Hillary Clinton and Religion


Hillary Clinton was raised in the United Methodist church. Her desire to enter politics was, in part, influenced by her youth pastor, who emphasized social issues as an application to the Christian faith.

Hillary married Bill Clinton in 1975 in a Methodist ceremony.

After her father died in 1993 she re-examined her Methodist beliefs in relation to her political convictions to answer what she called America's "sleeping sickness of the soul."

Fast Facts on Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton on Her Personal Religion and Beliefs

"Prayer became a source of solace and guidance for me even as a child." [6/03]

[Faith is a] "crucial, though deeply personal, part of my life and my family's life." [6/03]

"It is always intriguing to me that so many people have a very narrow definition of morality and then often try to peg their definition, in the case of Christianity, to the Scriptures,'' she said. ''And no one can read the New Testament of our Bible without recognizing that Jesus had a lot more to say about how we treat the poor than most of the issues that were talked about in this election." [11/10/04]

"I have always had a deep personal faith that was rooted in the Methodist church in large measure because I was christened into it, I grew up in it. But, it also very much reflected how I thought about faith as I matured. You know, if you look at the Methodist book of discipline it talks about the four contributing streams of faith -- scripture, tradition, experience and reason. I always resonated to the fact that it was both revelatory and scripture-based but that you were invited to use your power of reason to think through your faith and to work through what it meant to you and how you would live it in your daily life. And so the method of Methodism was very reflective of my temperament and my predilection to look at things from a faith-based center but recognizing that I didn’t have a corner on faith, that I had to be open to experience and that I had to believe with both my head and my heart if it was going to sustain me over time. I remember reading years ago that Thomas Aquinas said that revelation was eminently rational and that’s the kind of confirmation of my faith experience that I found very supportive over the years." [7/6/07]

"I believe in the father, son, and Holy Spirit, and I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit on many occasions in my years on this earth. I pray, I read the Bible, I read commentary on scriptures, I read other people’s faith journeys. That is, for me, at the real core of how I keep feeding my faith. And, I was lucky because, as I said at the faith and politics event, I was taught to pray and I inculcate it as a habit in my daily life." [7/6/07]

"I spent a lot of time when I was growing up trying to, for me, work out the balance between personal salvation and the social gospel.... you have to keep in balance the feeding of your spirit and your soul and the need to be nurturing your personal faith while you try to have the energy and the support to go out into the world. There’s that great line in James about how faith without works is dead, but works without faith is too hard. And, that’s kind of how I see the necessary blending of what I want out of faith. For some people a personal relationship with God, a sense that you’re saved, a real belief in your salvation is incredibly both moving and comforting." [7/6/07]

[In response to the question: Do you believe that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened, that it actually historically did happen?] "Yes, I do." [7/6/07]

[In response to the question: Do you believe... that belief in Christ is needed for going to heaven?] "That one I’m a little more open to. I think that it is, as we understand our relationship to God as Christians, it is how we see our way forward, and it is the way. But, ever since I was a little girl, I’ve asked every Sunday school teacher I’ve ever had, I asked every theologian I’ve ever talked with, whether that meant that there was no salvation, there was no heaven for people who did not accept Christ. And, you’re well aware that there are a lot of answers to that. There are people who are totally rooted in the fact that, no, that’s why there are missionaries, that’s why you have to try to convert. And, then there are a lot of other people who are deeply faithful and deeply Christ-centered who say, that’s how we understand it and who are we to read God’s mind about such a weighty decision as that." [7/6/07]

On interpreting the Bible: "The whole Bible gives you a glimpse of God and God’s desire for a personal relationship, but we can’t possibly understand every way God is communicating with us. I’ve always felt that people who try to shoehorn in their cultural and social understandings of the time into the Bible might be actually missing the larger point." [7/6/07]

"My faith has always been primarily personal. It is how I live my life and who I am, and I have tried through my works to demonstrate a level of commitment and compassion that flow from my faith." [7/6/07]

"I’ve written about this and talked about it a lot, but the parable of the prodigal son as conveyed by Henri Nouwen, made a huge impact on me. The discipline of gratitude was -- you just read along sometimes looking for sustenance and support and something jumps out at you and it just really resonated with my beliefs and my sense of what we are called to do. Forgiveness and gratitude are features that I associate with Christ. That to me is part of how one lives as best one can following the example of Christ." [7/6/07]

"I was bewildered by it, that it was somehow illegitimate to talk about faith as a Democrat. I found that just so bizarre that we were being, I think, written out of the whole faith experience. So much of the faith journey in this country are people who have put their faith into action on behalf of others – people who fought for abolition, people who fought for women’s suffrage, people who stood up on behalf of the concepts of justice and so much more. So, I was surprised." [7/6/07]

[My Methodist faith] "has certainly been a huge part of who I am and how I have seen the world, and what I believe in, and what I have tried to do in my life." [7/6/07]

References and Further Reading

    - Hillary Rodham Clinton, Living History (Simon & Schuster, June 9, 2003). - Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Policy Challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean after the U.S. Presidential Election." Issam M. Fares Lecture, Tufts University, November 10, 2004. Cited in Raymond Hernandez, "As Clinton Shifts Themes, Debate Arises On Her Motives." The New York Times, Feb. 1, 2005. - "Transcript of Interview With Senator Clinton." New York Times, July 6, 2007. - Michael Luo, "Faith Intertwines With Political Life for Clinton." New York Times, July 7, 2007. - Linda Feldmann, "Candidate Clinton goes public with her private faith." Christian Science Monitor, December 20, 2007. - "Evangelicals Say One Clinton White House Was More than Enough." Religion News Service, December 12, 2007. - Paul Kengor, "Could Hillary win the religious vote?" USAToday.com, November 5, 2007. - Pastors Strategize for Hillary Christian Broadcasting Network, October 25, 2007 - Can She Reach Religious Voters? The Washington Post September 26, 2007 - "Hillary's Religious Roots." Newsweek, Feb. 12, 2007 - "Clinton Hires Faith Guru." The Hill, Dec. 13, 2006. - "Hillary Clinton Talks Religion." CNN, June 29, 2006.

Hillary Clinton on Issues in Medical Ethics

Clinton cosponsored the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 (S. 471), "a bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for human embryonic stem cell research." It allowed federal financing of stem cell research on new embryonic stem cell lines derived from discarded human embryos created for fertility treatments. The bill was vetoed by President Bush.

"Stem cell research holds the promise of new cures and treatments for countless diseases and millions of Americans with chronic and curable conditions. ...We are looking at other countries putting billions of dollars into supporting stem cell science. They are creating establishments of all kinds, centers of research, special clinical centers because they know that they can attract scientists from the United States who will come to pursue this research. We are losing ground instead of doing what Americans do best, leading the world in innovation, ingenuity, new ideas....

"I’m going to support the other two bills that are going to be before us as well because I think we have to clearly put an ethical fence around this research, send a very clear message about what is permitted and what is not. Right now we have no federal laws prohibiting the worst of some of this research. That's one of the results of the fact that we have an executive order, but we don't have any legal prohibitions on some of the worst things that people might decide to do.

"So I think it's important that we have a strong ethical stand, a strong legal stand, we have very strong prohibitions and penalties for people who don't pursue the research in the way that we set forth. But we can't make the progress that we need to make for sake of new treatments, for the sake of new discoveries, for the sake of new hope, for countless millions of people who are alive today, who are suffering, for those who are born with diseases and conditions that could be ameliorated, even cured.

"This is a delicate balancing act. I recognize that and acknowledge it. I respect my friends on the other side of the aisle who come to the floor with grave doubts and concerns, but I think we have struck the right balance with the legislation we will vote on this afternoon." [7/18/06]

References and Further Reading

  • Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Remarks by Senator Clinton on the Senate Floor Calling for Passage of Stem Cell Legislation." July 18, 2006.
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