Religious Right Loves McCain’s ‘Christian Nation’ Rhetoric

Senator John McCain has had a tough time attracting support from the Religious Right in his presidential bid.  Some have never forgiven him for calling Religious Right leaders “agents of intolerance” during the 2000 presidential primary.  And many hate the campaign finance bill that bears his name.

But he is now winning praise from Religious Right leaders for repeating the type of bogus claims promulgated by their favorite pseudo-historian David Barton.  In an interview on interfaith religious website Beliefnet, McCain said, “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”  And in response to a question about the possibility of a Muslim for president, he said  “I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles … personally, I prefer someone who I know . . . has a solid grounding in my faith.”

In the wake of some criticism, McCain has backpedaled a bit, saying that “I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values.”  His spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker 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.”

But some Religoius Right leaders have leapt to his defense. Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council praised McCain’s “Straight Talk.”  Christian Coalition of America blogger Jim Backlin went even further, gushing that “McCain’s ‘America is a Christian Nation’ Comments Might Make Him President.”

Not praised by the Right was McCain’s comment in the same interview that “I think that our Founding Fathers believed in separation of Church and state and they stated it unequivocally.” Maybe the Right was mum on that point because McCain softened its impact by saying that “every statement that [the founders] made had to do with belief in a divine creator. So, they didn’t mean, in my view, separation of church and state that there’s no place for God, a superior being, a creator, in our discourse and in our lives.” Or maybe the Right ignored that part of McCain’s interview because they believe church-state separation is a “myth” and a “lie of the left.”