September 30th, 2007
03:20 PM ET
16 years ago

McCain: I would vote for Muslim president

McCain said he would prefer a Christian president.

(CNN)- GOP presidential hopeful Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, says he feels religion should play a role in one's selection of a presidential candidate. "I think the number one issue people should make [in the] selection of the President of the United States is 'Will this person carry on the Judeo Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?'"

McCain made the comments an in interview with beliefnet, a website that covers religious issues and affairs.

"I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles, personally, I prefer someone who has a grounding in my faith," he said when asked about a Muslim candidate running for president.

Mr. McCain contacted beliefnet after the interview to clarify his remarks. "I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values," he said.

"The Senator did not intend to assert that members of one religious faith or another have a greater claim to American citizenship over another," Jill Hazelbaker, McCain's communication director told CNN when asked for clarification on his comments. "Read in context, his interview with beliefnet makes clear that people of all faiths are entitled to all the rights protected by the Constitution, including the right to practice their religion freely. In the interview he also observed that the values protected by the Constitution, by which he meant values such as respect for human life and dignity, are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is all he intended to say to the question, is America a Christian nation, and it is hardly a controversial claim."

McCain also said people should not be quick to dismiss his rival in the GOP race, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, simply because of his Mormon religion. "I believe that the Mormon religion is a religion that I don't share, but I respect," he said. "I think that Governor Romney's religion should not, absolutely not, be a disqualifying factor when people consider his candidacy for President of the United States, absolutely not."

He said he did agree with a recent poll that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. "I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

"But I say that in the broadest sense," he said. "The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say, 'I welcome only Christians.' We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are a nation founded on Christian principles."

McCain was also asked to clarify his being identified an Episcopalian, yet recently referring to himself as Baptist. "[It was] one comment on the bus after hours," he said. "I meant to say that I practice in a – I am a Christian and I attend a Baptist church." McCain said he was raised Episcopalian, but has attended a Phoenix Baptist church for many years.

When asked if he was close to taking the final step, and undergoing a Baptist baptism, he said he has been in discussions with his pastor about it. "But I would not anticipate going through that during this presidential campaign," he said. "I am afraid it might appear as if I was doing something that I otherwise wouldn't do."

- CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford

Filed under: John McCain • Race to '08
soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. Brent

    Surely you can't be serious!

    I am serious, and don't call me Shirley.

    Talk about spin! This article takes Sen. McCain's comment completely out of context. Also, the comments are a disgraceful (yet convenient) platform to attack Christians. You people ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

    Nobody is forcing Christianity upon you, and yet you feel the need to attack us at every opportunity. THIS is why Christians do not relate to modern liberalism.

    If people said the same things about Muslims that you do about Christians, there would be riots, and ALL of you would come to their rescue with protests - you lying sacs of scum.

    September 30, 2007 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  2. Red Jack Riser, Washington D.C.

    This country was not founded on Judeo Christian values. Please read the Declaration of Independence, which is the founding document of our society, and immediately you will find: THE LAWS OF NATURE AND OF NATURE’S GODS written in stone, til the boy comes for his sword.

    Bridges collapsing, snow in the Spring,
    scoundrels among us, riddle-ing stings,
    look over there while we steal your cash
    murder your brothers and brothel the past.

    But the story to carry was kept quite secret,
    they allied for centuries in silence to speak it
    a code among men, and honor to stall,
    willing to die, and swords for the small.

    September 30, 2007 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  3. Al, Manhattan Beach, CA

    Complete idiot. The US was founded by extraordinarily enlightened people, probably first time in history a country was founded not on religion; first successful secular society.
    Many founders are considered agnostics (at that time! – when science only made first steps!).
    And now we have reverse selection: morons come on top – and made such statements (and McCain is not stupidest of them!)

    September 30, 2007 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  4. Lee, Mays Landing NJ

    "If people said the same things about Muslims that you do about Christians, there would be riots, and ALL of you would come to their rescue with protests — you lying sacs of scum."

    Posted By Brent : September 30, 2007 11:16 pm

    LOL, one of the problems here is that many of the politically active "christians" in America don't sound like real christians.
    They call themselves christians, like republican torture enablers and apologists, haters of blacks and all muslims (by lumping them all together with the 9-11 perpetrators) but if they met Jesus walking the earth today, they'd cuss him out as a "liberal" and one of the "sacs of scum" to hate.

    September 30, 2007 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  5. BP, Cola SC

    This has turned out to be an entertaining thread.

    We have Christians calling atheism a "religion." My friends, it is not - by definition, atheism is the very lack of a religion. When you become atheist then you can tell me what atheism is.

    We have people claiming that Christians are being "attacked." Criticism and attacks are not the same thing. And, for the record, I will criticize all religions equally. Christianity often gets singled out simply because it happens to be the most prominent, evangelical, and influential faith in America.

    We have seen many compelling historical quotations that address the founding principles of our nation. I won't deny that plenty of the founding fathers were indeed Christians. But those would have been the odds, no? Really, I think the Treaty of Tripoli provides more solid insight into the matter of America and religion than do quotes from Jefferson or Henry - that was, after all, an official government document ratified by the congress and signed by the president, and fast on the heels of our nation's birth at that.

    Finally we have posters who unabashedly claim that we are and should be a nation of, by and for Christians, period. That those who say otherwise should move to Canada. That Christians should have their own nation, insulated from all the gays and Muslims. It is suggested, ironically, that only then can they practice the love of fellow humans that is so central to the Christian way of life. Folks, does this not qualify as a theocracy? I have no doubt that there are many, many on the Christian right who would jump at the chance to establish Christianity as the official state religion. Many have at the least endorsed a de facto move to this effect. Dangerous ground. So much for the first amendment.

    October 1, 2007 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  6. Bob Mackee, Renton WA

    He's lying.

    October 1, 2007 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  7. LP

    I honestly don't understand where this entire "Judeo-Christian America" thing comes from. So many people try to make an argument that the USA was founded on "a fundamental belief in God," but if you open any history book it immediately becomes apparent it was founded on a fundamental belief in DEMOCRACY.

    October 1, 2007 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  8. Mark R. Fort Lauderdale FL

    In all his bigotry and all his pandering to the religious right, he got the point across- he also is willing to blur the lines that separate church and state. What a difference 4 years makes! There is certainly no way that I would vote for you now.

    October 1, 2007 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  9. Mary, Beaver, PA

    Read your history. This nation was not founded on Christian principles, but the principles of individual liberty.

    People have got to get it through their heads that one does not have to be a Christian to be a moral person. I'm more inclined to think that some of the things that people do, say, and believe in the name of Christ would draw rebuke from the Founder of that religion.

    Frankly, I think this nation would be better served if we paid less attention to what God each candidate prays to. I certainly can't see where it has made a difference in the decision-making of the current occupant of the White House.

    "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, except (fill in your prejudices here)."

    October 1, 2007 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  10. Richard, Klamath, Oregon

    Well, Mr McCain, that is just one of the reasons I won't vote for you as President. On another note, it's the amnesty / border issue stupid!

    October 1, 2007 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  11. Jim Topeka, Kansas

    On of the founding principles of our nation was that we were a nation where anyone could worship as they saw fit. There was no national church, the references to God were made to God, identifiying no one God inparticular.

    The Republican Party likes to call itself the Party of Lincoln, but if you check your history books you will find that Lincoln was one of two Presidents that DID NOT claim a religious affilation. When asked when he would join a church, Lincoln responded when he found one that practises what it preaches.

    While I disgree with the good Senator McCain on many matters, and feel that he is past his time, one issue that he attempts to get across that I must gree with him on, dispite what appears at times his inability or his desire not to just come out and say it, religion has no place in politics. Yes I would vote for a Muslim for President, but I am more in line to vote for someone that shares my personnal values. Well, I hold that if relgion was placed where it should be, out side the political arena and if the canidates simply talked the issues we would discover the canidate that best represents our ideals, religious neutral.

    We can not say that we are a Christain nation because our founding fathers were Christian. Our founders fleed Europe to seek their fortunes in a new land where they could pratice their religion as they saw fit. Now in many instances this meant that those seeking freedom were persecuted by those very people seeking religious freedom before them, but that did not kill the ideal this nation was founded upon. But no where within the founding documents does it proclaim that America is a "Christain" nation, it does use the word God so that all may view it in their own eyes.

    You want religion go to church. Keep it out of politics. For me the quickest way not to get my vote is to wear ones religion on ones sleeve rather than stand upon ones views on the issues. If you desire a religious state there are a couple in the world today, have at it.

    October 1, 2007 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  12. Zac, Atlanta GA

    I freak out every time I hear "America is a Christian nation." The USA is a FREE nation, NOT a Christian nation.

    October 1, 2007 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
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