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Religion in Politics - Compare Presidential Candidates on Faith

Faith Snapshot of the 2008 Presidential Candidates

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Last Updated: 11/01/2008

Issues of faith, religion and spirituality have come to the forefront quite often during the current presidential campaign. With a Mormon, a Baptist minister, a former Sunday School teacher and a man who considered entering the Catholic priesthood, the candidates bring an interesting array of religious heritage. So, in preparation for the primary elections, I thought it would be helpful to provide a "faith snapshot" of each of the 2008 presidential candidates.

Compare Candidates on the Issues

John McCain - Republican

Presidential Candidate John McCain
Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images
Religion/Church: Baptist
Although John McCain was raised in the Episcopal Church and attended an Episcopal high school, he no longer considers himself a member of the Episcopal faith. For a number of years, he and his wife Cindy have attended the North Phoenix Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation. But McCain does not call himself a Baptist either. The Associated Press reported that McCain prefers to simply be known as a Christian. He said, "The most important thing is that I am a Christian."
Age: 71
Education:
U.S. Naval Academy, B.S.
Current Position: U.S. Senator, Arizona
Experience: U.S. Navy, Senate Navy Liaison, U.S. Rep., Arizona
Declared Candidacy: April 2007
Vice Presidential Pick: Sarah Palin
Web site: John McCain 2008

Barack Obama - Democrat

Presidential Candidate Barack Obama
Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images
Religion/Church: United Church of Christ
Barack Obama was not raised in a religious household. He said he "grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion." His father was born Muslim but became an atheist as an adult. His mother's family members were "non-practicing" Baptists and Methodists. It was after college that he realized something was missing in his life and he felt drawn to church. One day he felt God beckoning him, so he walked the aisle at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and affirmed his Christian faith.
Age: 46
Education:
Columbia University, B.A.
Harvard Law School, J.D.
Current Position: U.S. Senator, Illinois
Experience: Attorney, Illinois State Senator
Declared Candidacy: Feb. 2007
Websites: Obama'08

Hillary Rodham Clinton - Democrat

Presidential Candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton
Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images
Religion/Church: United Methodist
Hillary Clinton has been a member of the United Methodist Church since childhood. During her youth she attended church regularly and later taught Sunday School in Arkansas after marrying Bill Clinton. As First Lady she worshipped regularly at Foundry United Methodist in Washington, DC. While serving as a U.S. Senator, she has promoted faith-based initiatives and is a member of the Senate prayer group.
Age: 60
Education:
Wellesley College, B.A.
Yale Law School, J.D.
Current Position: U.S. Senator, New York
Experience: Attorney, First Lady of the United States
Declared Candidacy: Jan. 2007
Web sites: Hillary for President

Mike Huckabee - Republican

Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee
Photo: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images
Religion/Church: Southern Baptist
Huckabee was raised in the Southern Baptist faith. After obtaining a master's degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he served as a pastor for 12 years in Arkansas and eventually became the youngest president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. He left the pulpit to pursue public service in 1992, and became lieutenant governor of Arkansas in 1993 and governor in 1996. Of all the candidates, Huckabee is the most outspoken about his faith.
Age: 52
Education:
Ouachita Baptist University, B.A.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, M.A.
Current Position: Candidate
Experience: Baptist Minister, Governor of Arkansas
Declared Candidacy: Jan. 2007
Web site: Mike Huckabee.com

Ron Paul - Republican

Presidential Candidate Ron Paul
Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images
Religion/Church: Baptist
Ron Paul was raised by Lutheran parents and attended church regularly during childhood. Before pursuing a medical career, Paul considered becoming a minister. In college Ron married Carol Wells, an Episcopalian, and they baptized their five children in this denomination. Eventually the couple stopped attending the Episcopal Church and began frequenting a Baptist church. Although Paul is uncomfortable discussing his faith as part of his campaign, he has a statement of faith on his Web site.
Age: 72
Education:
Gettysburg College, B.A.
Duke University School of Medicine, M.D.
Current Position: U.S. Representative, Texas
Experience: Medical Doctor, U.S. Rep., Texas
Declared Candidacy: Mar. 2007

Mitt Romney - Republican

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney
Photo: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images
Mitt Romney withdraws his candidacy - 02/07/08.
Religion/Church: Mormon (Latter-day Saints)
Mitt Romney is a fifth-generation Mormon. He served as a young missionary in France for more than two years, was active in the church lay ministry until he became bishop and later president over a group of Mormon congregations in the Boston area. In his "Faith in America" speech, he said, "I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it."
Age: 60
Education:
Brigham Young University, B.A.
Harvard Law School, J.D.
Harvard Business School, MBA
Current Position: Candidate
Experience: Businessman, Governor of Massachusetts
Declared Candidacy: Feb. 2007
Web site: Mitt Romney for President 2008

John Edwards - Democrat

Presidential Candidate John Edwards
Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Edwards withdraws his candidacy - 01/30/08.
Religion/Church: United Methodist
Although he was raised in the Southern Baptist faith, Edwards drifted away from his Christian upbringing in college. It wasn't until after the tragic death of his 16-year-old son that Edwards says, "My faith came roaring back and has stayed with me since." He and his wife Elizabeth are now members of the United Methodist Church.
Age: 54
Education:
North Carolina State University, B.A.
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, J.D.
Current Position: Director for Center on Poverty
Experience: Trial Attorney, U.S. Senator, North Carolina
Declared Candidacy: Dec. 2006

Rudy Giuliani - Republican

Presidential Candidate Rudy Giuliani
Photo: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images
Giuliani withdraws his candidacy - 01/30/08.
Religion/Church: Roman Catholic
Rudy Giuliani was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and considered entering the priesthood as a young man. Married three times, Giuliani received an annulment for his first marriage, divorced his second wife after 18 years, and married Judith Nathan in 2003. Although he maintains that issues of faith and church attendance are private matters, he has said that he believes in God and seeks guidance through prayer to Jesus.
Age: 63
Education:
Manhattan College, B.A.
New York University School of Law, J.D.
Current Position: Businessman, Candidate
Experience: U.S. Attorney, Mayor, New York City
Declared Candidacy: Feb. 2007
Web site: Join Rudy 2008

Fred Thompson - Republican

Presidential Candidate Fred Thompson
Photo: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images
Thompson withdraws - 01/22/08.
Religion/Church: Church of Christ
Thompson attended church frequently as a child with his mother who was an active member of the Church of Christ in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, the town where he grew up. At 17 he married Sarah Lindsey and together they raised three children. In 1985 they divorced. Thompson married Jeri Kehn in 2002. They have a daughter and a son. Today Thompson does not attend church regularly and prefers not to speak about his religion in the campaign.
Age: 65
Education:
University of Memphis, B.S.
Vanderbilt University, J.D.
Current Position: TV Actor - "Law & Order"
Experience: Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Senator, Tennessee
Declared Candidacy: Sept. 2007

Bill Richardson - Democrat

Presidential Candidate Bill Richardson
Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images
Richardson withdraws - 01/10/08.
Religion/Church: Roman Catholic
Through the influence of his grandmother, while growing up in Mexico City, Bill Richardson went to a Catholic Church every Sunday, attended catechism and took Communion as a child. He said prayers in Spanish before bed and went to church before his Little League games.
Age: 60
Education:
Tufts University, B.A.
Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, M.A
Current Position: Governor, New Mexico
Experience: Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., U.S. Secretary of Energy
Declared Candidacy: Jan. 2007

Duncan Hunter - Republican

Presidential Candidate Duncan Hunter
Photo: Pool / Getty Images
Hunter withdraws - 01/19/08.
Religion/Church: Southern Baptist
Duncan Hunter was raised in the Southern Baptist faith. At age 16, he made a decision to receive Christ as savior and has pursued a relationship with God ever since. Feeling called to honor God by serving his country, at age 21 he joined the U.S. Army and fought in the Vietnam War. Currently Hunter attends First Baptist Church of Alpine, California, and is on the advisory board of a Christian disaster relief mission called Rescue Task Force.
Age: 59
Education:
Western State University, B.S.L. & J.D.
Current Position: U.S. Rep., California
Experience: U.S. Army, Attorney, House Armed Services Committee Chairman
Declared Candidacy: Jan. 2007

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