John McCain's vice-presidential pick, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is an evangelical Protestant with a strong record of opposition to abortion and an openness to teaching creationism in the public schools.
Palin is the mother of five children, one of whom was born with Down Syndrome. She learned that her son had Down Syndrome when she was four months pregnant, and she told the Associated Press in May that she never considered ending the pregnancy. "We've both been very vocal about being pro-life," she said in the AP interview. "We understand that every innocent life has wonderful potential." Palin also said of her son, whose name is Trig Paxon Van Palin, "I'm looking at him right now, and I see perfection. Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?"
In November of 2006, the Anchorage Daily News described Palin's positions on social issues in a story wrapping up the governor's race:
"A significant part of Palin's base of support lies among social and Christian conservatives. Her positions on social issues emerged slowly during the campaign: on abortion (should be banned for anything other than saving the life of the mother), stem cell research (opposed), physician-assisted suicide (opposed), creationism (should be discussed in schools), state health benefits for same-sex partners (opposed, and supports a constitutional amendment to bar them)."
And in October of 2006, the Anchorage Daily News reported that Palin said the following about creationism at a debate:
"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."
Palin identifies herself as a Christian; she headed her high school's Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Here's a bit more detail on her faith life from the first story in a two-part profile that ran in 2006 in the Anchorage Daily News:
"Palin's parents say they are not political and don't know how she decided to turn her ambition and work ethic toward politics. Her Christian faith, they say, came from her mother, who took her children to area Bible churches as they were growing up (Sarah is the third of four siblings). They say her faith has been steady since high school, when she led the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and grew stronger as she sought out believers in her college years. Palin doesn't brandish her religion on the campaign trail, but that doesn't prevent others from doing so. After she was first elected mayor, her predecessor, John Stein, objected that a Valley cable TV program had hailed her as Wasilla's first 'Christian mayor.' In a column for the local newspaper, he named eight previous mayors and added that he, too, was a Christian, despite a name that led some voters to suspect 'I must be a non-Christian, have non-Christian blood or at least have sympathized with a non-Christian sometime in my career.'"
(Photo by Reuters.)