Bill Keller, The New York Times outgoing executive editor, stirred the pot this morning with a column raising concerns about the religious allegiances of the Republican presidential candidates. Whether it's Rick Perry's affiliation with "Dominionists" or Michele Bachmann's "literal" interpretation of the Bible, he'd like the candidates to open up about how exactly their religious beliefs will guide their actions in office. "I care a lot if a candidate is going to be a Trojan horse for a sect that believes it has divine instructions on how we should be governed." Flagging some specific candidates, he notes that "Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are all affiliated with fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity, which has raised concerns about their respect for the separation of church and state, not to mention the separation of fact and fiction." Getting the ball rolling, he sent each candidate a list of general and specific questions (the general ones are listed below):
•Do you agree with those religious leaders who say that America is a “Christian nation” or a “Judeo-Christian nation?” and what does that mean in practice?
•Would you have any hesitation about appointing a Muslim to the federal bench? What about an atheist?
•What is your attitude toward the theory of evolution, and do you believe it should be taught in public schools?
To Politico's Alexander Burns, the questions were completely fair game, though Keller makes a factual error (something he does with some frequency) in labeling Santorum an evangelical Christian (he's Catholic). "There are provocative aspects to the column, such as the offhand suggestion that evangelical candidates may be more likely than others to disregard the line between 'fact and fiction,'" Burns writes. "But the questions that Keller puts on the table are well within the mainstream of what candidates tend to be asked." Well, not according to the right. Keller's implication that these religious candidates might trample on the Constitution and that they must be thoroughly vetted on the issue was quickly labeled an "inquisition" of sorts. Here are some of the responses:
He doesn't cut both ways writes Alana Goodman at Commentary:
I’m sure Keller would also “care a lot” if Obama was a secret Muslim intent on destroying America and replacing it with a socialist empire/American caliphate. But he wouldn’t write innocently about this unfounded worry in a column. Why? Because there’s no evidence of it. Just like there’s not a shred to suggest that Romney, Perry or Bachmann are Trojan horses for some bizarre Christian theocratic conspiracy.
He's only concerned about religious conservatives, not religious liberals writes John Hayward at Human Events:
The unspoken assumption behind the decidedly uneven treatment of Republican and Democrat religious beliefs is that only the former are serious about them. Everyone knows Barack Obama’s presence in Jeremiah Wright’s church was an act of politics, not faith. Obama himself said so, when he claimed he sat there for twenty years without hearing a word Wright said. As long as your “faith” involves politically correct views and requires government subsidies, the New York Times has no further questions.
The whole GOP lineup is getting the Romney treatment, writes Washington Examiner columnist Hugh Hewitt:
The only difference between Keller's attacks and those on Romney in the 2008 cycle is that this time they have been broadened to include the evangelical candidates --an evolution predicted then and presented as a warning to the anti-Mormon evangelicals of what would occur if they sanctioned attacks on Romney not because of his policies but because of his faith.