June 28, 2010

Alabama Recap: Byrne’d for His Beliefs?

Updated July 14, 2010

In the Alabama Republican gubernatorial primary, one candidate’s religious beliefs – especially on creationism and whether the Bible is to be taken literally – took center stage. Questions about Bradley Byrne’s beliefs arose after the Press-Register, a local paper, quoted him in November 2009 as saying, “I think there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not.” Campaign ads on both sides focused on Byrne’s religion: An ad from a group called True Republican PAC attacked Byrne for supporting the teaching of evolution and for questioning the literal truth of the Bible, while two ads produced by the Byrne campaign touted his family, daily Bible reading and Christian faith. And GOP candidate Robert Bentleyreleased an ad that declares, “All the Republican candidates for governor are pro-life…. Most of us believe that the Bible is God’s word – I certainly do.” Bentley went on to defeat Byrne in the July 13 Republican primary runoff.

The attention paid to this debate in Alabama is perhaps not surprising when looking at the results from the Pew Forum’s 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which finds that Alabama is among the most religiously committed states. More than half of Alabamians (56%) disagree with the statement that “evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life.” A similar percentage (54%) of the state’s residents believe the Bible is the word of God and should be interpreted literally, word for word. These percentages are significantly higher than among the total U.S. population (45% of U.S. adults disagree that evolution is the best explanation for human life and 33% consider the Bible to be the literal word of God).

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