Friday, August 29, 2008

A First Look At Sarah Palin's Religious and Church-State Views

Now that John McCain has picked a little known governor, Sarah Palin, as his vice-presidential choice, what do we know about her views on religion and church-state issues? The Anchorage Daily News gave this some coverage during her 2006 run for governor. Here is an excerpt from an Oct. 23, 2006 article:
Palin's parents say they are not political and don't know how she decided to turn her ambition and work ethic toward politics. Her Christian faith, they say, came from her mother, who took her children to area Bible churches as they were growing up (Sarah is the third of four siblings). They say her faith has been steady since high school, when she led the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and grew stronger as she sought out believers in her college years.

Palin doesn't brandish her religion on the campaign trail, but that doesn't prevent others from doing so. After she was first elected mayor, her predecessor, John Stein, objected that a Valley cable TV program had hailed her as Wasilla's first "Christian mayor." In a column for the local newspaper, he named eight previous mayors and added that he, too, was a Christian...
And here is an excerpt from a Nov. 5, 2006 Anchorage Daily News article (via LEXIS):

A significant part of Palin's base of support lies among social and Christian conservatives. Her positions on social issues emerged slowly during the campaign: on abortion (should be banned for anything other than saving the life of the mother), stem cell research (opposed), physician-assisted suicide (opposed), creationism (should be discussed in schools), state health benefits for same-sex partners (opposed, and supports a constitutional amendment to bar them).

Palin and her staff complained that efforts to raise these issues in public were divisive and hypothetical. The normally unflappable candidate seemed put-upon when she faced a string of such questions in the last debate, on public television and radio Thursday night....

Palin said her reading of the Bible would not "bleed over into policy." But she has based much of her campaign around a close fundamentalist reading of another text - the state constitution - which she cited in nearly every debate as the source of her guiding principles.

Her respect for the state constitution was illustrated by her first veto as governor. Alaska's Supreme Court had ordered the state to provide health benefits to same-sex partners of public employees, finding that this was mandated by the state constitution's equal protection clause. Palin vetoed a subsequent attempt by the legislature to enact legislation to take away the same-sex benefits. After being advised by the state attorney general that the legislation was unconstitutional, she said that signing the bill would be in direct violation of her oath of office. (Anchorage Daily News, Dec. 29, 2006 article.)

UPDATE: Here is an Anchorage Daily News article from Oct. 25, 2006 quoting some of Palin's answers to church-state questions in a PBS debate during the gubernatorial race. On the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in public schools, she said:
Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both. And, you know, I say this, too, as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject -- creationism and evolution. It’s been a healthy foundation for me. But don’t be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides.
[Thanks to the Dallas Morning News for the lead on the Update.]

UPDATE: See my Aug. 30 posting for more on this topic.