August 3, 2017

Businessman-turned-politician Fred Hubbell’s biography is generations deep in Iowa. In fact, it tracks with the history of our state itself.

His family, beginning in the mid-1800s, built much of the foundation of the Des Moines, and indeed Iowa, economy.

On Hubbell’s campaign website one scrolls quickly to see a photo of his attractive family, smiles widening through the still frame, the picture of comfort and ease. There are two babies and even a little dog.

We learn that Hubbell, a Democratic candidate for governor from Des Moines, met his wife, Charlotte, in law school at the University of Iowa. The couple have three children and the same number of grandkids.

There are some details on his career at Younkers and Equitable of Iowa — and a resume of philanthropic and public-minded pursuits as impressive in scope as any living Iowan.

He’s lived a full life at age 66, and his campaign biography reflects it. As it should. It ain’t bragging if you can back it up, as they say in Texas.

But Hubbell’s bio-heavy web presence fails to mention his church or make any reference to faith. OK. Some politicians include a brief note on their religion, others skip it, and some elaborate as if the Holy Spirit were riding shotgun on their fingers as they keyboarded affirmation and testimony to Jesus Christ.

So why is there is no reference to church or faith from Hubbell?

Is Hubbell not a religious man, or does he just not believe it is appropriate to discuss faith in the public square? Or is the absence explained simply as an oversight?

“I largely think that faith is a personal issue,” Hubbell said in an interview with this newspaper. “I grew up in an Episcopal church. We raised our kids in a Congregational church, over here at Plymouth Congregational Church. We still go sometimes. I wouldn’t say we’re frequent church-goers. But we do go sometimes.”

So does Hubbell describe himself as a Christian?

“I would say that I have faith,” Hubbell said.

But would he go so far as to say he’s Christian?

“I think people are allowed to have their own faith, whether that’s Christian or Buddhist or Jewish or Catholic or Muslim or whatever,” Hubbell said. “I think people deserve to have their own faith, whatever that is. And I think our country and our state should recognize and encourage all those faiths.”

Should voters be able to ask Hubbell to elaborate on his faith?

“Well, I’ve already told you where we go to church,” he said.

Hubbell attends a Christian church, but why is he hesitant to define himself as a Christian?

“I’m happy to say that I’m a Christian, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not sympathetic and supportive of other religions,” Hubbell said. “That’s my point.”

So Hubbell is Christian?

“I go to a Christian church,” he said.

Fair enough. But why is it so important to Hubbell to make a distinction between acknowledging attendance in a Christian church and defining himself as a Christian?

“Because I fundamentally think that religion is a personal issue,” Hubbell said. “Whether I’m Christian or not I don’t think is the most important issue for somebody running for any office in our country. There is separation of church and state, which I support.”