by WorldTribune Staff, September 5, 2016
Hillary Clinton, who often and proudly spoke of her Methodist roots during her 2008 campaign, has little use for faith in 2016 – unless she’s trying to make political gain in heavily-Christian areas or in speeches at black churches.
Since her defeat in 2008, Clinton has also abandoned traditional Christian positions on issues such as same-sex marriage, saying in 2013 she favored it after years of opposing it.
Clinton leads a Democratic Party that has become increasingly secular, with four times as many atheists and agnostics as the GOP, recent polling shows.
Analysts say Clinton is using her new approach to faith to justify her switch on gay marriage and other issues of controversy in the church.
“Ten years ago, I could not have imagined Hillary Clinton wanting to force a Baptist grandma … who owns a bakery, forcing her to make a wedding cake that goes against her religious convictions. But now I could easily picture Hillary doing that,” said Paul Kengor, a political science professor at Grove City College and author of the book “God and Hillary Clinton.”
“I don’t know if that’s an ideological evolution or if it’s political. I think it’s probably a little bit of both.”
In a campaign stop in Iowa in January, Clinton answered a question about religion by speaking about the principles of openness and acceptance she’s taken from her religion — seen as a clear reference to her new position on same-sex marriage.
“I do believe that, in many areas, judgment should be left to God, that being more open, tolerant and respectful is part of what makes me humble about my faith,” she said. “I have been very disappointed and sorry that Christianity, which has such great love at its core, is sometimes used to condemn so quickly and judge so harshly.”
“She’s in a difficult position in terms of articulating her faith because she faces a fractious Democratic coalition,” said Joseph Prud’homme, director of the Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics and Culture at Washington College. “We are in a moment in our country’s life where the coalition the Democrats have had to cobble together is really conflicted with respect to matters of religion.”
“She has to speak enough to reassure the conservative elements within the African-American church. She also has to be sensitive to the rising rates of evangelism within the American Hispanic population,” he continued. “But she’s in that broader context where she has an increasingly secular base. We see this with millennials, and we see this very much with those who were supportive of” Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Her primary battle with Sanders, however, spotlighted how Clinton, and her husband, have long been eager to use religion for political gain.
Hacked Democratic National Committee emails released over the summer showed how Clinton allies in the DNC plotted to use Sanders’ rumored atheism against him in conservative states like Kentucky.
During the Monica Lewinsky scandal of the late 1990s, the Clintons were seen on an almost-weekly basis at Washington’s Foundry United Methodist Church, Bibles in hand. Clinton also frequented black churches during her 2000 Senate campaign.
“The way she politicked and literally campaigned in New York churches in 2000 was unbelievable. She would go in there, and these were blatant political rallies,” said Kengor.
“The Clintons are masters at this.”