Halcro and Knowles looked to get Palin on the ropes tonight on the public television debate, quizzing her and asking her for specifics on her plans. She fought back, going after Knowles on predator control and spending money on Outside media production, for example.
Toward the end, moderator Michael Carey said people would be hearing all about the candidates’ views on things like public employee pensions and the pipeline over the next several days, and looked to change things up with a pair of curveball questions about religion:
Is it OK for religious leaders to endorse candidates, and should public schools teach alternatives to evolution (such as creationism and intelligent design?)
First, he asked how they would feel if they walked into a church and heard a minister or pastor endorse a candidate for governor.
(Note, the following are excerpts, not the candidates’ full responses.)
HALCRO said: “I don’t have a problem with it, I mean I think everybody certainly has the right to freedom of speech …
“The big issue I have is when religious organizations exert that power and craft public policy like the recent tax exemption law that passed in, in Juneau this spring. And I think those are the things, when you use that leverage from the pulpit to, to tweak or to form public policy, I think that’s detrimental to the state and to the country.”
KNOWLES: “Freedom of speech. I don’t mind what is said from the pulpit.
“I also look at ways at which we can, to public policy, in a positive way, bring religious beliefs. I did so with a subsistence summit that I held here in Anchorage.
“And I wanted to get beyond the stakeholders which for decade it seemed like had been fighting tooth and nail. So I wanted to bring business leaders and religious leaders …
(Knowles talked about a Russian Orthodox priest who responded to someone's comment at the summit that people would never actually die if they didn’t have subsistence.)
“… (He) said in a very quite voice that you will die not only culturally, you will die spiritually, and yes you will even die physically, and it riveted the crowd.
“With AFN meeting here this week, I think it’s important to remember that kind of sense and understanding brought good public policy.”
PALIN: “A pastor, a priest, a rabbi, certainly they have the freedom to say whatever they want to say. And you know, thank the lord that we do have that freedom of speech.
“Faith is very important to so many of us here in America, and I would never support any government effort to stifle our freedom of religion or freedom of expression or freedom of speech.
“You know, I would just caution maybe a pastor to be very careful if they’re in front of a congregation and they decide to endorse one candidate over another. You know, there may be some frustration with that candidacy endorsement being made manifest by a few, fewer dollars in the offering plate, so I would just offer that bit of caution. (laughing.)
"But, no, I’ll tell you, freedom of speech is so precious and it’s worth defending and of course freedom of religion and freedom of expression will be things that I will fight for.”
Next, Carey asked about teaching alternatives to evolution - such as creationism and intelligent design - in public schools.
HALCRO: “I think anything that is religious-based in, in concept, you know, really should, needs to be taught in the proper channel - philosophy, sociology.
“I don’t think it should be taught as a science.”
“… The answer is no. The reason why is we don’t want politics in our science. We actually want more science in our politics.
"We don’t want to just teach all things because it may be politically correct. We want to teach the best science there is, and there is overwhelming evidence, there’s almost incontrovertible evidence that evolution is the science that, that we know.
“And that’s what we should always teach, to never compromise on the principals just because it’s politically popular.”
PALIN: “Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information.
“Healthy debate is so important and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.
"And, you know, I say this, too, as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject -- creationism and evolution.
“It’s been a healthy foundation for me. But don’t be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides.”