Thursday, December 13, 2007

Religion Remains An Issue In Republican Caucuses and Primaries

In the Republican presidential campaign, candidates' religious views seem to continue to be of importance. The New York Times has published on its website an advance copy of The Huckabee Factor which will appear in next Sunday's Magazine section. In it, reporter Zev Chafets describes this exchange with Huckabee about the religious beliefs of his chief rival, Mitt Romney:

I asked Huckabee, who describes himself as the only Republican candidate with a degree in theology, if he considered Mormonism a cult or a religion. "I think it’s a religion," he said. "I really don’t know much about it." I was about to jot down this piece of boilerplate when Huckabee surprised me with a question of his own: "Don’t Mormons," he asked in an innocent voice, "believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

According to CNN, yesterday Huckabee personally apologized to Romney for his statement. Huckabee was surprised at the furor caused by his remarks, which were part of a several-hour conversation with Chafetz. He said: "[Chafetz] was trying to press me on my thoughts of Mitt Romney's religion, and I said 'I don't want to go there.' I really didn't know. Well, he was telling me things about the Mormon faith, because he frankly is well-schooled on comparative religions. As a part of that conversation, I asked the question, because I had heard that, and I asked it, not to create something -- I never thought it would make the story."

Meanwhile, in yesterday's Des Moines Register debate among Republican candidates (full transcript), the primary mention of religion was in remarks by candidate Alan Keyes. Interjecting himself into a discussion on education policy, Keyes said:

Governor Huckabee just addressed the question of education claiming that he is the spokesman, do you know the major problem? We allowed the judges to drive God out of our schools. We allowed the moral foundation of this republic which is that we are created equal and endowed by our creator, not by our constitution or our leaders with our rights. If we don't teach our children that heritage and the moral culture that goes along with it, we cannot remain free, they will not be disciplined to learn science, to learn math, to learn history, to learn anything. And they don't want to talk about this except when they're squabbling about their own personal faith and forgetting that we have a national creed. And that national creed needs to be taught to our children so that whether they were scientists or businessmen or lawyers they will stand on the solid ground of a moral education that gives them the discipline they need to serve the right, to exercise their freedom with dignity, and to defend justice because they understand it is our heritage.