Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said in an e-mail to friends he will not support Fred Thompson for president, citing in part the GOP hopeful’s lack of church attendance.
The Associated Press reported parts of a private e-mail that Dobson reportedly sent to friends accusing the former senator and actor of being wrong on issues that conservatives hold dear.
“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,'” Dobson continued. “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!”
In March Dobson March appeared to throw cold water on a Thompson candidacy by saying he didn’t think the former star of “Law & Order” is a Christian. His new e-mail said recent stories saying that Thompson doesn’t regularly attend church and won’t talk about his faith on the campaign stump suggest suppositions “about the former senator’s never having professed to be a Christian are turning out to be accurate in substance.”
Dobson has previously said he wouldn’t support former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani because he is pro-choice on abortion or Sen. John McCain, because the Arizona senator opposes a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
McCain’s religious affiliation took the spotlight last weekend in South Carolina, when he corrected a reporter’s question about his faith as an Episcopalian by saying he is Baptist.
McCain said he and his wife have been members of North Phoenix Baptist Church in his home state for more than 15 years. “It’s well known because I’m an active member of the church,” McCain told the Associated Press.
Baptist observers found that hard to reconcile with comments attributed to McCain in June by McClatchy Newspapers that his wife and two of their children have been baptized into the church but the candidate “didn’t find it necessary to do so for my spiritual needs.”
Like most Southern Baptist churches, North Phoenix requires believer’s baptism by immersion as a qualification for membership. Some churches have a “watch-care” status for adult Christians who don’t desire to be re-baptized, which recognizes them as a part of the church fellowship but without full membership rights like voting at a business meeting or serving as a deacon.
North Phoenix did not respond to a request by EthicsDaily.com to clarify McCain’s status with the church, but McCain told reporters in South Carolina he has spoken at length with his pastor and was told there was no need for him to be baptized to be a full member of the church.
Later McCain tried to downplay the whole discussion.
“There’s been some talk about my religious persuasion,” he said on CNN. “I was raised in the Episcopal Church and attended high school, it was a high school called Episcopal High School. I have attended North Phoenix Baptist Church for many years, and the most important thing is that I’m a Christian, and I don’t have anything else to say about the issue.”
In a race without a clear front-runner among religious conservatives, a powerful Republican voting bloc, many had looked forward to Thompson’s long-anticipated announcement that he was running for president. But some were let down by his professed reluctance to share his religious beliefs during the campaign and his admission that he doesn’t regularly attend church.
“I attend church when I’m in Tennessee,” he told reporters. “I’m in McLean right now. I don’t attend regularly when I’m up there.”
EthicsDaily.com broke a story in early September questioning his commitment to Thompson’s officially listed religious affiliation as Church of Christ and reporting that when he does occasionally attend church near his home, it is at a Presbyterian church.
But at a Sept. 10 campaign stop in Greenville, S.C., Thompson said he didn’t think whether or not he attends church is the most important thing to voters. “I know that I’m right with God,” he said, “and I’m right with the people I love, and the people I love are right with me.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.