Gary Scott Smith on Presidential Faith
Date: February 13th, 2012

A week before Presidents’ Day, we visit with the chair of the Department of History at Grove City College, Prof. Gary Scott Smith to survey the faith of various presidents in US history.  Our discussion opens with some thoughts as to why it is important to understand the religious underpinnings of the occupants of the White House.  Prof. Smith then reveals who he considers both our most and least religious presidents.  Our coverage of individual presidents proceeds slightly out of chronological order as we first dip into the interesting spiritual background of Dwight Eisenhower and how his beliefs reflected the nature of the 1950s.  We then step back in time to discuss Thomas Jefferson and the controversies surrounding his theological leanings.  Prof. Smith offers up his perspective on Jefferson’s famous “wall of separation” quote.  We then cover George Washington and Abraham Lincoln before moving into the 20th century.   Whilst in the 20th century, our survey of presidents encompasses the beliefs and practices of Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.  We briefly make reference to Richard Nixon before moving to our two most recent presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  Finally, Gary offers up some thoughts on whether or not Mormonism will become an issue for Mitt Romney should he secure the nomination of the Republican Party in the 2012 elections.  At the very end of the interview, Tony professes ignorance about much of what was discussed and wonders why he is so lacking in knowledge.  Prof. Smith provides us a few thoughts about the state of historical education as pertains to the faith of our presidents.  Recorded: January 13, 2012.


Prof. Gary Scott Smith’s website at Grove City College.

Faith and the Presidency: Religion, Politics, and Public Policy from George Washington to George W. Bush, by Gary Scott Smith.

Heaven and the American Immagination, by Gary Scott Smith.


Mark David Hall on  Religion & the Founding Fathers.

John Fea on Religion & the American Founding.

Mark David Hall on Richard Sherman, Puritan Patriot.


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