What do the candidates for president in 2016 believe, both in terms of faith and policy positions?  How important has religion been to our presidents, and what do the current candidates believe about religion?  Are there any historical precedents surrounding any of the hot button political issues this year?

Video of lecture now online:  The video of the March 10, 2016 lecture I gave at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington on these subjects is now online.  Joining me in the lecture was Dr. Michael Artime, visiting communications professor at Puget Sound.  We also analyzed the current presidential race, looking at the candidates remaining, the possibilities of third party or independent bids, and the path forward for the candidates to obtain sufficient delegates to win the nomination.

Learning from history:  History can be very instructive in putting current events in perspective.  Some interesting things you’ll find out from the lecture:

  • Was Jefferson an atheist?  In the 1800 campaign, Thomas Jefferson was accused of being a “howling atheist.”
  • Was Lincoln a Christian?  Abraham Lincoln never joined a church, but attended church as president, and his actions and words were driven by his deep spirituality and knowledge of the Bible.
  • Would the Pope control a Catholic president?  Confronted with bias against being a Catholic in the 1960 campaign, John F. Kennedy gave an influential speech to Protestant ministers in which he noted that he believed in an America where “religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”  He went on to state that “for while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been – and may someday be again – a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist…Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you.”
  • Why did Adlai Stevenson lose in 1956? As we introduced the section of the lecture on the policy positions of current candidates, we looked back to a problem in 1956 that is also true in 2016.  After one speech, a supporter came up to Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic nominee for president (running against Dwight Eisenhower), and gushed: “Governor Stevenson, all thinking people are for you.”  The governor of Illinois responded pessimistically that “that’s not enough.  I need a majority.”
  • Are Muslims the new Catholics?  The current debate about Muslims in the United States reminds us of a time in our history when Catholicism was viewed as “an ally of tyranny.”  It came from the nativist, anti-immigration, anti-Catholic “Know-Nothing” Party of the 1850s that saw immigration as “the chief source of crime in this country.”
  • What did previous Republican presidents think about immigration?  Three revered Republican presidents had fairly liberal opinions about immigration including Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan who declared in 1984 that “I believe in the idea of amnesty.”

And much more…  Check out the video of the lecture on March 10, 2016 by presidential historian Mike Purdy and political scientist Dr. Michael Artime.  Click here to watch the 1.5 hour lecture.  Also available online are the first two lectures: The Long Road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Who Wants to be President?