HANOVER, N.H. (BP)–Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards said Sept. 26 they would be comfortable with teachers reading to second graders a children’s book supportive of “gay marriage.”
The leading Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, was less clear in her answer.
“Yes, absolutely,” Edwards said during a debate when asked if he’d be comfortable with the homosexual-themed children’s book, “King & King” being read to his children. The 29-page book tells the story of a prince who searches for a wife, only in the end to choose another prince. It ends with the two princes “marrying” and living “happily ever after,” and then kissing.
“What I want is I want my children to understand everything about the difficulties that gay and lesbian couples are faced with every day, the discrimination that they’re faced with every single day of their lives,” Edwards said.
Edwards added it “might be a little tough” to read such a book to second graders, although he said it’s important even in that grade “to be exposed” to various beliefs.
“I don’t want to impose my view,” he said. “Nobody made me God.”
The question at the debate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire centered around a controversy last year in a second grade class in Lexington, Mass., where a teacher read the book to her students. The superintendent backed the decision, saying “gay marriage” is legal in the state.
“I feel very similar to John,” Obama said. “… [T]he fact is, my 9-year-old and my 6-year-old, I think, are already aware that there are same-sex couples. And my wife and I have talked about it. And one of the things I want to communicate to my children is not to be afraid of people who are different, and because there have been times in our history where I was considered different, or Bill Richardson [a Democratic candidate who is Hispanic] was considered different.”
Clinton, leading among Democrats in the national polls, was not as direct.
“I really respect what both John and Barack said,” she said. “… With respect to your individual children, that is such a matter of parental discretion. I think that obviously it is better to try to work with your children, to help your children to understand the many differences that are in the world and to really respect other people and the choices that other people make, and that goes far beyond sexual orientation.”
The “issue of gays and lesbians and their rights will remain an important one in our country,” she added.
LAND, DOBSON DISAGREE ABOUT THOMPSON — Richard Land and James Dobson are friends but apparently disagree about whether Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson could be acceptable to Christian conservative voters.
Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, sent out a private e-mail — obtained by the Associated Press — saying he could not support Thompson’s bid for the White House. A spokesman for Focus on the Family confirmed that Dobson penned the e-mail.
“Isn’t Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won’t talk at all about what he believes, and can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?” Dobson wrote. “He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent ‘want to.’ And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!”
Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he believes the criticism is unfair. Part of Dobson’s criticism apparently focused on recent comments where Thompson said his church attendance “varies” and that he attends church when in Tennessee but not in Virginia, where he currently lives.
“I have tremendous respect and admiration for Dr. Dobson and what he has done for our country,” Land said Sept. 25 in an interview with MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson. “But I found it to be, I guess, unfortunate, considering the fact that he’s never met the senator. I do have Dobson at a disadvantage there, in that Senator Thompson was my senator for eight years, since I live in Tennessee.
“… The thing that concerned me the most was that he seemed to equate Thompson not going to church regularly with Thompson’s belief and Thompson’s claim to be a Christian. … [A]s a Baptist minister, would I like Thompson to go to church every Sunday? I would like for him to go to a Baptist church every Sunday. But Ronald Reagan didn’t go to church regularly either. I think we have to be careful about challenging the faith of people who don’t meet our standards for church attendance. I think that’s just unnecessarily harsh.”
Land applauded Thompson’s pro-life views, noting that Thompson has said he favors overturning Roe v. Wade.
“Here’s a man who has said [and] I have heard him say it with my own ears, ‘I have always been pro-life, but it’s personal with me now. I have seen the sonograms of my two young children.’ I have no questions about where his loyalties are when it comes to the pro-life issue,” Land said.
Land acknowledged he disagrees with Thompson about a constitutional marriage amendment. Thompson opposes the current form of a federal marriage amendment — he has said it would violate his federalism beliefs — although he has said he would support one that in essence would constitutionalize the Defense of Marriage Act. Thompson’s proposal would prevent judges from legalizing “gay marriage” and would keep it a state issue. It also would prevent one state from being forced to recognize another state’s “gay marriage.” State legislatures, though, would be able to pass such a law.
“To say that he is for 50 different views of marriage in 50 different states is a gross mischaracterization of his position,” Land told CBN News. “… It’s [Thompson’s position on a marriage amendment] a problem. I think Southern Baptists have an ethical issue in which they need to deal. They may face a situation where they have a choice of three candidates. One they agree with 95 percent of the time, one they agree with 80 percent of the time and one they agree with 10 percent of the time. It may come to pass that they’re faced with a choice.”
DEMOCRATS’ FAVORITE VERSE? — The Democratic presidential candidates were asked during a New Hampshire debate Sept. 26 to name their favorite Bible verse. Although none of the candidates gave a specific chapter and verse, the leading candidates did reference specific New Testament passages. At least one of them, Dennis Kucinich, didn’t mention a biblical passage at all. Here were their answers, according to a transcript from The New York Times:
— Barack Obama: “The Sermon on the Mount, because it expresses a basic principle that I think we’ve lost over the last six years.”
— Hillary Clinton: “The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think that’s a good rule for politics, too.”
— Mike Gravel: “The most important thing in life is love. That’s what empowers courage and courage implements the rest of our virtues.”
— Dennis Kucinich: “Prayer from St. Francis, which says, ‘Lord make me an instrument of your peace.'”
— John Edwards: “What you do unto the least of those, you do unto me.”
— Bill Richardson: “The Sermon on the Mount, because I believe it’s an issue of social justice, equality, brotherly issues reflecting a nation that is deeply torn and needs to heal and come together.”
— Christopher J. Dodd: “The Good Samaritan would be a worthwhile sort of description of who we all ought to be in life.”
— Joseph Biden: “Christ’s warning of the Pharisees. There are many Pharisees, and it’s part of what has bankrupted some people’s view about religion. And I worry about the Pharisees.”
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press.