U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump peers from his vehicle following a campaign event in Atkinson, New Hampshire, on October 26, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CARSON-FAITH, originally transmitted on Oct. 27, 2015.

Iowans: Trump's attack on Carson's faith will fail

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump peers from his vehicle following a campaign event in Atkinson, New Hampshire, on October 26, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CARSON-FAITH, originally transmitted on Oct. 27, 2015.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump peers from his vehicle after a campaign event in Atkinson, N.H., on Monday (Oct. 26, 2015). Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CARSON-FAITH, originally transmitted on Oct. 27, 2015.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

DES MOINES — Iowa Republicans say Donald Trump's sneak attack on Ben Carson's religion won't work.

"It will fail miserably," said Mike Demastus, a pastor at Fort Des Moines Church of Christ. "For Donald Trump, as a name-only Presbyterian, to be criticizing somebody else for their faith statements is laughable. This is a guy who can't even quote a Bible scripture to someone."

Several influential Christian conservative leaders in Iowa, even those who publicly back GOP candidates other than Carson, came to the defense of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Monday.

READ: 5 faith facts about Ben Carson: retired neurosurgeon, Seventh-day Adventist

Trump touched off the controversy when he said at a campaign rally in Florida on Saturday: "I love Iowa. And, look, I don't have to say it, I'm Presbyterian. ... Boy, that's down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don't know about. I just don't know about."

Trump didn't name Carson, then he denied in an interview on ABC's This Week on Sunday that he was trying to plant seeds of doubt about his chief rival, who's now the front-runner in Iowa, polls show. But Republican caucusgoers say they got the message.

"He cast questions about Carson," said Andrea VanBeek, a 63-year-old Orange City Republican who intends to caucus for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. "In some ways, he's pretty smart in the way he says things without saying them, you know."

Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson appears on Fox Business Network's 'Varney & Co.' in New York on August 12, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brendan McDermid *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-GRIFFIN-COLUMN, originally transmitted on September 23, 2015, or with RNS-CARSON-FAITH, originally transmitted on Oct. 27, 2015.

Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson appears on Fox Business Network's "Varney & Co." in New York on Aug. 12, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-GRIFFIN-COLUMN, originally transmitted on Sept. 23, 2015, or with RNS-CARSON-FAITH, originally transmitted on Oct. 27, 2015.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

READ: Ben Carson’s faith (and mine) has already touched your life (COMMENTARY)

The Des Moines Register, in an article published Saturday about the 100 days until the Iowa caucuses, had noted that some conservatives have argued Seventh-day Adventists aren't Christians.

Trump's support in Iowa has plunged, although he remains securely in second place, according to a Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll and three other recent Iowa surveys.

"He's falling behind in the polls. He's got to do something," said Jeremiah Smart, the pastor of the Des Moines-area Seventh-day Adventist Church. "He's got to reach out and try to undermine Carson if he can."

READ: Ben Carson, will you tour the Holocaust Museum with me?

Smart said that's his personal view. The church doesn't endorse political candidates — or speak on behalf of Carson, he said. But the church is very focused on religious liberty, Smart said.

"Personally, I think we should look at each candidate individually in regards to their character and their positions on the issues rather than trying to bring up their religious background as a test," he said.

The views of self-described "born again" or evangelical Christians about Carson's faith could be important to the Republican caucus race because of the large bloc of likely caucusgoers who identify themselves that way — 42% in the most recent Iowa Poll. Support by evangelical voters helped propel Mike Huckabee to victory in the Iowa GOP caucuses in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012.

Several Iowa Republicans told the Register Monday they are skeptical of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but Carson's affiliation with the church isn't a reason to disqualify him for the White House.

READ: 5 faith facts about Donald Trump: a Presbyterian who collects Bibles

"I do see Seventh-day as a cult, and I see it as outside of Christian orthodoxy," said Dave Garlich, a 42-year-old Winterset Republican who works as an underwriter.

However, Garlich said, there's a strong Seventh-day Adventist church in Winterset, and its members are good people who are earnest in their beliefs. He said he appreciates Carson's political views, and Carson's religion has nothing to do with why he doesn't intend to caucus for him on Feb. 1. Garlich just thinks Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is the better candidate.

"Even though (Cruz) is in Washington, I see him as combating the establishment thinking," Garlich said.

Carson's Seventh-day Adventist connection concerns Cedar Rapids retiree Barbara Nuechterlein.

"I just feel that — how can I say it. All these religions are good, and none of us know which one is right, but I think Sunday is the day of the Sabbath created by the Lord, not Saturday," said Nuechterlein, who described herself as the first woman to work on a 17-man team at an Iowa electric company decades ago.

Nuechterlein also has qualms about Adventists who believe in the writings of evangelist Ellen White as much as they believe in biblical scripture.

"They're entitled to believe what they believe, and that's what makes America great," she said. But Carson would be better in a top job in the medical field, she said.

Nuechterlein intends to caucus for Trump, not because of Carson's religion, but because she doesn't think he's "tough enough" to deal with recalcitrant foreign nations.

Cary Gordon, senior pastor at Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, isn't a Carson fan.

"Ben Carson, not unlike Donald Trump, is a progressive, who happens to be registered as a Republican," he said.

But Seventh-day Adventist Christians are "honorable people doing their best to follow convictions they take from the explicit teachings of the Bible," Gordon said.

Demastus, in a separate interview, agreed, saying Seventh-day Adventists "are not outside Christian orthodoxy at all." They believe wholeheartedly in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross, he said.

"It's not like Mitt Romney and Mormonism. That's an entirely different issue for Christians in the state of Iowa," Demastus said. "Mormonism takes a completely different view of Jesus — they have other scriptures."

Demastus, a firm Cruz backer, said his criticism of Carson centers on his view of "waffling" by Carson on opposition to same-sex marriage and all abortions.

State Sen. Dennis Guth, R-Klemme, said Trump's broadside against Carson won't work because he isn't considered an authority on the Seventh-day Adventist faith, or any religion.

"It would be different if it came from some of the other more traditional candidates who live out a Christian faith in a more obvious way than Donald Trump does," Guth said. "But coming from Donald Trump, I don't think it's going to be effective."

Gary Miller, who has assisted with pastors policy briefings for the American Renewal Project, an effort to engage conservative ministers in politics, said there are likely some Iowa caucusgoers in conservative circles, and certainly more rigid fundamental circles, who have questions about Carson's religion.

"That's just something I know is going to have to be addressed," Miller said. "I think if Dr. Carson can just clearly express what his faith is built upon, in his own words, I think that would be the clarification that the people of Iowa need."

Carson was in preparation sessions for Wednesday's GOP debate in Colorado and unavailable for an interview with the Register, aides said.

Communications Director Doug Watts told the Register the Carson campaign expected Trump would react to a negative change in the polls.

"We are not surprised or offended at his remarks," Watts said. "There is still a long way to go before votes are cast, and we are focused on maintaining and building on our lead. Hopefully, we can."

( Jacobs reports for The Des Moines Register.)



  1. Carson is too progressive?? God “created Sunday as the Sabbath, not Saturday”? [check the Ten Commandments lady]. I think these people might have gone to too many pancake breakfasts. Seriously though, if Santorum as a Catholic could win, Carson can too. He just has to establish his evangelical credentials, like a non-Italian working with La Cosa Nostra [comparison for illustration purposes only, not to equate LCN and the evangelical movement].

  2. Don’t worry about the Seventh Day Adventist thing, endemic racism in the GOP is more of a detriment to Carson’s chances in the primary than sectarianism. The chances of the rank and file majority of the GOP electing a black man to represent them for president is astronomically low.

    Evangelical voters were willing to hold their noses to vote for a Mormon the last time around. They would do so for a Seventh Day Adventist.

    In the wild chance it does happen, it will be hilarious when the various conservative Catholic organizations give him their endorsement (as they do all Republican candidates for president). The SDA is virulently anti-Catholic. Moreso than most Protestant sects. Not just minor passive-aggressive hostility and anti-pathy, the SDA has a full blown hatred of the Catholic sect at its core. Calling them all sorts of Eschatological insults.

  3. Ben Carson sticks to the Truth that God/Jesus made it known that He is
    real through the miracle of creation because the earth didn’t creat itself
    but man chooses to deny God/Jesus/the Truth cause they love their sin.
    God is eternal/was not created so that’s where faith comes in to trust Him.

  4. The guy is a creationist. That means he cares little for truth and is willing to lie in service of his faith.

    There is no such thing as honest Creationism. An honest person states they believe because they have faith. Faith is belief in the absence of evidence or reason. A creationist claims faith is unnecessary and pretends to have evidence to support their belief.

    Creationists will say anything to support their religious belief. They care nothing of evidence or of credible methods of fact-finding. Its merely means to an end for validation. A very immature take on both rational methods of proof and religious belief.

  5. I got a chuckle out of that, too — ie God creating Sunday as the Sabbath.

    That sounds like an old “church lady” skit from Saturday Night Live.

    But the real fact that makes evangelicals look awfully silly is how more of them want Trump than say, Cruz. If they want a person of authentic faith like Carson, but they don’t want Carson, then Cruz, not Trump, should be their logical choice.

    I think this is a reflection of how evangelical Christians in America are intellectually the runt of the litter compared to evangelicals in other nations. I hate to say it, but it needs to be said. Support for Trump is just one more piece of evidence for it.

  6. That’s an interesting point. I haven’t met any fundamentalists from other countries, but I know there are some. If they subject themselves to more intellectual rigor than American fudagelicals do, that’s excellent, because right-wing American religion is certainly informed by stupidity. They also are not trying to institute theocratic dictatorship like American fundagelicals do, either.

    The Seventh Day Adventists are said to have grown out of the “Millerites,” some disciples of a the-end-is-here guy named Miller, after their “Great Disappointment” when the world didn’t end and presumably all the people they hated were carted off to hades or whatever. They do operate an impressive medical college and teaching hospital at Loma Linda, California, where I have received healthcare services when I lived in San Bernadino county there. That “the Sabbath must be on Saturday” stuff has got to be one of the most obscurationist arguments ever though.

  7. As to the author’s thesis, sure, it’s right – Iowa Republicans take their advocacy of theocracy seriously. Trump’s a Presbyterian? I’ll bet a C-Note his church is PCUSA, the liberal Presbyterian denomination which is a lot like Episcopalian, Methodist, etc., in other words, normal. that makes him practically a commonist as far as right-wing Iowa GOP caucus goers think.

  8. words in this article sure did not sound like persons of faith…. sounded MORE like political hacks. What Donald Trump said was not in attack in anyway… it was a factual statement. And anyone who could EVEN consider Ben Carson presidential material has a screw loose! The man has a background NOBODY wants to talk about..so lets talk about how he IS today! He talks with his eyes closed, parches his words as though he is always reading a script and has changed his mind within DAYS on every issue that gets any controversy. Donald Trump is very focal about how he feels on nearly every issue and NEVER changes what he says…regardless of who does not like it. Very much a man of conviction, as well as years of PROVEN business success and negotiation skills, NONE of which Ben Carson knows the LEAST about…so unless Iowans need brain surgery I really cannot figure out exactly after he attends church every Sunday WHAT they expect him to do for this Country? COMMON SENSE please.

  9. Yes Cheryl, “I don’t know about Seventh-day Adventism” was a factual statement on il Duce’s part, just not in the way you meant it. Trump never changes what he says…except concerning Hillary Clinton, drugs, foreign wars, the flat tax. Minor things. I also agree that his business skills are proven — he’s so incompetent that he filed for bankruptcy four times. A man of conviction– yes, he certainly was convinced that he didn’t want to be blown to pieces in Vietnam so he got deferments for his toe ouchy. Finally, did you really read this entire article and miss the fact that Carson doesn’t go to church on Sunday? Now tell me that Obama supporters are low-information voters.

  10. Theologically, I consider myself to be evangelical, although I’m one who attends a mainline, albeit evangelical-leaning, church. But on the whole, I’m a lot more impressed with the like-minded people I’ve met elsewhere in the world, from Denmark to Britain to Germany. The intellectual level is higher, and in many cases, I see more signs of spiritual maturity. I think that if evangelicals in America were to face real tribulation or persecution, too many of them would fold like a house of cards. There’s far too much whining here about how the culture is declining, and not enough tough introspection on how the laziness of evangelicals, spiritually and politically (most don’t vote), is playing a big role.

  11. In other words, George, evangelicals in America are too nice, too complacent, and too passive. They are being accused of being the opposite precisely because too many of their enemies know it and know that not enough are going to fight back.

    The situation is similar to the reaction of America’s enemies to America in the post-9/11 world. If America were really the bully it was accused of being, its foes would be too scared to say so. It is precisely because America’s response to 9/11 and to terrorism in general has been so minimalist — even under the supposedly tough President Bush — that it has emboldened its enemies to say the opposite.

  12. The truth is that God has no beginning and no end (Psalm 90:2), but Jesus, the son of God (Matt. 3:17) had a start, and he is referred to as the “Amen, the faithful and true witness and the beginning of the creation by God” (Revelation 3:14). Jesus will now have no end since he proved faithful to God until his death on earth.

  13. Bernardo, most people never have and never will cast their votes for President based on the candidates’ views on abortion. Rightly or wrongly, other issues rank far higher in their calculus.

  14. Please read the website and others previously presented that show that abortion is an important issue when voting.

  15. Because they haven’t started voting on a national level and the establishment hates Trump.

    “America’s party of racism historically has been the Democratic party”

    Which stopped being relevant after 1964 when those segregationist Democrats jumped ship to form the social conservative/religious right base for the Republican Party. Of course this has been pointed out to you numerous times. But you just ignore and repeat it. Like many things. A useful lie never dies if it can serve a purpose. 🙂

    Of course your premise that black people don’t know any better and are too ignorant to vote Republican (who obviously have their best interest in heart) is even more racist than you can possibly imagine.

  16. Bernardo, I read the article and looked at the chart.

    Maybe you should do likewise.

    Nearly 80% of Americans still say that they will not vote for or against someone based primarily on the abortion issue. That’s been my point from the get-go. That’s a huge majority.

    Moreover, the article says that pro-lifers are more intense than pro-choicers. That doesn’t surprise me a bit, because a huge percentage of self-identified pro-choicers really aren’t pro-choice at all, if by pro-choice, we mean supporting abortion at every stage in the pregnancy.

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