Jimmy Carter’s religious legacy

Former President Jimmy Carter has announced that he has cancer and that it has spread to his brain. His time in office as the 39th president of the United States was pivotal in uncovering the relationship between religion and politics in the public sphere. On the campaign trail in 1976, he spoke openly about his personal faith, becoming one of the first presidential candidates to do so. Since then, every candidate has had to answer questions about his or her beliefs. Jimmy Carter — for better or worse — brought religion firmly into the American political process.

This edition of ReligionLink is intended to help reporters cover the impact Carter has had on Americans’ perceptions of Christianity. How did journalists cover religion in politics before he ran for office? How did Americans think about the religious beliefs of their presidents before and after his tenure? How will they respond to watching this deeply religious and very public man battle this illness and face its outcome? Speaking about his condition, he said: “I’m perfectly at ease with whatever comes. I do have a deep religious faith, which I’m very grateful for.”


Articles and stories:

More background:

Carter’s writings on faith:


National sources



  • Michael Cromartie

    Michael Cromartie is vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., where he heads its Evangelicals in Civic Life program. He is also an expert on religious liberty and Christianity and politics. His books include, as editor, Religion and Politics in America: A Conversation.

  • John C. Green

    John C. Green is a senior fellow at the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, specializing in religion and American politics. He also serves as interim university president, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics and distinguished professor of political science at the University of Akron.

  • D. Michael Lindsay

    D. Michael Lindsay is a sociologist and the president of Gordon College, a Christian school in Wenham, Mass. His focus is on issues surrounding leadership, organizations and culture. He is a former Gallup consultant with an expertise on research about evangelicals. Lindsay is author of the 2007 book Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite and the 2014 book View From the Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World.

  • Mark Noll

    Mark Noll is Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame and one of the most cited authorities today on evangelicalism in America. He co-founded the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College, where he taught for many years. Noll’s many books include America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln.

  • Mark Rozell

    Mark Rozell is a professor of public policy at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., and co-editor of Religion and the American PresidencyReligion and the Bush Presidency and The Values Campaign?: The Christian Right and the 2004 Elections.

  • Gleaves Whitney

    Gleaves Whitney is director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and co-editor of Religion and the American Presidency.

  • Alan Wolfe

    Alan Wolfe is the founding director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College and a frequent commentator on religion and politics. His books include The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith, which focuses on the impact of evangelicals on American religious culture. He has written widely on secularism.