A question of faith

What's in Mike Huckabee's old sermons? Why doesn't his campaign want you to know?

By Tim Grieve

Published December 11, 2007 2:29PM (EST)

In an interview with Katie Couric Monday night, Mitt Romney said he didn't talk much about the tenets of his Mormon faith during his religion speech last week because doing so would "really open the door" to a "religious test," in which voters "listen and say, 'OK, do I believe that? Do I disagree with it? Does it conform with my own view?'"

And what's wrong with that, exactly?

Romney is right, of course, when he explains that the Constitution says "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." But what that means is that the government can't impose a religious test on would-be officeholders.

What it doesn't mean is that voters can't or shouldn't consider a candidate's religious beliefs in deciding whether they want that candidate making decisions for them.

Take the extreme example: Imagine a candidate who believed that Armageddon is coming in 2010. Wouldn't that belief tell you something about the kind of decisions the candidate might make in the meantime? Wouldn't it be the sort of things voters would want to know, the sort of thing that might, quite reasonably, influence their decisions on Election Day?

Which brings us to Mike Huckabee.

So far as we know, Huckabee isn't predicting the end of the world any time soon. But he has run a TV ad pitching himself as a "Christian leader," and he does declare on his Web site: "My faith is my life -- it defines me. My faith doesn't influence my decisions, it drives them ... I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives."

If that's the case, don't we have every bit as much interest -- every bit as much legitimate interest -- in Huckabee's religious beliefs as we do in, say, Rudy Giuliani's business ties or the advice Hillary Clinton gave her husband when he was president?

Apparently not.

When Mother Jones asked the Huckabee campaign for copies of sermons the candidate gave during his years as a Baptist minister, it got a one-sentence response: The campaign had received multiple requests for the sermons and was "not able to accommodate" them. David Corn and Jonathan Stein suggest that "Huckabee the candidate is shunning Huckabee the pastor."

We're not sure that's it, exactly -- he's a "Christian leader," remember? -- but Huckabee the candidate is clearly selling the religious sizzle to the GOP's evangelical base while trying to avoid some of the tough steak that others might have a hard time swallowing. "People have asked me more about my faith than probably anyone running," Huckabee said Monday on Fox News. "And, you know, it's good, and I'm glad. I'm not angry about it because I've had an opportunity to talk about my faith. And maybe it will influence somebody in a positive way. And if it does, then all the more reason to rejoice in all of that."

And if it doesn't? Well, let's just not talk about that.

Corn and Stein have been able to find a few old Huckabee sermons, and in one of them Huckabee the pastor declares: "It doesn't embarrass me one bit to let you know that I believe Adam and Eve were real people."

As we noted the other day, it does seem to "embarrass" Huckabee the candidate to say that now. Over the past six months, Huckabee has gone from saying that he doesn't believe in evolution, to saying that he doesn't think he evolved from apes, to saying that evolution is "not a yes or no question" and that he thinks "there was a God behind" the creation of man, to saying that while he believes God created man, he doesn't know "how he did it, in the intricate manner." "I think some people get all wrapped up [in] 'OK, was it, did he take the rib out of Adam? Did he make it like' -- I have no reason to believe he didn't. But I don't know."

Is that the same thing as saying that you're not embarrassed to declare that "Adam and Eve were real people"? Huckabee told reporters back in October that if there's a conflict between science and what he believes of God, he'll stick with God because science changes and God doesn't. Maybe that's right. But the question is, has Huckabee changed? Is what he said as a pastor different from what he says as a candidate? Which one represents the "real" Huckabee? If a man says that his faith drives the decisions he makes, aren't voters entitled to ask those questions and expect that they'll be answered?

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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