Trump attacks shine spotlight on Hillary Clinton’s faith

Trump attacks shine spotlight on Hillary Clinton’s faith
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As secretary of State, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' What Trump got wrong by pushing coal Trump is fighting the wrong war MORE went to the famed Apollo Theater to hear the senior pastor at the Bronx Christian Fellow Baptist Church preach about finding joy in life and of getting up when you’re knocked down.

Clinton was moved by Suzan Johnson Cook’s sermon about being in South Africa and watching Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela dance the “Toyi-Toyi” in an auditorium.

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She loved Cook’s view that Mandela’s body and spirit were telegraphing the message that he was once a prisoner but he turned into a president — an act of God. 

The secretary of State would later tell friends she was “swept away” by Cook’s “infectious ability to touch everyone” in the room and later asked her to be the State’s ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.

The inspiration at the Apollo was a small but telling example of how religious faith and secular values have intersected throughout Clinton’s life.

Confidantes, aides and other allies of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee say she is a spiritual woman whose foundation was laid in her Methodist upbringing.

While they say Clinton isn't one to wear religion on her sleeve, she views her faith as a staple of who she is.

On the campaign trail, she has been known to invoke John Wesley, the founder of the church. She says she has lived by his philosophy to “do all the good we can, in whatever ways we can, to all the people we can for as long as we can,” something she reiterated at a campaign event in North Carolina on Wednesday as she faced attacks about her faith from Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE, the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

Trump told a group of evangelical leaders earlier this week that little is known about Clinton’s religious views as he sought to differentiate himself from his likely opponent this fall.

“She’s been in the public eye for years and years and yet, there’s nothing out there” about Clinton’s faith, Trump said.

“I know nothing about it,” he told CBS in an interview the following day. 

The comments angered people in Clinton World.

“I would suggest he might want to do his homework,” Karen Finney, Clinton’s senior adviser for communications and political outreach, said in an interview.

Clinton wrote of her Methodist faith in her 2014 book, "Hard Choices."

The Wesleyan call to service “helped me decide to take the plunge into elected office when I launched my first Senate campaign in 2000 and now it helped me make the hard choice to leave the Senate and accept the position of Secretary of State,” she wrote.  

Earlier this year, asked by a Catholic supporter at an event in Iowa if her beliefs align with the Ten Commandments and whether that is something important to her, Clinton said: “It is very important to me. I am a person of faith. I am Christian. I am a Methodist.”

“My study of the Bible, my many conversations with people of faith, has led me to believe that the most important commandment is to love the lord with all your might and to love your neighbor as yourself and that is what I think we are commanded by Christ to do,” she said.

Clinton — who was confirmed in the 6th grade at her family’s church in Park Ridge, Ill., and took part in its youth group, once taught a Sunday school class for adults on forgiveness. 

In Washington during the Clinton administration, the first couple frequently attended Foundry Methodist Church, down the street from the White House. Clinton, friends say, has turned to her faith during the more rocky times of her life, including the Monica Lewinsky scandal. 

“She is relatively quiet and modest about her faith, but the still waters run very deep,” said one longtime Clinton adviser and confidante. 

Aides who served on her Senate staff recall that Clinton was part of the weekly Senate Prayer Group, though one staffer said she “never drew attention to it.”

Clinton has also been known to field frequent spiritual reflections from Burns Strider, who served as a one-time faith adviser to her, as well as Minyon Moore, her longtime friend and confidante. Sometimes the messages involve teachings from theologians Thomas Martin and Henri Nouwen. 

The Clinton campaign's latest slogan, “Stronger Together,” takes a very Wesleyan approach, aides say.

In the speech in North Carolina on Wednesday, Clinton said fighting for children was the “cause of my life,” something she said was “rooted in the values that I learned from my family and my faith.

“We are all in this together and we are responsible to lift each other up,” she said at the event, before quoting Wesley.

While some longtime allies acknowledge that Clinton has talked about her faith only fleetingly, her campaign aides say there have been many times during the campaign cycle when Clinton has spoken about her beliefs.

They point to the conversation Clinton had with the Rev. Frederick Donnie Hunt during a trip to South Carolina last year when she talked about First Corinthians 13.

“It’s alive,” Clinton said about the bible, according to a CNN report. “It’s the living word.”

Earlier this year, during a visit to Flint, Mich., Clinton stood at the pulpit at the House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church and promised to help with the community ravaged by a polluted water crisis.

“I want you to know this has to be a national priority not just for today or tomorrow,” she said. 

Finney, who now serves on the Clinton campaign but also worked for Clinton when she was first lady, said Clinton’s faith is something that has sustained her throughout her life. 

“She does talk about it and it comes very naturally to her,” she said.