POLITICAL observations & opinions

* Bill Keller (NYT) … asking candidates tougher questions about faith … religious authority versus the Constitution? … respect for serious science and verifiable history?

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 28, 2011


Bill Keller writes in the NYT Magazine (8/25/11) …

  • when it comes to the religious beliefs of our would-be presidents, we are a little squeamish about probing too aggressively.
  • Michele Bachmann was asked during the Iowa GOP debate what she meant when she said the Bible obliged her to “be submissive” to her husband, and there was an audible wave of boos — for the question, not the answer.
  • I want to know
    • if a candidate places fealty to the Bible, the Book of Mormon  or some other authority higher than the Constitution and laws of this country.
    • whether a president respects serious science and verifiable history 
  • So this season I’m paying closer attention to what the candidates say about their faith and what they have said in the past that they may have decided to play down in the quest for mainstream respectability.
  • To get things rolling, I sent the aforementioned candidates a little questionnaire.


  1. Is it fair to question presidential candidates about details of their faith?
  2. Is it fair to question candidates about controversial remarks made by their pastors, mentors, close associates or thinkers whose books they recommend?
  3. (a) Do you agree with those religious leaders who say that America is a “Christian nation” or “Judeo-Christian nation?” (b) What does that mean in  practice?
  4. If you encounter a conflict between your faith and the Constitution and laws of the United States, how would you resolve it? Has that happened, in your experience?
  5. (a) Would you have any hesitation about appointing a Muslim to the federal bench? (b) What about an atheist?
  6. Are Mormons Christians, in your view? Should the fact that Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are Mormons influence how we think of them as candidates?
  7. What do you think of  the evangelical Christian movement known as Dominionism and the idea that Christians, and only Christians, should hold dominion over the secular institutions of the earth?
  8. (a) What is your attitude toward the theory of evolution? (b) Do you believe it should be taught in public schools?
  9. Do you believe it is proper for teachers to lead students in prayer in public schools?


QUESTIONS for Congresswoman Michele Bachmann:

The following questions are based on recent reports (in The New Yorker andThe Daily Beast) about the influences on your worldview. If any of these questions misrepresent those influences, I hope you will correct them.

  1. You have said that watching the film series “How Should We Then Live?” by the evangelist Francis Schaeffer was a life-altering event for you. That series stresses the “inerrancy” ­— the literal truth — of the Bible. Do you believe the Bible consists of literal truths, or that it is to be taken more metaphorically?
  2. You have recommended as meaningful in your life works by leading advocates of Dominionism, including Nancy Pearcey, whose book “Total Truth” warns Christians to be suspicious of ideas that come from non-Christians. Do you agree with that warning?
  3. Last year, in a documentary produced by Truth in Action Ministries, you espoused the idea that the government is not entitled to collect as taxes more than 10 percent of a household’s income, the amount Christians are called upon to tithe to the church. Is that a goal you would pursue as president?
  4. One of your mentors at Oral Roberts University, John Eidsmoe, teaches that when biblical law conflicts with American law, a Christian must work to change the law. Do you agree? Are there examples where the Bible guides you to challenge existing secular law?
  5. Another book you have recommended is a biography of Robert E. Lee by J. Steven Wilkins, who contends that the Civil War was a clash between a Christian South and a godless North. He writes that in the South, contrary to the notion that slaves were victims, there was a “unity and companionship that existed between the races” because they shared a common faith. Do you agree with Mr. Wilkins?

QUESTIONS for Governor Rick Perry:

The following questions are based on recent reports (in The Texas Observerand The Daily Beast) about the influences on your worldview. If any of these questions misrepresent those influences, I hope you will correct them.

  1. A recent article in The Texas Observer questioned your relationship with the New Apostolic Reformation, which advocates the belief that Christians and only Christians should hold dominion over earthly institutions.  A number of leaders of this movement were given prominent roles in the prayer event called the Response. Would you like to clarify your relationship with these leaders? Do you hope for their support in your campaign?
  2. You have been close to David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, who has endorsed your campaign. He preaches that America is a Christian nation, that we should have a government “firmly rooted in biblical principles” and that the Bible offers explicit guidance on public policy — for example, tax policy. Do you disagree with him on any of these points?
  3. In 2008, Senator John McCain disavowed the endorsement of the Rev. John Hagee, after Reverend Hagee made remarks offensive to Catholics and declared that the Holocaust was part of God’s plan to drive the Jews to Palestine. In this campaign, Reverend Hagee has reportedly decided you are his favorite candidate. Are you willing to accept his endorsement of your campaign?

QUESTIONS for Senator Rick Santorum:

  1. Some voters — you have probably encountered them — worry that religious zeal can lead to a rejection of scientific evidence, resulting in policy proposals that are essentially faith-based. In an interview with Rush Limbaugh, you described global warming as “junk science” and “patently absurd,” and accused proponents of being part of a plot to expand government control over our lives. Among scientists who specialize in climate, there is now a strong consensus that earth is experiencing a pronounced warming trend, and that human behavior contributes to it. How did you decide that on this issue you agreed with the scientific outliers? Was this an example of faith-based policy judgment?
  2. You signed a pledge circulated by the Family Leader, an Iowa conservative group, promising “personal fidelity to my spouse.” Do you think cheating on a spouse disqualifies a candidate from being president?

QUESTIONS 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?

QUESTIONS 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?

for the entire article … http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/magazine/asking-candidates-tougher-questions-about-faith.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

for all the questions … http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/tougher-questions-for-the-candidates/


One Response to “* Bill Keller (NYT) … asking candidates tougher questions about faith … religious authority versus the Constitution? … respect for serious science and verifiable history?”

  1. Excellent post. I have often wondered why we pussyfoot around religion, why we seem to think these questions are out of bounds. I say we go ahead and ask them and send these questions into any “debates” where we can send questions. The MSM won’t ask, however, because these questions are regarded as too confrontational, too impolite. But the result will be these candidates, if elected, shoving their fundamentalism down our throats. It’s time this nation grew up about religion. It has the potential to be deadly to this country and cannot be ignored. (All of this obtains as well for nominees to the US Supreme Court – we are now stuck with several religious fundamentalists.) Last, I would love to see the “debates” become debates where candidates are cross-examined. I don’t even bother watching the debates anymore, as they are maddening, a joke. Candidates don’t even answer the questions ….

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