And Mrs. Dole have stopped going to D.C.'s...


May 15, 1995|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

SEN. BOB DOLE and Mrs. Dole have stopped going to D.C.'s Foundry Methodist Church, where the Clintons attend, because they find the pastor too liberal.

Many believe Senator Dole is pandering to the religious right, which is very conservative. I agree. I think this is the most blatant religious appeal to a group by a candidate for high office since Nelson Rock-- . . . but first, let's look at some presidents' faith.

President Clinton is in fact a Baptist. He goes to a Methodist Church because Hillary is a Methodist. This is not the first time a president of the United States took up his wife's Methodism. Rutherford B. Hayes was baptized a Presbyterian, but attended Methodist services after marrying Lucy Ware Webb.

She was a Methodist back in the days when Methodists didn't drink. She banned alcohol from the White House, for which she was lampooned as "Lemonade Lucy." But the Women's Christian Temperance Union loved her and in gratitude commissioned a full length portrait of her, which hung in the White House till a few years ago, when it went to the Smithsonian.

Before the Hayeses, there were the Johnsons. Andrew had no real faith, but as president attended the Methodist Church of his wife.

Now, Jimmy Carter was a Baptist who married a Methodist, but his wife switched to his faith.

Several presidents only joined a church and/or started attending one regularly after being elected. For example, Dwight Eisenhower joined the Presbyterian Church of his wife Mamie a week and half after taking the oath of office. He was accused of hypocrisy.

Ike did not really "get religion" in the White House, in the usual sense, but it happens.

Three men did not profess allegiance to a church till after they retired from the presidency. They were Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and James Buchanan. Polk became a Methodist on his death bed. Jackson and Buchanan both became Presbyterians shortly after leaving the White House. Both said they did not join while president because they feared they'd look like hypocrites.

Ike was no hypocrite. He just felt the leader of a religious nation engaging in a "crusade" against an atheistic foe should be clearly religious. He started prayer breakfasts at the White House and opening cabinet meetings with prayer.

Most presidents have prayed in the White House. Carter prayed 25 times a day. Richard Nixon got down on his knees and prayed when he was about to be impeached. John Q. Adams recited "Now I lay me down to sleep. . ." every night. Franklin D. Roosevelt's valet said they prayed together every night when he put him to bed. Woodrow Wilson prayed on his knees every morning and night.

Now, Nelson Rockefeller. Once when he was running for governor of New York, he appealed to the very important Jewish vote in New York City by saying he would "get circumcised. Again."

Or so the story goes.

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