Ken Connor

In his newfound role as "front-runner", Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is the subject of increased scrutiny by the media. For many in the secular media, Huckabee's prior role as a minister is of far greater concern than his prior role as governor of the State of Arkansas. (A preacher as President? Heaven help us!) Consequently, Huckabee has been the candidate among the Republican wannabes who has had to field most of the tough "God questions" during their debates.

Without a doubt, the intersection of faith and politics is one that requires careful navigation. This is particularly true in America, where our founding fathers worked hard to ensure that religious freedom was preserved for their descendants. For many, religious liberty is the "first right" and liberty of conscience has always been highly prized in these United States. The Framers of the Constitution refused to establish a national church. Conscience was deemed to be a private domain where government had no right to intrude.

The secularists among today's media elites seem to think that candidates for office who profess fervent religious faith are incapable of playing by the rules set by the Constitution. Their index of suspicion for candidates like Huckabee—a man who has vigorously and publicly professed his faith—is much higher than for those candidates whose faith has been a "private matter" or non-existent. A recent editorial by USA Today entitled "Huckabee's Challenge" is a case in point. In their analysis of Huckabee's candidacy, the paper's editors raise "concerns in several areas", including his failure to declare whether Mormons are Christians, his disavowal of evolution, and the particulars of his intention to take the nation back for Christ. In their registration of these concerns, the editors demonstrate a poor understanding of the tenets of the Christian religion and of the Constitution.

The editors express concern that Huckabee's "equivocation about whether Mormons are Christians" creates questions about his "acceptance" of others' beliefs. They imply that Huckabee's failure to declare Mormons to be "Christians" also creates doubt about his understanding about the separation of church and state. Such criticisms are nothing short of muddleheaded. If the First Amendment means anything, it means that neither Mike Huckabee, nor anyone else, is required to "accept" anyone else's religious beliefs. That's part of the beauty of our Constitution. We are not required to accept any religious belief and we are free to reject them all.

Nonetheless, presidential candidates are running for Commander in Chief, not chief theologian. Whether a particular denomination falls within the orbit of the Christian faith is not within the ambit of a president's authority and, if he were to make such an official proclamation, religious and irreligious alike should be indignant.

Of course, there are profound differences between what historic Christianity and Mormonism have taught about the nature of God, the means of salvation, the virgin birth and the scope of the Scriptures; but, the resolution of these theological tensions is not to be sorted out by anyone in his or her capacity as a representative of the United States government. Therefore, Huckabee got it right when he declared, "I'm just not going to go off into evaluating other people's doctrines and faiths. I think that is absolutely not a role for a president."

USA Today sees a red flag in Huckabee's call for "taking back the nation for Christ" in 1998, but what they fail to point out is that Huckabee was speaking to a pastor's conference about the goals of the church, not government. Huckabee's comments had nothing to do with imposing religion by governmental decree, and the editors were duplicitous in implying otherwise. Although the secularists on USA Today's editorial board may not like it, in America the Christian church is free to compete for every single soul in the country—as is every other religion.

Finally, USA Today cites Huckabee's disavowal of evolution as a sign that he is blatantly anti-science, but Huckabee's statement is anything but anti-science. He stated, "I believe there is a God who was very active in the creation process. Now how did he do it, and when did he do it, and how long did he take? I don't honestly know and I don't think that knowing that would make me a better or worse president…. [Y]ou know, if anybody wants to believe that they are descendants of a primate, they are certainly welcome to do it…but I believe that all of us in this room are the unique creations of a God who knows us and loves us and who created us for his own purpose." Huckabee's unpardonable sin was not that he is anti-science, but rather that he affirmed the Creator's role in our creation—a view held by Americans like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and other signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Christianity is not antithetical to science. Throughout centuries, it was Christians who advanced the cause of science. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, and Pascal, among others, were all Christians. This connection between faith and science was based upon Christianity's belief in a God who gave order and meaning to the world. Christians believed that God's consistent nature produced consistent laws by which the world operated; laws which could be studied and applied. This is why theology came to be known as the "queen of the sciences." From this basic investigation of God's nature and his creation came the vast body of knowledge we now call "science."

USA Today's editorial reveals more about the editors than it does Mike Huckabee. Their piece demonstrates a profound ignorance of Christianity and the Constitution. They prefer fear-mongering to a careful dissection of the facts. Regardless of what one thinks of Mike Huckabee, one can only hope that the editors will endeavor to remove the log from their own eyes before trying to remove the speck from someone else's.


Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.