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. colony14 author

    To all of you who are reminding us that the Constituion says nothing about Christianity, I hope you will remember that the document also says nothing about national health care, federal income taxes, Social Security, or the thousands of other programs we neithe need or can afford. I'd like nothing more than a candidate who follows the Founding Fathers more than he or she follows the PACs and the polls.

    September 30, 2007 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  2. Freta, Germany

    There is nothing in the secular document known as the United States Constitution that mentions God, Jesus, or Christ.

    September 30, 2007 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  3. Me, Fullerton, CA

    To Steve, Las Vegas:

    You can persuade people to stop insisting that America was founded on Christian values but you can't deny history that it really was. Rather than you asked people to go and do research, why don't you do it by yourself and find the truth to convince yourself that it is true America was founded by the acknowledgement of God.

    You might have an excuse that CNN didn't post it but why should we trust you if also never trust facts and history (don't talk about trust to God, I am sure you must be never trust God). The evils will always try to the destroy the truth but the truth will be never destroyed.

    September 30, 2007 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  4. BP, Cola SC

    McCain should review his U.S. history.

    You can find countless comments by the likes of George Washington and most notably Thomas Jefferson who confirm that this country was in fact not founded as a "Christian" nation.

    It never ceases to gall me the way people continue to bandy about this myth in trying to rationalize the alarming influence of religion over politics.

    Read Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" if you don't believe me. The evidence is plain as day.

    September 30, 2007 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  5. Robert Kowalenko, London, United Kingdom

    Who on Earth put in the mind of McCain the idea that his nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values? It was founded by people deeply influenced by French enlightenment ideas-the ideas of the separation of State and Church, of the separation of the powers, the rule of secular, not religious, law, and democracy. Democracy is certainly not a Christian value! This cannot be stressed enough. Churches are not democratic themselves, and they certainly love meddling in the secular affairs of Democratic governments. In fact, nothing has reduced the power of the Church more than the Enlightenment, and all religious leaders, no matter their faith, would love nothing more than to roll it back. All modern "evils", if one were to listen to the Christian Churches, are due to the (exaggerated) freedoms brought by the Enlightenment...
    Thus, to say that "the greatest experiment in the history of mankind" is about religion is to not have understood anything about the United States of America at all. Same that such an important candidate has such serious misconceptions.

    September 30, 2007 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. PollM, Dallas Tx

    After all we all hate to admit it. But in one form or another reality kicks in and it is done at a sub conscious level at varying degrees of preference.
    Will Religion play a role in your selection of a presidential candidate?

    September 30, 2007 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  7. fedupwithourgov't

    ANOTHER reason I wouldn't vote for McCain!

    September 30, 2007 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. Dominic, Durham, NC

    Exactly what Christian principles was it founded on, John? Did that brotherly love and peace for all extend to em, let's say the native Indians or maybe the slaves?

    September 30, 2007 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. Lucius, Mesa Arizona

    Why is this news? A muslim, a homosexual, an african american; does it really matter if they have the credentials to lead and take charge of a country that is not exactly on the right track? I don't understand why this is even a reportable matter.

    September 30, 2007 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  10. Eric, Salt Lake City

    I am an atheist unaffiliated with any political party and McCain is my top choice. I do think that "Christian principles" is unfortunate phrasing, but recognize political constraints, and take his use of the phrase to mean the moral and cultural tradition of the founders. As he corrected, non-Christians can share the same kind of morality (or best Christian candidates), and as he might admit in private, morality can derive from reason or other religious traditions. I urge people to charitably look to what he means rather than get caught up in superficial wording such as "Christian principles." That written, I would be surprised if any candidate answered much differently. As an office holder, I think it clear that McCain is willing to break from convention and celebrate those who think differently.

    September 30, 2007 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  11. Jon, Boston, MA

    It's weird that CNN saw fit to title this post "McCain: I would vote for Muslim president."

    'How tolerant of him!' one might say without actually reading the article. But then you read the first three paragraphs and...what? This guy, in fact, completely discriminates on the basis of religion! For CNN to frame it in the way that they have indicates that they see McCain as having deigned to a very low level to even consider voting for a Muslim. Jeers to McCain for his bigotry and to CNN for masking it.

    September 30, 2007 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  12. mike, miami, fl

    fix the headline its misleading.
    john mccain has served his country and has been a senator with a great record. no other presendential candidate can say that for themselves. love it or leave it and serve your country.

    September 30, 2007 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  13. John Stockman, Crestview, FL

    This is a classic example of the absurdity of "political correctness."
    Why shouldn't a candidate–or anyone, for that matter–be able to state his preference without criticism?
    I long for the honesty of Harry Truman!

    September 30, 2007 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |


    September 30, 2007 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  15. Tim, Madison WI

    A better headline would be "Flipflopper McCain full of it again."

    September 30, 2007 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  16. Anthony, Los Angeles CA

    In 1797, six years after the adoption of the Bill of Rights, the United States government signed a treaty with the Muslim nation of Tripoli that contained the following statement (numbered Article 11 in the treaty):

    "As the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the law, religion or tranquility of Musselmen; and as the states never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mohometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever produce an interruption of harmony existing between the two countries."

    This explicitly states that WE WERE NOT FOUNDED AS A CHRISTIAN NATION. Stop letting yourself be controlled. Don't believe something because you're told to. Get the facts for yourself.

    September 30, 2007 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  17. Lee, Mays Landing NJ

    The old boy is trying his damndest to tip-toe the mine field between the crazy american evengelicals and his own thoughts.
    It's hopeless. The Republican party is not for him.

    September 30, 2007 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  18. lmj ardmore ok

    Those who believe in God kill, steal, rob,and torture just like killers, thieves, robbers and torturers who believe in Allah. And they both do no worse or better than those who believe in the stars as animals, or the oceans as rulers or crickets as their ancestors. I don't trust any of them. Their gods or whatever always say "I am the most important one of all and what I say goes and you have to do what I say and if you don't your soul is damned to hell." These invisible beings of superior power and intellect refuse to show themselves and still demand belief. That belief is founded on books written in foreign languages, held in foreign lands, selectively assembled by foreign powers and is so full of inconsistencies, incoherencies, contradictions and confabulations we can't begin to defend it. And a politician dares to DEMAND that we pay a particular view of God/Allah/Cricket homage as the true belief and foundation of all America? Some of these nations believe in a God they cannot see, but do not believe in gays because they cannot see them. Oh, I don't believe in hell and I don't believe in Satan. Now who am I going to vote for? All that's left is a candidate who does not run.

    September 30, 2007 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  19. Matt, St. Louis, MO

    I sure as hell don't live in a Christian nation. This Jew doesn't care for politicians talking about me like a second class citizen. If it weren't for the incredible diversity of faiths in our country, we would be a much, much more boring nation. Diversity is our strength, McCain ought to apologize for his bigoted remarks.

    September 30, 2007 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  20. Dan, Mountain View CA

    For those of you who claim that Americas was not founded by Christianity principles, how about we do this: We break America apart, half for all the Christians and the other half for all of you the atheists, muslims, gays, lesbians, and all other religions. Let's start together and see which one will grow faster. To be sure I'm telling you fellows, the one with Christianity values will grow faster because they have love to each other, willing to sacrifice to each other, trust to each other, never suspect to each other because we have God which is Jesus as our main leader who will lead with love, sacrifice and compassion.

    And the other half with all the evils, trust me it's gonna be destroyed by themselves because what you all the non-believers have in mind are only hate, suspicion, selfishness, anger, and all other evil ones.

    If that's what you all the non-believers want, let's do that: Fall Apart. We the Christians would be very happy to live among other pure Christians so that we can grow together in a such peacefully way. God bless you, my friends.

    September 30, 2007 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  21. Lee, Mays Landing NJ

    Dan, "gays and lesbians" are not a religion.
    I'm a christian, but I wouldn't want to be on "your" side if that lind of "christianity" is based on hate.
    Wait a minute, I think I'm describing modern American Republicanism, a heretical branch of "christianity".

    September 30, 2007 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  22. Josh, New York, NYc

    I guess he'll vote for Obama then!
    Posted By Metin, Newport Beach, CA : September 30, 2007 10:56 am


    Are you stupid? Obama is Christian. How ignorant do you have to be to assume someone's Muslim simply because his name is Barack Hussein Obama. Do some research first, you idiot

    September 30, 2007 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  23. Anna, Woodbridge, VA

    Aaron of Stanwood, WA
    Unless I missed something, the Ten Commandments were handed out to Moses in the book of Exodus, long before Christ arrived on the scene, which would make them Jewish doctrine – NOT Christian.

    September 30, 2007 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  24. Rick,Ft lauderdale, Fl

    wow,what a bunch of blowhards...Good thing God doth have a sense of humor

    September 30, 2007 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  25. Lee, Mays Landing NJ

    Aaron of Stanwood, WA
    Unless I missed something, the Ten Commandments were handed out to Moses in the book of Exodus, long before Christ arrived on the scene, which would make them Jewish doctrine – NOT Christian.

    Posted By Anna, Woodbridge, VA : September 30, 2007 5:58 pm

    Anna and Aaarin, something to think about:
    If George Dubyah Bush had received the 10 Commandments instead of Moses, he would've appended a "signing statement" to the effect that they did not apply to him. LOL

    Why do the right wing christians (republicans) want America to be a theocracy like right wing Muslims do in Iran or Afghanistan? It's Osama bin Laden's dream.

    September 30, 2007 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
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