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The blog Jed Report has made a You Tube video from an interview conducted by Dan Gilgoff at Beliefnet last year. It is a compelling two and a half minute bit of vid, but Jed Report does not identify the source. The link to the original is below in this revised and updated post from a few months ago, which also provides a fuller context.

In an interview with BeliefNet, last year, John McCain came out as a Christian nationalist.  This is a disturbing development from a man who has been profoundly critical of the religious right in the past (as has at least one top advisor), but has courted movement leaders, and received the endorsement of some while seeking the GOP nomination for president over the past year.

In this interview, he comes out more strongly as a Christian nationalist* and critic of separation of church and state than any nominee for either party in modern American history.

There was a flurry of correspondence with the Anti-Defamation League in the wake of his statments. But the upshot was this statementfrom the ADL:

In response, ADL welcomed Sen. McCain's clarification, but added, "Nevertheless, we are deeply disappointed that you did not expressly retract your statement that "the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.

Last October, journalist Dan Gilgoff interviewed John McCain on BeliefNet.  The interview was  titled:  John McCain: Constitution Established a "Christian Nation."

Q: A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?

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

Abraham Foxman, ADL National Director wrote to McCain about this  on October 1, 2007. McCain replied, and the ADL rejoined.

We write in response to your recent interview posted on We and others are confused and dismayed by the comments you made in the course of this interview. On the one hand, you correctly noted that our Founding Fathers unequivocally believed in the separation of church and state. Yet you then came to the conclusion that "the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

While this view may reflect what recent polls show is the opinion shared by a majority of Americans today, it is false. Absolutely nothing in the Constitution establishes that the U.S. is a Christian nation, nor is it accurate to say that this nation was founded on Christian principles.

The sources that influence the framers ranged from Greek and Roman law, to John Locke, to Scottish Common Sense philosophers to Calvinism. The Founding Fathers actually rejected attempts to include Biblical passages and religious principles in the Constitution. In fact, every attempt to include official recognition of Christianity in the United States Constitution was defeated. The secular character of the new nation was affirmed in the Treaty of Tripoli (1797) which was negotiated under George Washington and signed by John Adams: "The Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

We were pleased that you clarified your earlier remarks about Muslims' suitability to serve as president, and made it clear that you would be willing to vote for a Muslim candidate. As you well know, our Constitution explicitly states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

While the Anti-Defamation League is non-partisan and does not endorse or oppose any candidate for office, we believe deeply that voters should be making their decisions on the basis of a candidate's qualifications and positions on substantive issues. We do not ask candidates to hide their religious heritage or the impact religion has had on them. But appeals to voters based on religion are inevitably divisive and contrary to the democratic ideals upon which our nation was truly founded.

We urge you to reconsider and withdraw your statements describing the United States as a "Christian nation" and a "nation founded on Christian principles." Not only were your assertions inaccurate, they were also ill-advised for any candidate seeking to lead a nation as religiously diverse and pluralistic as ours.

McCain replied:

You have misconstrued my interview with Beliefnet, in which I made repeated references to the "Judeo-Christian" values that informed our founding fathers' respect for human rights. I did not assert that members of one faith have a greater claim to American citizenship than another. In fact, I stressed the opposite, noting that "the lady who holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say 'I only welcome Christians.'" Read in context, the interview makes clear that I believe people of all faiths are welcome here and entitled to all the protections of our Constitution, including the unfettered right to practice their religion freely. In the interview, I observed that the values protected by the Constitution - such as respect for human life and dignity - are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is all I intended to say to the question: is America a Christian nation?

While I acknowledged that I might be more comfortable voting for someone who shared that tradition, I also made clear that a candidate's faith should not be a barrier to running for or serving in high office. And in a clarification I gave Beliefnet shortly after the interview I said I could support a Muslim candidate for President, if I believed he or she were the best qualified to serve in that capacity.

I hope you will now see that your concern was misplaced. I have always made it a practice to put the country's best interests before my own, and have always avoided seeking political gain by aggravating racial or religious divisions among us, and I regret the insinuation that I would. Indeed, I do not think you can find anything in my life and political record to suggest the contrary. I was asserting nothing more controversial than that I recognize the human rights cherished in America, which the Constitution was conceived to protect, and which Americans have sacrificed their lives to defend, are values cherished in Judeo-Christian tradition.

Foxman rejoined:

Thank you for your quick response to my letter expressing concern over your interview with Beliefnet in which you referred to the United States as a "Christian nation."

We welcome your clarification that you were "asserting nothing more controversial than that you recognize the human rights cherished in America.....are values cherished in the Judeo-Christian tradition."

Nevertheless, we are disappointed that you did not expressly retract your statement that "the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation." Unfortunately, that phrase is often exploited by those who do not fully appreciate the importance of our Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom and equality which you embrace.

We hope that you will express your commitment to our pluralistic values in more inclusive language in the future.

Here is the ADL press release on the flap.

(A hat tip and a sweeping bow to Daily Kos diarist DrSteveB for flagging this in response to the Obama/Farrakhan episode)

*For a primer on Christian nationalism, see History is Powerful: Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters.

[Crossposted from Talk to Action]  

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 09:44 AM PDT.


Will the Media Cover McCain's Christian Nationalism?

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| 71 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  My hunch (5+ / 0-)

    is that it won't fly, or would benefit McCain.  I hate to be cynical, but I don't think that the majority of voters really get the distinction between "this is a Christian nation" and "most of us are Christians".

    In fact, I've known quite a few Christians who thought that capitalism is God-ordained.

    It's an issue with me, however.  I doubt that Knox was thinking of the afterlife when he and his men hauled the cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston.

  •  If he actually believes... (4+ / 0-)

    ...the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, then he has never read the Constituton, or he has read it and he's a f##cking moron.

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear." W.E. Gladstone -8.25 / -5.64

    by carver on Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 10:05:15 AM PDT

    •  Or (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AuntieM, willb48, carver

      he is pandering and figures it can shrugged off if someone criticizes him for it, endearing further to the dominionists.

      Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by DWG on Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 10:17:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Pandering for sure (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DWG, AuntieM, willb48

        He's worried that the religious right, which was all set up to boycott his good buddy Giuliani, is gonna drop that rock on his head instead.  He knows that he can't get elected without them, so he's gotta kiss their asses until November.  My sense is that, given his long history of being critical of the religious right, it's probably just lip service.

        "To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence." - Sun Tzu

        by Mickey Thunder on Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 11:16:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Absolutely (0+ / 0-)

          And he knew that after calling them "agents of intolerance" in 2000, he was going to do some serious ring kissing of the religious right.

          Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

          by DWG on Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 11:57:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  McCain is full of shit. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Make no mistake he will say and do almost any thing to get elected. In this video he very directly calls this a Christian Nation as he tries to weasel word his position.

        In it's weakened state after, eight years of Bush, McCain could do additional damage that totally destroy our constitution.  

        If a man claims to speak for god he will assure he is also gods' banker.

        by AuntieM on Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 11:53:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  how about getting Abraham Foxman (0+ / 0-)

    to get in touch with the congresscritters who signed on to HR 888?

  •  Enjoyed reading your link to your primer ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frederick Clarkson, AuntieM

    ...on Christian Nationalism -- it was quite enlightening.  I spent some time discussing politics on a site where the participants came from a huge diversity of POVs -- including many conservative Christians.  I was actually astounded that many of these conservative Christians were adamant that not being able to set-up a nativity scene at the local Courthouse was a huge infringement on their Christian rights.  Anyway, your article helped me see how the framing coming from the Christian nationalists is creating the fear that secularists want to destroy Christianity rather than just have a tiny bit of space in which we're not bombarded by the "Christian" message.

    •  thanks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the idea that government funds, personel, and property should not be used to advance a particular point of view escapes a lot of people.  

      Why not have nativity scenes on church or other private property? Everyone is cool with that.

    •  The "Culture of fear" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nowhere Man

      adopted the republican party was, in my opinion, developed by religious leaders from the beginning. Follow the rules and do as told or you will go to hell, be burned at the stake, be excommunicated, be shunned, be struck down by lightening or be taken down by some other grotesque means. The promotion of "nativity scene rights" is another in the long list of 'us against them' fear tactics employed by the neocons and religious right used to divide us against a more common good. If religion is truly important to an individual they have their church, their bible and the right to pratice their religion thus a nativity scene on public land would be and should be of no value. It"s divisiveness detracts from religion rather than adds.        

      If a man claims to speak for god he will assure he is also gods' banker.

      by AuntieM on Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 12:43:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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