The daughter of current presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton says people on both ends of the political spectrum are skeptical about her parents’ faith.
Chelsea Clinton said she is tired of people questioning her family’s faith, adding that she chose her mother’s Methodist faith over her father’s Southern Baptist church after hearing a discussion in her childhood Sunday school class about abortion.
“I was raised in a Methodist church and I left the Baptist church before my dad did, because I didn’t know why they were talking to me about abortion when I was 6 in Sunday school,” the 35-year-old is quoted as saying at a recent fundraiser for her mother.
“That’s a true story,” a New York Post columnist quoted her comments from a Democrat who took notes at the event.
The Southern Baptist Convention added Sanctity of Human Life Sunday — marking the Sunday nearest the anniversary of Roe v. Wade — to the denominational calendar in 1985. An accompanying sanctity of life Sunday school lesson was added to LifeWay Christian Resources curriculum in 1991.
Chelsea, whose husband is Jewish, said she finds it “quite insulting” when people question her faith or that of her parents. She described the former Secretary of State, who was raised as a Methodist, as “very deeply a person of faith.”
Her father was baptized at age 9 in Park Place Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Ark. He dropped out of church when he got older, but the shock of losing his reelection as governor of Arkansas in 1980 — coupled with the birth of his daughter — drove him back to church.
Bill Clinton joined the 4,000-member Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., singing in the choir and studying the Bible under tutelage of the congregation’s longtime pastor, W.O. Vaught.
The conservative leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention did not embrace Clinton’s election as president, regularly passing resolutions at annual meetings criticizing his policies on abortion and homosexuality. In 1993 there was an unsuccessful effort to refuse seating of the messengers from Immanuel Baptist Church for failure to put him under church discipline.
After the Monica Lewinsky scandal, a Southern Baptist seminary president complained that Clinton could claim to be a Southern Baptist “only because the congregation which holds his membership has failed to exercise any semblance of church discipline.”
Bill Clinton bade a tearful farewell his final Sunday at Immanuel, crediting the congregation with helping him win the presidency. While in Washington the Clintons regularly attended Foundry United Methodist Church, and Chelsea attended a Quaker school.
In 2007 Clinton joined fellow former President Jimmy Carter to propose establishment of a broadly inclusive Baptist movement to counter the denomination’s image as a subset of the Religious Right. In his February 2008 address to the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, Clinton envisioned “a covenant of reconciliation” designed “not to find a solution to the deep rift that has occurred in the Baptist family but to find a journey that we might begin together.”
Chelsea said her family gets attacked from both ends of the spectrum, including secularists and atheists who question the sincerity of politicians who go to church.
“I recognized that there were many expressions of faith that I don’t agree with and feel [are] quite antithetical to how I read the Bible,” she said, “but I find it really challenging when people who are self-professed liberals kind of look askance at my family’s history.”