Hillary Clinton's Religious Background and Beliefs

Hillary Clinton Addresses American Library Association Conference In Chicago
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Politics and religion are often intertwined. Many voters believe that a politician's religious beliefs are the foundation for their political positions. In the case of Hillary Clinton, many people have publicly questioned her spiritual beliefs.

In truth, Hillary Clinton has repeatedly spoken of her Christian faith. Throughout her political career, she has repeatedly spoken of how her Methodist faith shaped her political stance on a variety of issues, even when it conflicted with her church's official positions.

A Methodist Throughout Her Life

Hillary Clinton was baptized at the Court Street United Methodist Church, her father's church in Scranton, Penn. As a child growing up in Park Ridge, Ill., she attended the First United Methodist Church, where she was active in youth activities. It was there that she met youth minister Don Jones, who would have a profound impact on Clinton and continue to mentor her throughout his life.

After a four-year courtship, she married Bill Clinton in 1975; the pair were wed by a Methodist minister in their Fayetteville, Ark., home. Although Bill Clinton is a Baptist, the couple raised daughter Chelsea in the Methodist church. While in Washington D.C.—as both first lady and senator—she regularly attended the Foundry United Methodist Church. During her time in the Senate, she was a member of a prayer group. 

Hillary Clinton can be placed in the moderate to liberal wing of American Christianity, though she does appear to share a number of attitudes with more conservative Christians. Yet, some would say that Clinton has a long way to go to support truly progressive stances when it comes to religious debates.

Hillary Clinton and the Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church is made up of both conservative and liberal congregations. The Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington which Hillary Clinton has regularly attended describes itself as a "reconciling congregation." According to them, this means aside from not making any distinctions about race, ethnicity, or gender, they also invite "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons to share our faith, our community life, and our ministries."

The Methodist denomination in general, however, is divided on the issue of homosexuality. Some members wish to maintain the traditional stance that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." Others want to see the church become even more inclusive.

As of June 2017, the United Methodist Church website states that "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches." This stance was reaffirmed at 2019 General Conference. Despite this, Clinton continually expressed her support for full equality of every person in the LGBTQ community during her 2016 presidential campaign.

Abortion is formally frowned upon by the United Methodist Church, but the denomination nevertheless opposes criminalizing abortion as a medical procedure. Clinton, by contrast, has long been an advocate for women's rights and freedom of choice. 

Clinton has addressed conflicts between politics and religion such as this on many occasions. In multiple interviews and in her own writing, she has acknowledged that she does not always agree with the United Methodist Church. 

For a while, the United Methodist Church was an important pillar of the Social Gospel Movement. This Christian social movement sought to transform American politics and society along lines consistent with the Christian gospel. Hillary Clinton has stated that she believes it was an error for Methodists to focus so much on social transformation because this took attention away from "questions of personal salvation and individual faith."

What Clinton's Rivals Have Said

It is not uncommon for political rivals to question their opponents' religious values. Hillary Clinton has been a lightning rod for fierce criticism throughout her political career, and her personal faith has not escaped attacks.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican rival Donald Trump caused a stir during a meeting in New York City with evangelical leaders, when he told the crowd they "don’t know anything about Hillary in terms of religion.” The statement was quickly called out by journalists, and the website FactCheck.org labeled Trump's assertion as a "pants on fire" falsehood.

Similarly, radio show host Michael Savage once described her the most godless member of the Senate:

"Then you have Hillary Clinton, the most Godless woman in the Senate, right out of the Marxist playbook, speaking at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, so as all politicians, suddenly she becomes religious. And here she is opening up her speech to the Hispanics who actually believe in God..."

In 2006, Rev. Jerry Falwell took this a step further. He stated that Clinton could energize the Republican "base" of conservative evangelicals even more than if Lucifer were running as the Democratic candidate for president.

Dispelling the Myth About Clinton's Religion

Whenever speaking about the personal beliefs of anyone other than ourselves, we can only go off what they have said and look to their actions. Despite the political rhetoric, we can say that Hillary Clinton is, in fact, a Christian and a Methodist.

To the majority of people, Clinton's faith is not an issue. How faith influences political stance is a much more complicated matter and one that will likely continue to be debated.

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Cline, Austin. "Hillary Clinton's Religious Background and Beliefs." Learn Religions, Oct. 7, 2021, learnreligions.com/hillary-clintons-religious-background-250159. Cline, Austin. (2021, October 7). Hillary Clinton's Religious Background and Beliefs. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/hillary-clintons-religious-background-250159 Cline, Austin. "Hillary Clinton's Religious Background and Beliefs." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/hillary-clintons-religious-background-250159 (accessed June 7, 2023).