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Church, State and Campaign ‘08

Posted on May 1, 2008
Hagee and McCain
AP photo / Gerald Herbert, file

McCain’s his man: The controversial Rev. John Hagee stands behind Sen. John McCain in his run for the presidency.

By Bill Boyarsky

When Adolf Hitler came to power, he said, “I am not going to do anything in my lifetime that hasn’t been done by the Roman Church for the past 800 years. I am only going to do it on a greater scale and more efficiently.”

This comes from the Rev. John Hagee, a hugely popular televangelist who is an important supporter of Sen. John McCain, the prospective Republican presidential nominee. Hagee’s congregation in Texas has 19,000 members, and he appears on more than 150 television stations, 50 radio stations and eight religious networks. Although Hagee is not McCain’s personal minister, Hagee gives McCain an entrée to the Christian right, a group that has considered McCain too liberal.

Could anything be more bigoted and inflammatory than Hagee saying the Roman Catholic Church inspired Hitler when he crafted the Holocaust? Certainly it ranks with or exceeds the ranting of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Sen. Barack Obama’s former minister. McCain’s religious nut is every bit as destructive as Obama’s.

Considering the importance of Hagee to McCain, I would think such an outburst of anti-Catholicism would have created a frenzy of stories and comments by political journalists and their cousins, the cable news network analysts. Yet Hagee’s words have disappeared into the limbo of news not hot enough for prime time.

Similarly, there was minimum attention paid to Hagee’s declaration that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment to New Orleans for permitting a gay pride parade. “I believe the judgment of God is a very real thing,” said Hagee. “I believe that Hurricane Katrina was in fact the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.”


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On another occasion, he said, “Those who believe in the Koran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews.”

And where’s the outrage over his belief that Jews who do not convert to Christianity will be banned from Hagee’s heaven-bound express during the Rapture and forced to remain behind and boil on Earth? By the way, the segment of right-wing Jews who welcome Hagee’s support for Israel and his advocacy of a pre-emptive United States-Israeli strike against Iran should study this particular belief carefully. They should be aware that the Jews are doomed on Rapture day unless they convert.

Compared to the torture inflicted on Obama over his association with Wright, McCain has mostly escaped bad publicity from his Hagee connection.

The subject came up when McCain appeared with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.” Stephanopoulos asked if it was “a mistake to solicit and accept his [Hagee’s] endorsement?”

McCain replied, “Oh, probably, sure.” But the candidate said he’s still “glad to have his endorsement.” 

The senator criticized the pastor’s “condemning of the Catholic Church,” but added that “I admire and respect Dr. Hagee’s leadership. ... I admire and appreciate his advocacy for the state of Israel, the independence of the state of Israel.”

The Arizona senator was interviewed by Stephanopoulos on Sunday, April 29, the day before Wright’s disastrous appearance at the National Press Club in Washington. Actually, Wright was thoughtful and positive when he gave his speech, just as he was when interviewed the Friday night before by Bill Moyers.

He said, “The prophetic theology of the black church has always seen and still sees all of God’s children as sisters and brothers, equals who need reconciliation. ... We root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred or prejudice.”

As happens to many a person in love with his own voice, Wright got into trouble during the question-and-answer session. There he praised the anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan. He also said Obama was playing politics when he distanced himself from Wright. And when asked about a sermon in which he “said the government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color,” Wright replied, “based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.”

All this is crazy, but not any worse than Hagee saying the Roman Catholic Church inspired the Holocaust or that God punished New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina.

Why has McCain gotten off so easily while Obama is being battered unmercifully?

One reason is that the Obama-Wright story is about race. The fact that Obama is the first African-American with a real chance of becoming president has made race a central part of the election story. This is especially true now, when the superdelegates and the media are carefully counting white votes, which Obama will need for victory. Wright’s words, especially when reduced to short pieces of video and sound bites, won’t help Obama.

Another reason is that the media love McCain, his war record and the access to him on the campaign, the “straight talk” reputation. These subjects have captured more attention than his support of the Iraq war, his ineffective health care proposals and his muddled economic policies.

News coverage aside, the most important lesson to be learned from the wild-card ministries of Hagee and Wright is that religion should have no place in the campaign.

The men who founded the country understood this. They wrote a Constitution that separated church and state. They were not especially religious. Thomas Jefferson was a deist who doubted the divinity of Christ. As biographer Ron Chernow wrote of Alexander Hamilton, “Like other founders and thinkers of the Enlightenment, he was disturbed by religious fanaticism and tended to associate organized religion with superstition.”

We are letting religious fanaticism dominate the presidential campaign. The candidates have brought it on themselves with tedious references to their churchgoing piety. Now we’re all paying for it. Who cares what their preachers say? The voters want to hear about how the presidential candidates would restart the sick economy and get us out of Iraq.

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By Gusto, May 2, 2008 at 2:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you don’t like Obama for lying, how in heavens are you liking McCain? The reality is in this USA a black man acan serve in the Armed Forces and put his ass on the line for this country; but, he NEVER to question the actions of White America. A white pastor can justify people of color suffering as punishement from God, but a black pastor cannot question why the USA believe it is blessed by God after committing genocide and acts of terrorism in other nations in the name of democracy. You hate Obama because he is a black man, that’s all.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, May 2, 2008 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment

Obama’s now famous association with a man of the cloth happened years and years ago.  McCain, unless this is trick photography, stands there with the holy reverend right by his side, sometime during this political campaign.

The question thinking people have to ask is, “WhyTF does a candidate for the presidency of the USA have to stand there with a reverend by his side?  Should I be voting for someone who considers it important or politically expedient to have a photo op with a GD reverend? 

This is the freakin’ Younited States of Uhmerrika, for god’s sake!!! What the hell business does anyone have injecting freakin’ religion into the presidential campaign?

I don’t like Obama, either.  They’re all a bunch of lyin’ yahoos. 

Down with lying, pompous, self-righteous politicians.
Throw them all under the bus, the church bus, that is.

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By heavyrunner, May 2, 2008 at 11:39 am Link to this comment

“Why has McCain gotten off so easily while Obama is being battered unmercifully?”

That is largely because Republicans own the corporate media.  If they didn’t the McCain candidacy would be presented as the farce it is.

By the way, if you don’t like Rev. Wright, don’t vote for him - The Rev. Wright, that is.

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By NYT9237723, May 2, 2008 at 11:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The emphasis on Wright’s comments have nothing to do with religion. The press has run about 30 seconds or ranting that don’t reflect Wright’s decades long ministry of help for the poor. We could all be condemned for 30-seconds of snorting stupidity, but fortunately, there usually isn’t a camera rolling.

The point of publicizing Wright’s comments is to condemn Obama by association, so that the DNC will have no choice but to run Hillary. Republican strategists have said that they prefer to run against her because they believe that McCain will beat her easily, while beating Obama will be more difficult, if not impossible.

The re-playing of the Wright comments is a right wing smear tactic (see Fox News), and it’s effective. Get set for 4, and perhaps 8, more years of incompetent Republican rule that will further impoverish the poor and middle class and further enrich the rich.

That is why we don’t hear the hate-filled, half-witted rantings of right-wing preachers: they support the Republicans.

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By seth mcdonough, May 2, 2008 at 11:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maybe Hagee would benefit from reading and then distinguishing between judging and acting.  I supremely doubt God would be so foolish as to judge a mass of people, a ‘universal’ of sorts, by means of a ‘particular’ expression, namely a Gay Pride parade.  If God judges us, I would think it would carry the weight of being absolute for each individual and whether that lived a just life.  The ‘action’ of God ‘against’ us would only be our own realization of the judgments weight and the living with it thereafter.  To think a Hurricane was God’s judgment against New Orleans smacks of a severe lack of critical thinking on his part, and quite sad at that.  If this in his mind constitutes a supreme judgment than what hope does anyone have either in this country or elsewhere when people not even directly associated with eachother are in proximity of an act of sin?  I bet he’s counting the days for some a town in a middle eastern country to have a Gay Pride parade.

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By Spike, May 2, 2008 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

Somebody please help the old gaffer into the barroom at the nearest VFW; and, then slap the fat boy until he promises to speak only the truth.

Hagee’s congregation(contributors) might like to ask him what were the “money making schemes” he lent himself, and them too, in the late 1990’s.

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By Maani, May 2, 2008 at 10:55 am Link to this comment


Thank you for your comments.  I guess I would have to agree with you.  Perhaps what I should have said is that jfior and I might agree that religion may be playing too CENTRAL a role in the way many people decide whom to vote for, but that it can be, and perhaps even should be, a factor for those whose faith is central to their belief systems.

Good call.


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By Algol01, May 2, 2008 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

The religiosity of this country is shameful when we compare ourselves to the other countries of the developed world.  Where else do we see political candidate groveling for the support of fanatics? 

I doubt that the majority of these candidates even believe in the religious rhetoric that they so frequently espouse.  It is pathetic that they have to pretend to be holy to sway the bible-thumping public of this country.

Speaking of the bible-thumping public, what a coincidence it is that the religious leanings of this country so far extend past those of other developed nations, while we also suffer from higher levels of social ills.  I thought these 2000 year old books were supposed to convey morality to the reader.

The candidate who would be the most quickly shouted down is the one who wouldn’t pander to people who believe that the world is only a few years old…truly embarrassing…

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By cann4ing, May 2, 2008 at 10:40 am Link to this comment

Check out the comment from the religious broadcaster at the AV booth’s “Michael Moore sounds off on the ‘08 campaign.

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By Ted Swart, May 2, 2008 at 10:29 am Link to this comment

YES Thomas Ellis.  We do appear to have gone backwards instead of forwards.  The Thomas Jerresons and Ben Franklins of thia world would have a really hard time getting elected at this juncture.

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By Ted Swart, May 2, 2008 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

When you put your mind to it Maani you sure can sum things up in a crystal clear manner.

You quite rightly say that the constitution “does NOT suggest that the VOTERS themselves cannot include religion as a factor in determining whether to vote for someone.”

You go on to say:  “You and I may agree that it is wrong to do so, but that is the fact.”

Surely you don’t really mean to imply that you (and perhaps others) do feel it is wrong to allow religion to feature in deciding whether to vote or not vote for some particular candidate.

I find myself very wary of the contention that we have (in the West) done something wonderful by pretending that it is even possible to separate religion and state. I would go further and contend that if religious believers really believe what they claim to believe they are under an obligation to let their religion influence how they vote.  I would even go still further and contend that, if they stand for election and actually get elected, they are also under an obligain to let their religion have a substantive influence on how they govern.

It is surely wrong to coalesce a specific religion and the state as the Islamists do in some countries and seem to want to do for the world as a whole. But that is a very different thing.
I don’t see an end to this nauseating practise of parading religious beliefs as a badge of honour when competing for office unless and until a genuine free thinker has the robustness to eschew this practise.

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By Thomas Billis, May 2, 2008 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

Here is a sobering thought.Thomas Jefferson,Ben Franklin,George Washington or Alexander Hamilton would not even be considered as a candidate for President of the United States today.Either for religion of some indiscression.Instead look at what we have.Think we are using the wrong parameters to select the leader of the free world.

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By Eric Barth, May 2, 2008 at 9:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So much of this dangerous nonsense has been mainstreamed over the last 25 years that it has just become part of the ether. Kind of like the TV set that is on all the time in most homes that blares forth all manner of nonsense, reality reversal (Robert Jay Lifton’s term), nonstop celebrity garbage, advertising and just plain buncom of every sort. People become numb and just tune it out. As nice old Bob Dole used to say during his ‘96 campaing about Bill Clinton’s blowjob : “Where’s the outrage?”

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By Maani, May 2, 2008 at 9:27 am Link to this comment


The “religious test” spoken of in the Constitution refers SOLELY to any “official” test in order to run for office; it does NOT suggest that the VOTERS themselves cannot include religion as a factor in determining whether to vote for someone.  You and I may agree that it is wrong to do so, but that is the fact.


The article asks “Who cares what their preachers say?”  Normally, I would say “Amen” to this.  (LOL)  However, there IS a difference here.

Hagee is outrageous, and McCain is foolish to associate himself with him.  But Hageee is not McCain’s pastor.

Coe may be obnoxious in certain ways as well, and though he IS (for all intents and purposes) Hillary’s pastor, their relationship, though long-term, is confined to the occasional service she attends.

Wright, on the other hand, is not simply Obama’s pastor.  Obama made it clear even before he ran for president that his relationship with Wright is far more consequential than McCain’s with Hagee or Clinton’s with Coe.

Wright brought Obama to Christ.  He married the Obama’s.  He baptized their children.  Obama has spoken glowingly and respectfully of Wright both in his book and over the years.  And by Obama’s own admission, Wright has been Obama’s “spiritual advisor” for at least a decade, if not two.

This is a MARKED difference between the Wright/Obama connection and the Hagee/McCain and Coe/Clinton connections.  And we SHOULD care about it because it speaks to the issues of character and judgment - qualities which Obama himself has stated consistently he has more of than Clinton or McCain.

Yet just as Gary Hart was undone when he “dared” the press to follow him, saying that they would find “nothing” on him - and then got caught only weeks later with Donna Rice on his lap - Obama painted himself into a corner with his continual claims of having the “moral high ground” on character and judgment.

THAT is why situation with Wright matters: NOT because Wright stated some hard truths (as well as some absurd claims).  But because Obama’s refusal to dissociate himself from Wright when he first had the opportunity to do so - instead of justifying and rationalizing Wright’s comments and behavior until political expediency finally got the better of him - shows a lack of judgment that is counter to both Obama’s own claims, and to that aspect of a possible Obama presidency.


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By independantannie, May 2, 2008 at 8:25 am Link to this comment

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all join together and put religion in its place and out of politics. People need religion and it has many good purposes but when it starts to control your life that is just too much.  While I am at it how about all of us staying home for a month and stop buying fuel for our automobiles and see what happens to Mobile/Exxon

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By as, May 2, 2008 at 8:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Were Hagee-McCain-Bush not responsible for the American ongoing tragedy, that is also known as “The Three Trillion Dollar WAR??” Why not talk about that? Or, better yet, aren’t Hagee-McCain-Clinton also talking about “investing” another $three trillion into a war against Iran? AS

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By madelineann, May 2, 2008 at 8:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I really liked Bill Byorsky? comments on religion.  It really has no place in politics but I guess there are financial considerations for the candidates.  A friend asked me if I would continue to support Obama if I knew he was a Muslim and I replied that I did not give a damn what religion he followed and if he had no religion that would be ok with me.  I was not voting for a preacher but someone to lead and insppire us.  McCain was an Episcopalian?, I believe and Clinton was a Baptist and they both screwed around on their wives so I can’t see what possible difference a belief system makes in what kind of person you are.  Wish we had a political party for regular folks but that ain’t gonna happen in my lifetime.

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By Pacrat, May 2, 2008 at 8:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Who cares what the preachers say - who has ever paid attention to preachers? However, what so called news commentators say gets and maintains attention! You know why? Because they tell you what the preachers say - whether the preachers agree or not. They tell you how to vote - like they want you to!

We should fear commentators of the ilk of Fox News and its affiliate MSNBC more than the preachers!

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By Ted Swart, May 2, 2008 at 7:59 am Link to this comment

What Dr Knowitall suggests is correct.  This religious association bruhaha is simply a distraction from tacking the really important issues such as putting the American economy backon a sound footing, terminaitng the Iraq fiasco in as elegent a manner as possible . . . . .
However, there is no permanent solution to the religious issue unless and until a presidential candidate has the robustness to openly declare that he/she is an outright free thinker and proud of it.

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By Hammo, May 2, 2008 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

The culture, demographics and psychology of areas like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and elsewhere may hold answers to question about religious thinking and preachers, both white and black.

The backgrounds of many areas of the U.S. are complex. Some have distinct variations and some are quite similar. These factors impact the spiritual viewpoints of people in many cases.

Food for thought in the article ...

“Obama faces Midwest hearts and minds”

Joint Recon Study Group blog
May 2, 2008

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By Purple Girl, May 2, 2008 at 7:24 am Link to this comment

I have not been offended not shocked by anthing Rev Wright has said. he is condeming the institutionalization of prejudice, Discrimation and Hate.
Hagee and th erest of the snake Oil Dealers that crawled out into the Political arena in the’80’s ahve been condeming AmericaNs. Their Doctrine is to play judge and Jury agaisnt their own ‘Makers’ Creations- how heretical is that!
Wright is Judging Brick & Mortar, Hagee et al judges his fellow Man- and has the audacity to Damn them.
“Chickens coming Home to roost’ was referring to the profiteers who have used US and Our National symbols as Camoflague for their vile Goals. Ultimatley Using US as human shields to disguise their unethical and Immoral Business practices.They have perpetuated the inaccurate portrayal of what AmericaNs actually stand for. Have allowed US to be used as Scapegoats by those Oppressive Greedy ‘Royal’ Regimes in the ME. the “Moral majority’ was a Marketing Stratedgy to Divide and Conquer, to proclaim legitimacy for their twisted Doctrines.
I fear ‘their Messiah’, but then hope a real Judgement day does come in which they are the ones feeling the Wrath for their Blasphemous, Heretical,egocentric ‘teachings’. anyone who claims to be the way to ‘salvation’ is nothing more than a mortal who places themselves above all that can Not be known- meglomaniacs.Funny how a creator can make everything an dis all powerful - but is limited to talking to only a few - It’s BS and Pure idolatry

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By S. Kennedy, May 2, 2008 at 6:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yes, religion should be out of the picture and it’s too bad the candidates feel the need to demonstrate how religious they are (and in Obama’s case, offer proof that he is Christian and not Muslim).  I didn’t find any of Rev Wright’s statements offensive. I agree with him that our government has proven over and over again to be capable and guilty of all kinds of crimes all over the world (including crimes against its own citizens). Are there people that really don’t know this?  I understand perfectly well why Obama has had to come out strongly against the sound bites and human stumbles of his former pastor. This won’t stop me from voting for him.

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By Ivan Hentschel, May 2, 2008 at 6:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

KNowitall and TDoff are both being flip, precisely when they should be getting worried. We are swimming closer and closer, every day, to the sucking whirlpool of theocracy, religious jaundice and callous disregard for human life that we claim to abhor so much in the Middle East. Keep laughing and ignoring the obvious, boys, and soon you’ll have the Rev. Hagees of the country kicking your front door in, because you didn’t display an “I Love Jesus” bumper sticker on your car. Sniggle now, regret later.

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By Tom Semioli, May 2, 2008 at 6:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The goal of any professional politician is to get citizens to believe in their candidacy, not to think about the issues: hence they wrap themselves around religion which has the same tenent.

Citizens follow their political parties akin to a religion - they don’t ask questions - they vote out of faith and loyalty. Religion equals politics and vice versa.

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By jfior, May 2, 2008 at 6:24 am Link to this comment

Article VI of the Constitution states

“no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

I guess our voting public has given that up….there is a de facto religious test in this country…

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, May 2, 2008 at 4:44 am Link to this comment

It’s much easier to argue about religion than it is to address and fix major social issues. 

This religion distraction by our politicians from major issues is one reason things steadily deteriorate in America.

Best way to stop it?  Listen to and vote for people who refuse to take part in the distraction and make that known to the distractors.  DUH!

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By TDoff, May 2, 2008 at 4:23 am Link to this comment

C’mon, lay off the religious folks supporting the various candidates. If we didn’t have Hagee, Wright, Robertson, the pope,, we’d have to quit playing ‘Freak of the Week’.
This week, Hagee and Wright have been leap-frogging each other for ‘Top Freak’, both having overtaken the pope’s reign of the week before.

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