The barracuda is a believer

PalinI’m still in Denver recovering from the awesome experience of covering the Democratic National Convention. I have no idea how reporters can work this hard and with these long hours and then turn around and do it all again next week in St. Paul.

But before the dew even dried this morning, there was the surprise announcement that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (nickname: Barracuda) had been chosen to round out the Republican ticket. Immediately I had reporters asking me if I knew anything about her religious background. If former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney or Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman — two names on Sen. John McCain’s short list — had been picked, there would have been plenty of ink spilled already on their religious views. But Palin is a complete dark horse.

She is known for being both personally and politically pro-life. While currently 90 percent of children with Down Syndrome are aborted, Palin gave birth to her fifth child — a son with Down Syndrome — earlier this year. And she’s both culturally and economically conservative.

I found a lengthy Alaska Daily News profile from 2006 that has some information:

Palin’s parents say they are not political and don’t know how she decided to turn her ambition and work ethic toward politics. Her Christian faith, they say, came from her mother, who took her children to area Bible churches as they were growing up (Sarah is the third of four siblings). They say her faith has been steady since high school, when she led the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and grew stronger as she sought out believers in her college years. Palin doesn’t brandish her religion on the campaign trail, but that doesn’t prevent others from doing so.

There was also this:

A significant part of Palin’s base of support lies among social and Christian conservatives. Her positions on social issues emerged slowly during the campaign: on abortion (should be banned for anything other than saving the life of the mother), stem cell research (opposed), physician-assisted suicide (opposed), creationism (should be discussed in schools), state health benefits for same-sex partners (opposed, and supports a constitutional amendment to bar them).

Queerty (motto: “Free of an agenda, except that gay one”) reports that she’s “relatively good on gay issues“:

While she opposes gay marriage – as all the national contenders do – Palin’s frequently come out in support of her gay friends and insists she’s open to discussions on discrimination legislation. Palin told an Alaska newspaper that she’s “not out to judge” gay people. She went on to say that she believes “that honoring the family structure is that important,” and would thus oppose a gay marriage measure. She previously supported a 1998 bill to ban gay marriage.

Despite her opposition to same-sex nuptials, Palin helped move Alaska toward a more inclusive frontier in 2006 when she blocked a bill that would have prohibited gay benefits in the state.

As the media get acquainted with this fishing, mooseburger-eating former beauty contestant, there will be lots of discussion over her faith and values. The Boston Globe is gathering information already. How will everyone else handle it?

This early Bloomberg report hinted at some of the issues:

Palin should also ease the worries of the Republican Party’s social conservative base. Abortion foes have been skittish about McCain, who supports stem-cell research and has said he wants to broaden the party’s plank on abortion to include exceptions in cases of rape and when the life of the mother is at risk.

Palin has a strong anti-abortion record. She is a member of Feminists for Life, a group that works to make health-care and child-care resources available to “pregnant or parenting students,” according to the group’s Web site.

The story went on to quote social conservatives calling the pick a “grand slam.” Whether or not that’s true, this will certainly have implications in decisions religious voters will be making. We’ll watch for coverage of that angle.

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  • http://chaseafterwind.tabulas.com Amy

    A comment about your reporting – can you provide some documentation for that statistic stating that 90% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted. I am very curious to know for sure if that is true!

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Amy,

    I found that statistic in this New York Times article.

    I’ll put the link in the post as well.

  • Dave Moody

    Mollie,
    Thanks for the posting on her faith. It is early, but in the media scramble this morning, it seemed a rather obvious ghost. Its nice to put some flesh there.

    Any clue as to why she is called “Baracuda?”

  • Jerry

    The barracuda is a believer

    And, pray tell, who is a non-believer in the list of current candidates?

  • http://religion.beloblog.com/ Jeffrey Weiss

    I have a bunch of relevant stuff here http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/
    Including my attempts to figure out if she’s the first Pentecostal to make it onto the ticket for a major political party…

  • Jonathan

    I noticed on the Wall Street Journal that they say Palin is Lutheran, but I have not seen any corroboration of that. I’m pretty sure she would be the first Lutheran VP.

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  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com Matt Karnes

    I thought it was interesting how the news radio station I listen to began saying there meight be a leak early in the afternoon yesterday. Then there was a leak. Then there was confirmation. I think this is the first time I ever heard reporting on a potential (or scheduled?) leak of an announcement. I am impressed by how McCain campain played the media. I am dissapointed in the media for being played. Regarding Palins religion: Isn’t she pentecostal? I ask because I;ve seen press reports saying she is Evangelical. That’s kind of like saying Sammy Davis jr. and Reb Scheerson are both Jews. Evangelical is such a big umbrella that it is almost meaningless. A little more specificty would be nice.

  • cheryl

    Dave M,

    Apparently she got the nickname Sarah Barracuda during her years as a (high school?) basketball champ.

  • http://religion.beloblog.com/ Jeffrey Weiss

    I’ve got some religion content about Palin over on the dallasnews Religion blog. Looks unlikely that she’s Lutheran, btw, thoughanythging is possible.

  • Francis X. Maier

    Grand slam? Maybe. Remains to be seen. It hinges on whether she can carry the weight and survive in an extremely aggressive national environment — the left will not simply dislike her; they will loathe her.

    If she can handle the heat though, it’s a brilliant choice.

  • Stephen A.

    I’ve been a fan of hers for quite some time and was pleased she was chosen.

    Given the track record of the media on the other candidates (esp. John McCain) I’m not sure I would USUALLY support Mollie’s contention that “there will be lots of discussion over her faith and values” but because of her status as the first GOP woman VP candidate, I suspect it this case, since they will be eager to explore everything about this fascinating woman.

    I doubt the gay-friendly legislation will hurt her with evangelicals, nor will it help her with radical gays (as the rather rabid posts on that Queerty post indicates.)

    I do see that Dr. James Dobson has done a 180 and is not going to “pull that lever” for the McCain-Palin ticket.

    That’s one immediate and fundamental change the choice has brought about.

  • MikeL

    I noticed the Alaska Daily News “scorecard” included:

    stem cell research (opposed)

    I assume that would be only embryonic stem cells, not adult stem cells.

  • FW Ken

    The interview in Time Magazine quotes her as saying she is “a bible-believing Christian” who attends a “non-denominational Bible Church”. In Texas, that would most likely be a non-pentecostal (!) congregation, but Mr. Weiss’ post identifies her with the Assemblies of God, a pentecostal denomination.

  • Nathan

    In my firm directory of politicians her religion is listed as “Christian” which is less than helpful. (Most politicians list their denomination in the directory.) I’m hearing she is pentecostal but it would be interesting to see a story on it…

  • Grupetti

    from the NYT article:
    “The parent evangelists…”

    Kudos to Amy Harmon for not writing “The parents are evangelical about…”

    Just one of my pet pieves.

  • http://www.geocities.com/hohjohn John L. Hoh, Jr.

    She could be mistaken for Lutheran because of her semingly conflicted stands on gay issues (against marriage, but supports non-discrimination). Lutherans have historically believed in the Doctrine of Two Kingdoms (the Kingdom of the State that rules by the Law and the Kingdom of the Church that spreads the Gospel of Jesus Christ). Certainly many “Evangelicals” want to shut out gays altogether, whether the Constitution gives them rights or not. I applaud Ms. Palin’s courage to sift the issue to divine which issues belong in the sphere of state and which to the sphere of Church.

    One thing the local Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stated was that she was “anti-abortion.” I thought the term should have been “pro-life” but, alas (according to Terry) the AP Stylebook states “pro-abortion choice” and “anti-abortion” as the “proper” terms (although “pro-choice” can be fenced in with “scare quotes.”) So tell me, if other groups can state what label they must be referred to by, why can’t those who are pro-life do the same?

    Off on a tangent. Has anyone seen anything about how the speakers at the Donkey Kong convention finished their speeches this past week? After 9/11, whenever George W. Bush would make a speech, he would end with “God bless you. And God bless America.” I remember how some, mostly on the left, cried fowl, that it was against the concept of the “separation of church and state.” Well, guess how almost all the Donkey Kongers, yes even Obama, ended their speeches? “God bless you and God bless America.” Funny how it’s an accepted closing for speeche now….

  • Bill

    I have heard she attends an Assembly of God Church in Anchorage when she is there. She sounds interesting, however, and the names of two her children appear to come from the series Charmed?

  • Ben

    John: “Donkey Kong”?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    JOHN:

    You have misquoted me and AP Style.

    The phrase is pro-abortion RIGHTS not choice.

    Choice is the left’s label of, well, choice.

    In fact, it appears that you did not understand what I said, in private email, at all.

  • Claude

    John says:

    She could be mistaken for Lutheran because of her semingly conflicted stands on gay issues (against marriage, but supports non-discrimination).

    She does not support non-discrimination against gays. She supports an amendment to the Alaskan constitution that would strip gay and lesbian state employees of benefits for their partners. When she became governor, she was forced to implement a state supreme court ruling awarding benefits to gay employees, but she did so against her will.
    I suspect denying gay men and lesbians and their dependents of insurance benefits will play well with the people who support her and McCain.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I noticed that many Catholic publications in Alaska have repeatedly praised Gov. Palin because she seems to be almost the perfect Catholic on issues–traditionally conservative on social issues while willing to take on big corporations and government power on behalf of the people in her state (which is larger than most nations).
    Now that Biden–spouting how Catholic he is–has disgraced Our Blessed Mother by using her rosary to build up his macho chops (he talked of shoving his rosary beads down the throat of someone) and being one of those political Catholics who uses misinformation and distortion (like Speaker Pelosi has)about Catholic history to defend
    his anti-Christian morality–it will be interesting to see how the MSM plays up-or down-her apparent excellent relations with Catholics even though she appears to be a member of an Assemblies of God congregation.
    Most serious Catholics I know will look on Palin and Biden as they looked on Kerry and Bush–the non-Catholic is far more in tune with the most important basic moral issues taught by the Catholic Church, the Bible, and the early Christians facing down the corrupt Roman Empire::”Choose Life” especially for the most helpless and innocent among us.
    I still haven’t seen anyone in the media ask Joe Biden if he had to promise to switch to Obama’s pro-partial birth abortion stand to get on the Dem ticket. After all, it was about the only major issue Biden was pro-life on.
    Since Palin is so pro life it will be interesting to see who gets cross-examined, probed, and even needled over their stand on abortion and abortion related issues. I suspect Palin will get the full court media assault while Biden won’t even get a tickle over being a Catholic who now supports a man who in the past has refused to back laws being passed to protect children from infanticide.

  • Dale

    Claude wrote:

    When she became governor, she was forced to implement a state supreme court ruling awarding benefits to gay employees, but she did so against her will.

    This contrasts with Mayor Gavin Newsome, who when confronted by a state law with which he disagreed, ignored it. Let’s see: he’s a hero because he intentionally broke a law with which he disagreed, and she’s a villain because she enforced a law with which she disagreed. So much for the principle of rule of law.

    Also, let me know when the Democratic Party adopts a platform plank guaranteeing celibate employees compensation/benefit packages of equal monetary value to those given to employees that are partners in a same-sex or opposite sex relationship. If we’re going to ban discrimination based on sexual behavior, celibacy should receive equal treatment. Celibate individuals should also receive any tax, estate planning and other legal advantages granted to non-celibate people.

  • Brian L

    @16 John L. Hoh, Jr:

    Certainly many “Evangelicals” want to shut out gays altogether, whether the Constitution gives them rights or not.

    Also, we know that many Lutherans are drunks, whether the Bible condemns drunkenness or not. However, your comments seem to be sober and sensible. I applaud you for your careful attention to a moderate and reasonable lifestyle.

  • Carl Vehse

    I’m glad that Claude correctly pointed out that Gov. Palin was required by an Alaska Supreme Court order to sign the law even though she opposed health and retiree benefits to same-sex partners of state employees. In fact Palin supported a constitutional amendment to that effect according to a Dec. 2006 Anchorage Daily News article.

  • Stephen A.

    Off the topic of her religion, but apparently, just like Jerry Falwell, the Democrats believe that God is behind a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, and (in their case) think He’s deliberately planning to destroy New Orleans again just to disrupt the GOP convention, which starts Monday.

    Don’t take my word for it. This video was taped on an airplane, documenting a conversation between a former Democratic Party chairman (Fowler) and a South Carolina Congressman. Fowler said “God’s on our side.” and chuckling while saying “That hurricane’s gonna hit about the time they start [the convention]. Everything’s cool.”

    Also, Leftist filmmaker Michael Moore thinks the immanent disaster’s timing is proof that God exists. At least one Leftist thinks so.

  • Dave2

    Dale wrote:

    This contrasts with Mayor Gavin Newsome, who when confronted by a state law with which he disagreed, ignored it. Let’s see: he’s a hero because he intentionally broke a law with which he disagreed, and she’s a villain because she enforced a law with which she disagreed. So much for the principle of rule of law.

    I think Claude was objecting to John L. Hoh, Jr.’s characterization of Palin as “against marriage, but supports non-discrimination”. So all this seems beside the point.

  • Dale

    Dave2:

    I think Claude was objecting to John L. Hoh, Jr.’s characterization of Palin as “against marriage, but supports non-discrimination”. So all this seems beside the point.

    Hardly. Every citizen has an interest in seeing politicians enforce and abide by laws, even those laws the politician disagrees with. Ms. Palin may disagree with providing employee benefits to same-sex partners, but she supports it because it’s the law. That’s the point.

    From the gay news website linked to in Mollie’s original:

    Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin vetoed a bill Thursday that sought to block the state from giving health benefits to the same-sex partners of public employees, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
    In the first veto of her new administration, Palin said she rejected the bill as unconstitutional despite her disagreement with a state Supreme Court order that directed the state to offer the benefits.

    “Signing this bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office,” Palin said in a written statement Thursday night.

    So Ms. Palin’s gay constituents can trust her to uphold the law.

  • FW Ken

    the immanent disaster’s timing

    “imminent” perhaps? although direct intervention in natural events certainly speaks to an immanent god. :-)

  • Stephen A.

    FW Ken: Oops. LOL yeah. “Imminent.” I don’t believe God’s reaching down to take sides on this presidential race.

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