Palin’s Pastor

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The disclosure that last month Governor Palin’s church hosted the executive director of Jews for Jesus, who told congregants that violence against Israeli Jews is God’s punishment for their failure to accept Jesus, is going to be the next club that Mrs. Palin’s leftist critics pick up against her. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency quotes Mrs. Palin’s pastor at Wasilla Bible Church, Larry Kroon, as saying that he doesn’t believe Jews for Jesus are deceptive. “Look at Paul and Peter and the others — they were Jews and believed in Jesus as the messiah,” he told JTA. “There’s gentile believers and there’s Jewish believers that acknowledge Jesus as messiah. There’s Swedish believers.”

Mainstream Judaism today rejects the idea that one can believe in Jesus and still be a practicing Jew. Anyone who maintains that the two beliefs are compatible is a pariah in the Jewish community. But these columns have been cautioning against the idea that politicians need to be held accountable for every thing that is said from the pulpits of their congregations. In an editorial of March 18, 2008, “Obama’s Moment,” we said that religion by its nature calls forth great passion, and that religious institutions — churches, synagogues, mosques — are places where things are often said that strike the congregation in a way that they mightn’t strike the wider public.

None of this is to excuse the errors of Senator Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, or of Rev. Kroon. But it is Mr. Obama and Mrs. Palin who are running for office, not the clergymen. To make a big issue of these kinds of things in respect of the candidates, whether they are Democrats or Republicans, would be to impose a religious test for office of the sort that the framers of the Constitution forbade, right in Article VI, when they wrote, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” No, ever, any. They couldn’t have been more emphatic — and not even in an amendment but right there in the original body of the constitution.

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