POLITICS
09/30/2007 01:27 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Clarifies Claim That He'd Prefer A Christian President

As Arianna predicted, Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) campaign released the following statement moments ago:

"The senator did not intend to assert that members of one religious faith or another have a greater claim to American citizenship over another. Read in context, his interview with beliefnet makes clear that people of all faiths are entitled to all the rights protected by the Constitution, including the right to practice their religion freely. In the interview he also observed that the values protected by the Constitution, by which he meant values such as respect for human life and dignity, are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is all he intended to say to the question, America is a Christian nation, and it is hardly a controversial claim."

But this statement barely makes reference to his controversial statement that he prefers a president with a "solid grounding in my faith." Here are his full remarks from the Beliefnet interview:

Q: It doesn't seem like a Muslim candidate would do very well, according to that standard.

MCCAIN: I admire the Islam. There's a lot of good principles in it. I think one of the great tragedies of the 21st century is that these forces of evil have perverted what's basically an honorable religion. But, no, I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles.... personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith. But that doesn't mean that I'm sure that someone who is Muslim would not make a good president. I don't say that we would rule out under any circumstances someone of a different faith. I just would--I just feel that that's an important part of our qualifications to lead.*

*McCain contacted Beliefnet after the interview to clarify his remarks: "I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values."