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ELECTION 08: Presidential candidates’ evolution comments cause stir

EDITORS’ NOTE: Today Baptist Press launches a regular feature focusing on the most recent news about the presidential candidates’ views on faith and morality. Each ELECTION 08 story will include multiple items.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–When three Republican presidential candidates raised their hand during a debate May 3 signifying they didn’t believe in evolution, they probably got more criticism and attention than they expected.

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo were the only three on the 10-candidate panel to signify their disbelief in the theory that most scientists embrace but many Americans reject.

For Huckabee, a Southern Baptist, some of the criticism came from his home state.

“Obviously, I think he’s wrong,” current Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, was quoted as saying in an Associated Press story.

“I don’t think that believing in God and believing in evolution are mutually exclusive. I think you can believe in both,” Beebe added. “Obviously, I believe in God. I think He started it but then I think there’s all kinds of scientific evidence that we’ve had evolution. That’s just my belief. I guess he’s entitled to his.”

Tom Teepen, a columnist for Cox Newspapers, wasn’t so gracious, saying the three were “volunteering their ignorance.”

“So far has the Republican Party fallen into a sink of anti-intellectualism. Indeed, into fantasy,” Teepen wrote. “You might as well ask the candidates whether they believe in ghosts, fairies and calorie-free doughnuts.”

He continued: “Charles Darwin published his seminal ‘Origin of Species’ in 1859. It was quickly understood by a major part of the scientific community…. But here we are, 148 years later, and American politics still cringes before Biblical literalists who insist upon a finger-snapping God who popped creation into being in six days about 6,000 years ago. Even candidates who know better duck as many chances as they can to say that they do.”

But polls show that the three Republicans were well within the mainstream of American opinion. A March Gallup Poll found that 48 percent of American adults believe God made humans “pretty much in the present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” A Harris poll in June 2005 found that 64 percent of adults believe “human beings were created directly by God,” while 22 percent say humans “evolved from earlier species.”

Even after the debate, Huckabee wasn’t backing down.

“If you want to believe that your family came from apes, that’s fine. I’ll accept that,” he said, according to the Des Moines Register. “I just don’t happen to think that I did.”

In a statement, Huckabee said, according to AP, “Our schools should teach children to think for themselves, not indoctrinate them, so we have to expose them to different theories and ultimately let them decide. Our public schools should present both evolution and creationism. I would not support public schools teaching only creationism. Evolution is a theory based on a lot of science, so it must be part of the curriculum.”

While many Americans are skeptical about evolution, conservative Christians are even more doubtful. The Christian ministry Answers in Genesis is scheduled to open a $27 million Creation Museum this June in Petersburg, Ky., just south of Cincinnati. Its goal is to support the biblical creation account and refute evolution.

RUDY AND PLANNED PARENTHOOD — Rudy Giuliani’s shaky answers on abortion during the Republican debate was followed by a May 8 Politico.com report that said Giuliani and his then-wife Donna Hanover gave $900 to Planned Parenthood in 1993, 1994, 1998 and 1999. Planned Parenthood is the nation’s top abortion provider. According to LifeNews.com, Giuliani told radio host Laura Ingraham the donations were to promote adoptions.

“Planned Parenthood makes [adoption] information available,” Giuliani was quoted as saying. “It’s consistent with my position.”

He added: “If there is going to be a choice, there are organizations that are going to give people information about that choice.”

Giuliani is attempting to become the first pro-choice Republican nominee for president since Gerald Ford in 1976. His website says he believes abortion is a “decision between a woman, her doctor, her family, and her God.”

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said if Giuliani wins the Republican nomination, “he’ll have to do it without pro-life support.”

“I won’t vote for Giuliani,” Land said on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”

“I won’t vote for him in a general election,” Land added. “I don’t think I could sell [Giuliani] to most [Southern Baptists and evangelicals], and I wouldn’t try. I would say, ‘Vote your values, vote your beliefs and vote your convictions,’ and have to leave it to them to connect the dots. I don’t endorse candidates, but I’m negatively endorsing [Giuliani].”

Meanwhile, AP reported that Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, gave $150 to Planned Parenthood in 1994. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was pro-choice then but is now pro-life, and says his wife is also. He said his wife now helps lead Massachusetts Citizens for Life, a pro-life organization.

“Her positions are not terribly relevant to my campaign,” he said, according to AP.

LOG CABINS FOR GIULIANI? — The nation’s largest organization of homosexual Republicans gathered for its convention May 3-6 in Denver, and Giuliani “emerged as a favorite” among many of them, AP reported.

“Mainstream Republican voters and moderate voters are going to vote for you. Don’t tilt to the right,” Frank Ricchiazzi, wearing an “I Love Rudy” button, was quoted as saying. Ricchiazzi is a founding member of the group, known as Log Cabin Republicans.

Former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming — an opponent of conservative Christians’ role in the party — addressed the 200 or so in attendance and said, “Don’t be impatient. Stay in the party. Don’t leave because you can change it.”

Saying he thought the party was in better shape now than it was during the Terri Schiavo debate, Simpson told the Log Cabin members, according to AP, “We’re shaking some of the goofies and zanies out of the trees.”

OBAMA AND THE JEWISH VOTE — U.S. Sen. Barack Obama is hoping to get a significant number of Jewish votes in his run for the Democratic nomination, but he’s had to make up for some gaffes, the Christian Science Monitor reported May 6. While speaking in Iowa in March, he said that “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people” from the lack of peace talks with the Israelis. The Des Moines Register subsequently ran a story with the headline, “Obama comment draws fire from Jews.”

When asked during the first Democratic debate to name America’s three most important allies, Obama mentioned the European Union, NATO and Japan, the Monitor reported. Moderator Brian Williams noted Obama didn’t list Israel, and then he asked Obama about his statement in Iowa.

“What I said is, nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence, and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region,” Obama said, according to the Monitor. “Israel has been one of our most important allies around the world.”

Obama has delivered several speeches before Jewish audiences, including one before the National Jewish Democratic Council.

“When I am president, the United States will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel in search of this peace and in defense against those who seek its destruction,” he told the gathering.

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  • Michael Foust