorrect is not the same thing as lying. If it were, you would be guilty of lying in your own post. For example, you say, “There was no WMDS as claimed by Cheney and puppet Bush.”

            Yet, according to this report from the House Intelligence Committee, dated 21 June 2006, significant numbers of chemical weapons were found in Iraq.

            According to the report, 500 mustard gas and sarin nerve gas weapons had been recovered in Iraq since 2003. That’s not a lot, but Iraq had used these weapons extensively in the 80’s in the Iran-Iraq war, so it was known that Iran possessed chemical weapons. In the run up to the actual invasion, it is now suspected that he was able to smuggle much of his stockpiles into neighboring Syria. If the revolts in Syria succeed in bringing down the government there, it will be interesting to be able to discover if they do indeed have much of Iraq’s missing chemical weapons.

            Regardless, your statement that no WMDs were discovered in Iraq is obviously false, as shown by this report. By your logic then, that makes you a liar, does it not?

            If not, why not?

        • Owain says:

          Update on the ATF operation running guns to Mexican drug lords:

          “Operation Fast and Furious was launched in 2009 to sell firearms to known and suspected straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels with the goal of tracking the guns and dismantling the gun trafficking routes.”

          “Officials linked two weapons found at the Arizona murder scene last December of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. According to testimony, they are terrified that some of the thousands of guns still at large will be used to kill more innocent people.”

  3. Bob Becker says:

    On Romney in particular, and more broadly on the general selling of your soul so many candidates seem to think is required for a successful run for office, the former editor of the Salt Lake Weekly had a chewy column up this week:

  4. ZaZen says:

    …”And all this Political Science I Don’t Understand…”
    …”It,s Just my Job 5 days Week…” {Elton John” Rocket Man”}

    Put on Your Mitts, Romney…
    We’re in for a “Front-Runner Trek”.

  5. Howard Ratcliffe says:

    They already have. Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry will do anything Israel tells them to do.
    Romney and Huntsman will do anything the Mormon Church tells them to do. They believe in Evolution, Global Warming, and Chinese Special Economic Zones.
    Ron Paul believes Gold is his God; return to Gold, bring troops home, seal the borders and return to Constitutional Law. Except the Gold thing, everything else is fine, but Ron will never allow himself to get close to the White House because that is not his role.

  6. Sam says:

    I see. So the ever liberally biased NYT has its list of questions for each of the GOP candidates. Any chance they’ll ever be asking President Obama the answer to these questions? Nah. The whole point is to try to stir up infighting and religious prejudice among and against the Republicans. Of course, all the other media will follow the game plan–harp on religion over and over, as if voters actually cared, and the plans and politics and experience of the Republicans will be drowned out. Anything to keep people from asking why the economy has gotten so much worse under Obama and why we shouldn’t replace him with a president who actually knows something about business and economics.

    • Bob Becker says:

      “Anything to keep people from asking why the economy has gotten so much worse under Obama.”

      Has it? When he took office, the economy was hemorrhaging close to half a million jobs a month. The various stimulus programs halted the job losses within months of his taking office. When he came in, the stock market was in freefall, the Dow eventually going below 7K. Within months of his taking office, the sliding Dow reversed, and climbed back over 12 K. It’s fallen off some of late, but is still way way over the less than 7 K bottom it hit amid the Bush freefall period. And the recession… which means a minimum period of a decline in the economy… ended to be replaced with slow [very slow] economic growth during his term in office.

      No, the economy has not come back as the Administration promised and we’d all hoped…. that is, those of us who weren’t hoping the Administration would fail the day it took office. But to claim as you do that the economy has gotten worse than it was when President Obama took over from President Bush is nuts.

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