September 30th, 2007
03:20 PM ET
14 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. Steve, Las Vegas, NV

    You can delude yourself all you want but history is what it is and all the rewriting done cannot change what these men had in mind when framing our great nation and to have people like John McCain trying to tear it down by injected myths and monsters into is a disgrace. I have never in my life been more upset with a politician than I am right now...SHAME ON ALL OF YOU!!!

    September 30, 2007 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  2. R. Kvares, Salem, NY

    Our Declaration uses God but does NOT say any religion connected with it.

    If you ask me....most of the people in our jails are Christian....!!!!

    He has lost my vote!!

    September 30, 2007 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  3. Steve, Las Vegas, NV

    People, lets not fool ourselves here this country is infested with evangelicals eating at our individual rights as free people. Most believe that if you don't believe as they do then you don't belong. Our Air Force Academy is infested with evangelicals in high places, Blackwater is owned and operated by evangelicals these people are DANGEROUS to free minded people they are as dangerous as Osama-Bin-Laden or Hezbollah, or Hamas. Anytime you have people like this inject their dogma it can only lead to more chaos, murder and lies...

    September 30, 2007 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  4. Lawrence, Boston, MA

    Why is the headline for this story "I would vote for a Muslim president," when the point of McCain's comments seemed to be that he would favor a Christian president because he shares that religion, and believes that it is more in line with the country's principles? Your headline puts an overly positive spin on a very divisive and revealing comment.

    September 30, 2007 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  5. Steve, Las Vegas, NV

    I hope John McCain actually reads some of this and learns what the country he is trying to lead is really all about and not just his twisted sense of reality....

    September 30, 2007 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  6. Scott from Freehold

    McCain is a complete phony. His sudden promotion of the U.S. as a Christian nation needing a Christian president is total pandering for votes. Also, his views on the foundation of this country are more wrong than not. While many Founders were Christian, they went out of their way to have a wall between religion and government, despite personal views. One of our country's greatest failures is in cowtowing to the religious right.

    September 30, 2007 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  7. Peter, Wausau, WI

    I've been planning to vote for Fred Thompson, but now that McCain has established himself as a loyal and faithful Christian, I might consider voting for him instead! This country is in desperate need of a moral makeover, and a President who respects God and The Bible is a President who can make that happen!

    September 30, 2007 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  8. Jerry, Lowell Indiana

    Is he out of his mind?

    September 30, 2007 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  9. Metin, Newport Beach, CA

    I guess he'll vote for Obama then!

    September 30, 2007 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  10. Steve, Las Vegas, NV

    You state that religion is an important part of every society? Whos society? And most important you don't state WHY its important. Just more rhetoric from fools like yourself...I have damn good reason to be anti-religious as you put it. Its dangerous to the nt degree. It also protects me from your dogma.

    September 30, 2007 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  11. NQ, Stamford, CT

    CNN has titled the article "McCain: I would vote for Muslim president".

    That particular comment is a small note in the article, and further followed by the comment "if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values."

    So what's the big deal?

    Does CNN even know what's news worthy anymore? Do they even care about the blatant racism they portray in articles like this? If CNN had simply been reporting on an interview, shouldn't the article have been titled with something along the lines of "McCain: I would prefer a Christian president", which is what most of the article is about.

    Instead of reporting the news, it's more important for CNN to draw attention to an article by taking advantage of people's racist beliefs.

    September 30, 2007 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  12. Jamie Roberts, Philadelphia, PA

    I'd love to know how McCain can categorize the principles our country was founded on as 'Christian,' when most of the founders were deists. I'd also like to hear him explain how those principals are inherently Christian, rather than Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or agnostic. His biased remarks have just lost him my potential vote.

    September 30, 2007 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  13. laurinda,shokan,ny

    TO ED IN ELLENVILLE, yes, I signed up for e-mail and I will support the Democractic party. I will go back to the site later and see what else I can do. I'm with you 100%.

    September 30, 2007 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  14. Stanislaw Radziszowski, Rochester, NY

    Regarding: McCain: I would vote for Muslim president

    The title is very misleading. It will
    be posted in many places, many people
    will see just that. This will hurt McCain.
    On the other hand, the contents of the
    interview, which will be not read by
    many, makes clear and good points for him.
    This is unfair.

    September 30, 2007 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  15. timbuck

    If McCain thinks this is a "christian" nation, then his education is incomplete or selective; and saying he'd vote for a Muslim is right up there with "a few of my best friends are black...."

    September 30, 2007 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  16. Guffin, Somervill MA

    Hey, CNN, the headline of this article, rather than "McCain: I would vote for a Muslim president," should be, "McCain: Only Christians are qualified to be president."
    Just a thought.

    September 30, 2007 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  17. laurinda,ny

    ED IN ELLENVILLE, I will help the Democrats. I am 100% with you. I've signed up for e mail and later I will see what else I can do. CNN, this is the second time I posted this. Please leave it on.

    September 30, 2007 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  18. Anthony Fasolo Leesburg VA

    READ the CONSITUTION: Article VI " religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States" To Senator Mc Cain and those who insist we are a Christian Nation, I say "are you the same folks who want the 10 Commandments of MOSES posted in our courts??" Instead of talking about chrisitan values we should be living them, if we truly believe we are a "Christian Nation" Ask your selves "Who would Jesus bomb?

    September 30, 2007 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  19. Aaron Lenentine Stanwood, WA

    Steve –
    You've latched onto two of the 39 that signed. Check out the rest of them.

    Here’s a few quick quotes form some of them (we’ll start off with the very Madison you claim was such an atheist):

    James Madison, the fourth president, known as "The Father of Our Constitution" made the following statement, "We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."

    Patrick Henry, that patriot and Founding Father of our country said, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

    No matter how someone chooses to interpret Madison's intent (something I won't try to do here, but rather will rely on the man's actual words alone), the fact remains that his reference to the Biblical Ten Commandments makes a clear and concise case for the inclusion of not only religion, but Christianity specifically in the creation of this nation.

    I suggest John Adams by David McCullough. It is not a 'Christian' book and the author makes no claim concerning his religious beliefs. He works hard to state the facts as they are available. Read this telling portrayal of the creation of our nation, cross reference it with the list of resources used to compile the biography and I don't think you'll be able to make the case that the Constitution was drafted by a majority of atheists. It's quite the contrary.

    The founding fathers never meant to remove religion from the landscape of our society. They meant to insure that all those who are so willing can freely practice their religion of choice (which includes atheists, since the mere belief in the absence of God is in fact by definition a religious belief).

    Fifty-two of the 55 founders of the Constitution were members of the established orthodox churches in the colonies. People often reference the separation of church and state. The Constitution you're referring to was drafted and signed by 52 Christians and three individuals who did not identify themselves as Christians.

    September 30, 2007 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  20. Aaron Smith

    I am amazed by comments here. Gentleman Steve must move to UK or Canada where you can talk this way. We are in America. Christianity is prime importance. Osama wants all Americans to become muslims and those who comment here want to embrace it. I have lived in the Middle East for twenty five years. Muslims want to kill non-muslims so you can either be alive by becoming muslim or get killed. My friends, wake-up before it is too late.

    September 30, 2007 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  21. Ed,Ellenville,New York

    Good posts Steve! I wish those principles were emphasized more in public schools. I don't think that most "devout" followers are really well informed.

    September 30, 2007 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  22. Ed,Ellenville,New York

    Thank you Laurinda,I appreciate your help.

    September 30, 2007 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  23. Robert, Shelton CT

    McCain is old news, and also it is unfortunate that he wants to vote based on faith and values; you shouldnt feel bad to vote for a non-Christian and vice versa; the title is misleading, it only hurt him.

    September 30, 2007 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  24. colony14 author

    Candidates should respond to those "gotcha" questions by saying that religion is irrelevant. The issue is whether the candidate will support the Constitution of the United States. Of course, most of the candidates won't, and most of the reporters have never read the document, so I'm not very optimistic about the nation's future.

    September 30, 2007 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  25. c

    To those of you who responded to this McCain article by reminding everyone that the Constitution says nothing about Christianity, I hope you'll also remember that the document also says niothing about national health care, federal income taxes, Social Security, and thousands of other federal schemes that we do not need and cannot afford. As for me, I would like nothing more than to have a candidate who follows the Founding Fathers more than he or she does the PACs and the polls.

    September 30, 2007 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
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