The Democratic Party recently created a stir by leaving the word “God” off its political platform for 2012. Recently, it would appear that the Democratic Party has become disconnected, in matter of faith and religion, to many people. However, it may be surprising to many people that the Democratic Party has a long traditional relationship with religious affiliation. There are a number (if not a majority) of members of the Democratic Party who actively, as well as fervently, believe in God. This is a list of some of the most historically prominent of the religious Democrats.
10. Joe Lieberman
Joseph Lieberman is currently the Senior Senator from the state of Connecticut. Lieberman is listed as an Independent, but has been closely associated with the Democratic Party all of his adult life. In 2000, Lieberman was the Democratic Party’s Vice-Presidential candidate. During that election. Lieberman’s belief in God as an Orthodox Jew became a political football. However, the entire discussion was a rare opportunity for a candidate on the top tier of the Democratic ticket to talk openly about his belief in God. In a campaign speech at Notre Dame University in 2000, Lieberman stated, “The Constitution promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. We are, after all not just another nation, but one nation under God.”
9. Burns Strider
Burns Strider, a native of Grenada, Mississippi, served for two years as a youth minister in Hong Kong for the International Baptist Church in the mid-1990’s. Strider also served on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, as an advisor on Faith Outreach. In addition, Strider is a frequent commentator and contributor to National Public Radio on matters of faith. Behind the scenes, Strider is often consulted by the modern Democratic Party on matters of faith. Strider stated, “Faith is not one of a long list of issues and constituencies. It’s the core of a person; the prism for viewing all the other issues. We, those of us who work in faith outreach and strategy in campaigns, have to be extremely careful and watchful of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”
8. Ted Strickland
Theodore Strickland was the Governor of Ohio from 2007-2011. Strickland is also a Seminary graduate. In his younger days, Strickland managed an outreach ministry for a Methodist Children’s Home. Strickland was also briefly a minister at a United Methodist Church in Portsmouth, Ohio. Strickland went on to serve several terms in Congress, before ultimately winning the Ohio Governorship in 2006.
7. Walter E. Fauntroy
Civil rights activist Walter E. Fauntroy is a former pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Washington D.C. As a young man, Fauntroy became a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Fauntroy was one of the organizers of King’s March on Washington, which culminated in King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech. Fauntroy went on to serve as Washington D.C.’s non-voting Representative in the House for two decades. Fauntroy also ran for President in 1972, as well as 1976.
6. John F. Kennedy
During the 1960 election for President, John F. Kennedy’s Catholic faith became one of the nation’s hottest political topics. The theory was that Kennedy, as President, would be required to answer to, as well as take direction from, Pope John XXIII. Kennedy successfully refuted this claim during a speech to Baptist ministers, however Kennedy never denied his Catholic faith. There are those who talk about Kennedy’s presumptive moral failings. However, Kennedy’s candidacy, like Lieberman’s after him, managed to bring the subject of God, as well as religion, to national attention. Kennedy stated in his inaugural address, “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”
5. Jimmy Carter
There is a lot that can be said, written, and screamed over, regarding the merits of Jimmy Carter’s one-term Presidency. The fact that Carter is a devout man of religious faith is not in doubt, however. Case in point: Carter was once one of the most powerful men on the planet, and now regularly teaches Sunday School for Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. Carter is a third-generation Southern Baptist. Carter recently left an official relationship with the Southern Baptist Church, over issues of homosexual marriage and equality for women. Carter does continue to serve as a Deacon for his local Baptist church. Carter also states that his break with the official Southern Baptist Church does not change his fellowship with other Baptists. Carter stated, “I personally feel the Bible says all people are equal in the eyes of God. I personally feel that women should play an absolutely equal role in service of Christ in the church.”
4. Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States. Wilson’s father was minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia for the first fourteen years of Wilson’s life. Wilson still stands as one of the most accomplished Presidents in the field of academia. Wilson received his Doctorate in History and Political Science, and served as President of Princeton University. With all of the current discussions about academia leaving religion behind, Wilson never abandoned his beliefs. Later in life, Wilson stated, “When you have read the Bible, you will know it is the word of God, because you have found it the key to your own heart, your own happiness and your own duty.”
3. Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson has almost become synonymous with controversy. Jackson’s political opinions, as well as stances on controversial subjects, can be debated all day long, and possibly all week long. There is little doubt, though, that Jackson is a man of faith. Jackson attended the Chicago Theological Seminary in the 1960s, before dropping out to work full-time on civil rights activism. Jackson is an ordained minister, and actively campaigned for the Presidency on the Democratic ticket in both 1984 and 1988. Jackson, for all the discourse, has managed to keep a discussion of God (as well as himself ) in the public eye for nearly five decades.
2. Billy Graham
Billy Graham has been a force for Christian conversion, as well as an advisor to Presidents on religious issues, for six decades. Billy Graham Crusades have gone to dozens of countries, speaking to thousands of people on the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. Katie Couric asked Graham directly about his political affiliations recently. Graham stated, without reservation, that he was a lifelong Democrat. This may come as a slight surprise to the Religious Right, as well as the Moral Majority, but Graham’s affiliation stands as the truth.
1. William Jennings Bryan
William Jennings Bryan ran for President on the Democratic Party ticket. Bryan gave one of the most famous speeches ever, the famous “Cross of Gold” speech delivered on July 9th, 1896, at the Democratic National Convention. Bryan would also run for President in 1900, as well as in 1908. Bryan would then go on to serve as Secretary of State. Bryan was easily one of the most famous orators of his day. On the moral issues of his day, Bryan supported Prohibition, as well as Women’s Suffrage.
The end of Bryan’s life was spent taking on a different battle. Bryan was the litigator on the side of “Creation” in the famous Scopes Trial in Tennessee. Many refer to the Scopes Trial as “Creation v Evolution,” concerning schoolteacher John Thomas Scopes’ right to teach evolution. Bryan represented the World Christian Fundamentals Association. Bryan’s opponent was the famous attorney, Clarence Darrow. Many forget that Bryan initially won a judgment in the case, which sparked a national debate. Later that same year, Bryan died shortly after attending Church.