Church and Statecraft

Rick Perry and Tony Sanchez have one thing in common: When it comes to politics, each disagrees with the official views of his religion.
BRIGHT IDEA: For candidates, politics outshines religion.
Illustration by Martha Rich

WHEN I ASKED THE TWO candidates for governor if I could attend church with them to explore the link between faith and politics in their lives, Tony Sanchez agreed but Rick Perry declined. Faith, after all, is one of the last truly personal areas of American life, and Perry felt my going to church with him was too great an intrusion. He did agree to talk about his faith in an interview. I began by asking the governor to describe the origins of his faith. The question seemed to throw him off momentarily, but then he found a foothold in his memory, one of a Sunday morning long ago in a small Methodist church in the West Texas town of Haskell. “I was just a little kid,” recalled Perry. “Somebody in the class had a daddy who was a second-generation Aggie. I remember the teacher asked me if I wanted to be a Christian, and I said, ‘Nope, I do not. I want to be an Aggie.’” He laughed nervously.

Both Republican Perry and Democrat Sanchez have good reason to be uneasy about the link between politics and religion these days. While politicians have always courted specific religious

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