Sarah Palin’s Religious Beliefs Important to GOP Voters

October 8, 2008 at 6:36 am Leave a comment

sarah-palin-15.jpgJust before the vice-presidential debate, one of my more jaded and
cynical colleagues proposed this question for Gov. Sarah Palin: “I hope
they ask her how old she thinks the earth is.”

I’m not sure if asking this question is any fairer or more germane
than asking the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, if he really believes in
the virgin birth. Or asking erstwhile presidential hopeful Mitt Romney
whether he shares the Mormon belief that Native Americans are descended
from the Lost Tribes of Israel.

American politicians talk often about their faith, but the details
of their particular brands of religion are usually ignored, which is
consistent with our tradition of separation of church and state.

Palin’s case may be different, however, since she was chosen for the
Republican ticket largely because of her appeal to the religious right,
a segment of the electorate that often advocates an active connection
between private faith and public policy.

Palin, for example, during her campaign for the Alaskan governorship
clearly stated her support for teaching creationism alongside evolution
in public school science classes, as reported by the Anchorage Daily
News in 2006. She subsequently softened her position and, as governor,
never advocated the teaching of creationism.

Nevertheless, this kind of thinking makes many scientists and
educators uncomfortable. Even scientists who have found ways to mesh
their faith in God with their faith in science become uneasy at the
presentation of creationism and evolution in public classrooms as two
more or less equal alternatives which students can choose between.

This isn’t an entirely theoretical issue. Here in Texas, the State
Board of Education is currently revising the curriculum standards for
all public school science classes. The New York Times reports that 7 of
the 15 members of the board are “creationists.” The board’s chairman,
dentist Don McLeroy, believes in “two systems of science,” creationist
and naturalist, and he believes that public schools should present them
to students as equal alternatives.

The first draft of the new curriculum standards describes in
considerable detail the benchmarks that all students should achieve at
various grade levels and in various fields of scientific study. For
example, high school students should be able to “compare and contrast
similarities and differences of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.”

But the standards also include strangely unscientific language about
“purported forces outside of nature,” as well as provisions that many
believe will encourage unscientific attention on alleged “weaknesses”
of evolutionary theory. In response to the draft, at least 840
scientists and educators have signed a statement produced by the “21st
Century Science Coalition” that discourages the substitution of
supernatural explanations for any mysteries as yet unresolved by

In short, through the fall and spring a battle is shaping up in
Texas over the definition of science and its place in public
classrooms. Since Texas is the nation’s second-largest purchaser of
textbooks, the implications for other states are significant.

Here’s a reasonable proposition: Science is about understanding the
natural world in strictly rational terms; religion is non-rational, and
it derives meaning from revelation and faith. Science is a proper
object of study in public schools; religion is the domain of the
church, the private school, and the human heart.

But many evangelical and fundamental Protestants — more than 60
percent, by some polls — believe that private faith should
significantly influence public policy. If Palin shares that view then
the precise details of her faith are relevant, including her views on
teaching creationism, the connection between the “end times” and state
of the Middle East, and the weight of God’s hand on world events.

Maybe someone should ask her.

Source: Scripps Howard News Service


Entry filed under: Christian, National. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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