Pro-gay Journalist: Palin's Religious Worldview Controversial

In an obvious attempt to create a Jeremiah Wright-style scandal for the Republican presidential ticket – and to marginalize conservative Christian values – Huffington Post National Editor Nico Pitney is questioning the religious beliefs of GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her former pastor.

A Sept. 2 Huffington Post (HP) article by Pitney and Political Reporter Sam Stein begins with an ominous headline: “Palin's Church May Have Shaped Controversial Worldview.” They write, “And if the political storm over Barack Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright is any indication, Palin may face some political fallout over the more controversial teachings of Wasilla Assembly of God.”

Pitney and Stein label Palin's worldview “controversial,” and quote snippets from Wasilla Senior Pastor Ed Kalnins's sermons that paint him as extreme.  Wasilla Assembly of God church member Karissa Nelson told CMI what she thought of the HP story: “It's sad how people twist your words.”

In his effort to marginalize Palin's religious values, Pitney appears to be advancing a political agenda.  Just two weeks ago, the self-described “advocacy” journalist was scheduled to participate in a panel on opinion writing at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association convention in Washington, D.C.  Pitney told CMI he is neither a homosexual nor a member of NLGJA, but he is clearly an ideological fellow traveler.

According to the NLGJA convention program, Pitney “oversees politics coverage and Huffpost's original reporting unit.” Before joining the leftwing Huffington Post Web site, Pitney was deputy research director at a progressive think tank, the Center for American Progress (CAP).

In a revealing interview with the homosexual Web site Queerty, Pitney described his work at CAP as “opposition research on conservatives and conservative ideas, policies and figures.”  He said he moved to the HP Web site because, “…with Huffington Post, I have the ability to do some more advocacy oriented stuff if I want to and also I dig up new information through the journalism we do there…” 

Homosexual activists have long identified conservative religious believers as their greatest enemies in the battle to obtain their social and political objectives. Furniture magnate Mitchell Gold, who organized an NLGJA convention panel on religion reporting, said, “the single biggest [obstacle] to gays having equal rights in the country is religion.”  As reported earlier by CMI, Gold's panel focused on reducing conservative religious influence on public policy.

In their HP article, Pitney and Stein criticize remarks Palin made during a June 8 speech at Wasilla Assembly of God, her former home church. Palin asked her audience, students graduating from a ministerial training program, to pray about foreign policy issues and Alaska's efforts to build a gas pipeline.  According to the authors,

Palin's address, much of which was spent reflecting on the work of the church in which she grew up and was baptized, underscores the notion that her world view is deeply impacted by religion. In turn, her remarks raise important questions: mainly, what is Palin's faith and how exactly has it influenced her policies?

To define Palin's faith, Pitney and Stein quote what they describe as “provocative” and “eyebrow-raising” statements by Wasilla pastor Ed Kalnins.  The minister's teachings, however, may not be as controversial as Pitney and Stein believe. The HP writers display a very poor understanding of conservative Protestant theology and language.

For example, Pitney and Stein quote Kalnins saying in 2004, “I'm not going tell you who to vote for, but if you vote for this particular person [Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry], I question your salvation. I'm sorry.”   As they understand the statement, Kalnins “questioned whether people who voted for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted to heaven.” Their interpretation of Kalnins's remarks conflicts sharply with the evangelical Protestant theology of salvation.

Properly understood, Pastor Kalnins was not saying that God would punish people who voted for Kerry by sending them to hell. Kalnins was saying that a person willing to vote for Kerry probably had not already received salvation. 

Evangelical theology teaches that a person is saved based not on how he votes, or any other action, but on whether he places his trust in Jesus's sacrifice to pay the price for his sins. Trust Christ today and you're “saved” today.  Therefore, salvation is not so much a future event as a present possession.  Once people are “saved,” however, they undergo a spiritual transformation that affects the way they think, behave, and vote. 

Other liberal media outlets are also inquiring into Palin's religious beliefs.  Wasilla Assembly of God member Nelson told CMI the church is being deluged with inquiries from reporters. 

ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper posted a blog yesterday with the headline, “Web Site With Speeches and Sermons From Palin's Former Church Shuts Down as Religious Views of Candidate Face Scrutiny.”   Tapper's headline implies that Wasilla Assembly of God is trying to stonewall media investigation of Kalnins's sermons, but the church asserts that its server is unable to handle the heavy traffic of the past few days.

Tapper acknowledges, “' was never intended to handle the traffic it has received in the last few days,' says a message on the church Web site. 'Due to technical limitations, will be unavailable for the immediate future.'” 

Will the media give Wasilla Assembly of God, its pastor and its most famous former member the benefit of the doubt, or will they try to create a scandal over Sarah Palin's religious beliefs?  Bet on the scandal. 

Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.