After some controversial remarks about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elemetary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, Mike Huckabee sought to clarify his remarks. He was not saying that the shooting would not have happened if state-sponsored prayer were allowed in public schools, but was noting the irony of asking "where is God?" after a tragedy, but not talking about God at other times.
"We ask why there's violence in our school but we've systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools have become such a place of carnage? Because we've made it a place where we don't want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability," Huckabee said on Fox News Saturday.
Later that night, Huckabee complained on his TV show, Fox News' "Huckabee," that liberals were accusing him of saying that the shooting would not have happened if the United States had prayer in schools. Arguing that he "said nothing of the sort," Huckabee explained that he was talking about a broader cultural shift in which discussions about God, faith and morality are considered only appropriated in religious institutions, not the public square.
"It's far more than just taking prayer or Bible reading out of the schools. It's that fact that people sue a city so we're not confronted with a manger scene or a Christmas carol, and lawsuits are filed to remove a cross that's a memorial to fallen soldiers. Churches and Christian-owned businesses are told to surrender their values under the edict of government orders to provide tax funded abortion pills. We carefully and intentionally stop saying things are 'sinful' and we call them 'disorders.' Sometimes we even say they are normal. And, to get to where we have to abandon bedrock moral truths, then we are asked, well 'where was God?' And I respond that, as I see it, we've escorted Him right out of our culture and we've marched Him off the public square and then we express our surprise that a culture without Him actually reflects what it has become," Huckabee said.
After the tragedy, God did show up, Huckabee said, in the teachers who sacrificed themselves to save their students, the hugs and tears of family members, the policemen who risked their lives, in the Church vigils, and "in the White House, where the president invoked His name and quoted from His book."
In the near future, after talk about the tragedy has subsided, Huckabee added, "we'll probably ask God to excuse Himself from view and we'll announce in our arrogant pride that we're now enlightened and educated, and we've evolved beyond needing Him."
After the July shooting in Aurora, Colo., Huckabee made similar remarks.
"We don't have a crime problem, a gun problem or even a violence problem. What we have is a sin problem. And since we've ordered god out of our schools, and communities, the military and public conversations, you know we really shouldn't act so surprised ... when all hell breaks loose," he said at the time.
Negative reactions to Huckabee's words did not only come from liberals. In a column for the conservative Commentary magazine, Peter Wehner, who used to work in the George W. Bush White House and describes himself as "somewhat (though not entirely) sympathetic to the conservative social agenda," characterized Huckabee's remarks as witless, theologically confused, flippant and offensive.
"The psychologist Abraham Maslow once said that if you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. For Mike Huckabee, his hammer is removing God from school – and he tends to see every massacre as a nail," Wehner argued.
Huckabee was previously governor of Arkansas and ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2008. Before entering politics, he was a Southern Baptist preacher.