Article Info

published: 1/21/08
updated: 2/14/14

John McCain and Religion




What is John McCain's Religion?

John McCain grew up Episcopalian. He attended Episcopal High School where he attended daily chapel services. McCain explains that his faith in God was reinforced when he was kidnapped and tortured by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. He scratched the first seven words of The Apostles’ Creed on his cell wall, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty” and prayed fervently while incarcerated.

Fast Facts on John McCain


Age: 71
Education: National War College, attended courses, 1973-1974; United States Naval Academy, B.S., 1958
Political Party: Republican
Website: www.johnmccain.com
Religion: Episcopalian, but attends a Southern Baptist church. Personal Religion and Beliefs
On Abortion: Pro-life. Wants to overturn Roe v Wade and let states decide. Then, support for pregnant mothers is key to gaining states' support against abortion. Views on Abortion
On Church and State: USA founded as a Christian nation. "Under God" should be kept. Supports faith-based initiatives. Views on Church and State
On the Death Penalty: Supports, including for acts of terrorism, and would consider expansion for other crimes. Views on the Death Penalty
On Homosexuality: Opposes gay marriage. Opposes constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Supported Defense of Marriage act. States should decide policy. Views on Homosexuality
On Medical Ethics: Opposes stem cell research using cloned human embryos, but supports using embryos left over from fertility treatments. Views on Medical Ethics





John McCain on His Personal Religion and Beliefs

"I pray regularly, and I don't have to be getting ready for bed, to be getting up in the morning. I seize opportunities throughout the day.... I haven't always succeeded; I've failed many times. But because the foundation of your and my belief is redemption, I've been able to receive additional comfort, strength and the desire to move forward again." [3/13/00]

"Q: For years, you've been identified as an Episcopalian. You recently began referring to yourself as a Baptist. Why?
McCain: [It was] one comment on the bus after hours. I meant to say that I practice in a—I am a Christian and I attend a Baptist church. I am very aware that immersion is part—as my wife Cindy has done—is necessary to be considered a Baptist. So I was raised Episcopalian, I have attended the North Phoenix Baptist Church for many years and I am a Christian.
Q: What prevents you from taking that final step of undergoing the baptism?
McCain: I've had discussions with the pastor about it and we're still in conversation about it. In the meantime, I am a practicing Christian.
Q: So the baptism is something you still might do?
McCain: Oh, sure, yeah. But, some of the factors haven't got so much to do with religion as they have to do with just—I'm in conversations with [my] pastor about it, as short a time ago as last week. But I would not anticipate going through that during this presidential campaign. I am afraid it might appear as if I was doing something that I otherwise wouldn't do." [9/07]

"Q: How would you describe your relationship with God today?
McCain:
I pray every day. I ask for guidance. I ask for strength. I don't ask for personal success. I think it's wrong. When I was in prison, I told my fellow prisoners, don't pray to go home. Pray to go home with honor, if it be God's will, not just under any circumstances…. So, it's a very important part of my life. But, I cannot tell you that I've ever had a revelation from God--it's been kind of plotting. I pray, I receive comfort, I think I receive guidance, I know I receive guidance and I pray and it's, you know, it's not a spectacular kind of thing. It's something that I think is very lasting." [9/07]

"McCain says he is not 'born again' and has not been baptized. He says he is 'just a Christian,' who for many years has been attending the North Phoenix Baptist Church in Arizona with his family. He was raised in the Episcopal Church." [10/18/07]

"[Choosing a Baptist church] wasn't so much a rejection of the Episcopal Church. It was, I came into that church, I sat down, I got the message of redemption and love and forgiveness, and it resonated with me. I found going to that church was beneficial to me in my life." [10/18/07]

Video: John McCain on His Faith

References and Further Reading

  1. David van Biema, "McCain's Faith: 'I Pray Regularly'." TIME, March 13, 2000.
  2. Dan Gilgoff, "John McCain: Constitution Established a 'Christian Nation'." Beliefnet, September 2007.
  3. Linda Feldmann, "John McCain: Keeping faith, on his own terms." Christian Science Monitor, October 18, 2007.

John McCain on Abortion

"John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench. Constitutional balance would be restored by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, returning the abortion question to the individual states. The difficult issue of abortion should not be decided by judicial fiat.

"However, the reversal of Roe v. Wade represents only one step in the long path toward ending abortion. Once the question is returned to the states, the fight for life will be one of courage and compassion - the courage of a pregnant mother to bring her child into the world and the compassion of civil society to meet her needs and those of her newborn baby. The pro-life movement has done tremendous work in building and reinforcing the infrastructure of civil society by strengthening faith-based, community, and neighborhood organizations that provide critical services to pregnant mothers in need. This work must continue and government must find new ways to empower and strengthen these armies of compassion. These important groups can help build the consensus necessary to end abortion at the state level. As John McCain has publicly noted, 'At its core, abortion is a human tragedy. To effect meaningful change, we must engage the debate at a human level."' [website]

Video: John McCain on Abortion and Roe v Wade

References and Further Reading

  1. "John McCain on the Issues: Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life." Candidate website.



John McCain on Church and State

[Q: A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?] "I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say, 'I only welcome Christians.' We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles." [9/07]

"We were founded as a nation on Judeo-Christian principles. There's very little debate about that. And I think the noblest words ever written are, 'We hold these truths to be self evident that all, all people are created equal and endowed by their Creator.' So if you believe in that fundamental principle, then of course you believe in the desirability and the attractiveness of helping bring to those God-given rights to people all over the earth.... The problem is, we mishandled it terribly. I do agree and most people do - we're a shining city on a hill. Has that shining city been dimmed and tarnished by our reputation in the world today? Of course, of course it has been. But, I still believe we have that role and mission to fulfill in the world." [9/07]

"Our Founding Fathers believed in separation of church and state and they stated it unequivocally. But, they also continued to emphasize the Christian principle. In God We Trust or [all men are] created equal—every statement that they made had to do with the belief in a Divine Creator… They sought guidance from their Creator. So, when some people interpret their desire for separation of church and state as a failure to acknowledge the importance and influence of our Creator, I think that they have a different view of history than I do." [9/07]

"The thing that really did impress me is how Lincoln, once he became president, became far more, not only devoted to his religion, but dependent in some ways on his faith in God. And, you know, part of that is really understandable. The carnage of the Civil War, can you imagine how it weighed on him? ….He made a promise to God that he would free the slaves, which was not a popular move in the North, much less in the South. But, still, it was an act that was really because of his religiosity. We have to rely on our faith sometimes to give us guidance, not to help us make a specific decision, but to help us maintain our moral and spiritual values that then allow us to make the right decision, even if sometimes it's politically expensive." [9/07]

References and Further Reading

  1. Dan Gilgoff, "John McCain: Constitution Established a 'Christian Nation'." Beliefnet, September 2007.

John McCain on the Death Penalty

Voted for S.1798: "A bill to provide for the imposition of the death penalty for the terrorist murder of United States nationals abroad." [10/26/89]

References and Further Reading

  1. "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 101st Congress - 1st Session: S.1798." U.S. Senate, October 26, 1989.

John McCain on Homosexuality and Gay Marriage

"As president, John McCain would nominate judges who understand that the role of the Court is not to subvert the rights of the people by legislating from the bench. Critical to Constitutional balance is ensuring that, where state and local governments do act to preserve the traditional family, the Courts must not overstep their authority and thwart the Constitutional right of the people to decide this question.

"The family represents the foundation of Western Civilization and civil society and John McCain believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman. It is only this definition that sufficiently recognizes the vital and unique role played by mothers and fathers in the raising of children, and the role of the family in shaping, stabilizing, and strengthening communities and our nation.

"As with most issues vital to the preservation and health of civil society, the basic responsibility for preserving and strengthening the family should reside at the level of government closest to the people. In their wisdom, the Founding Fathers reserved for the States the authority and responsibility to protect and strengthen the vital institutions of our civil society. They did so to ensure that the voices of America's families could not be ignored by an indifferent national government or suffocated through filibusters and clever legislative maneuvering in Congress." [website]

References and Further Reading

  1. "John McCain on the Issues: Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life." Candidate website.

John McCain on Issues in Medical Ethics

"Stem cell research offers tremendous hope for those suffering from a variety of deadly diseases - hope for both cures and life-extending treatments. However, the compassion to relieve suffering and to cure deadly disease cannot erode moral and ethical principles.

"For this reason, John McCain opposes the intentional creation of human embryos for research purposes. To that end, Senator McCain voted to ban the practice of "fetal farming," making it a federal crime for researchers to use cells or fetal tissue from an embryo created for research purposes. Furthermore, he voted to ban attempts to use or obtain human cells gestated in animals. Finally, John McCain strongly opposes human cloning and voted to ban the practice, and any related experimentation, under federal law.

"As president, John McCain will strongly support funding for promising research programs, including amniotic fluid and adult stem cell research and other types of scientific study that do not involve the use of human embryos.

"Where federal funds are used for stem cell research, Senator McCain believes clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress, and that any such research should be subject to strict federal guidelines." [website]

References and Further Reading

  1. "John McCain on the Issues: Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life." Candidate website.