Secular Coalition Fails Most 2012 Presidential Candidates on Religiously Intrusive Issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The Secular Coalition for America today released its 2012 Presidential Candidate Scorecard—a guide for secular-minded Americans on the presidential candidates in the upcoming 2012 election. The scorecard ranks the major candidates of both Republican and Democratic parties on issues important to nontheistic Americans, and all Americans who support a robust separation of church and state.

Of the three leading Republican candidates, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and U.S. Representative Ron Paul received mostly negative scores, while former U.S. Representative and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich received a grade of “F” in almost every category. U.S. Representative Michelle Bachmann, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum also received almost exclusively negative grades in most categories. Former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and President Barack Obama received mixed positives.

“Given the current political climate, I’m not surprised that the candidates received mixed ratings at best,” said Herb Silverman, President of the Secular Coalition for America. “Nontheists almost never get the opportunity to vote for a candidate who openly acknowledges being an atheist, but it’s frightening to see that at least half of the candidates don’t have a basic understanding of the principle of separation of church and state on which our country was founded.”

The scorecard assigned grades of "A", "B", "C" or "F" to the eight major candidates based on their public statements and actions on nine subjects:

  • Attitude Toward Nontheists
  • Church & State Separation
  • Taxpayer Funding of Religion
  • God, Faith & Governance
  • Endorsements & Associations
  • Evolution
  • Scientifically Based Regulations & Legislation
  • Religious Discrimination & Civil Rights
  • Religious Refusal Laws 


With the rise of the Christian Right, religion has played an increased role in recent elections. This year, the candidates have emphasized how their religious faith influences their public life. In November, all but two of the Republican candidates—Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney—participated in the Thanksgiving Family Forum debate at an Iowa evangelical mega-church which focused on the candidates’ religious beliefs.

For the nearly 50 million secular Americans—and the millions more who value the separation of church and state—the scorecard provides information on where each candidate stands on issues important to them.

Of the mixed positive grades, Huntsman scored well because of his ability to separate his personal religious beliefs from his secular duties as an elected official. Obama also received positive marks because of his open inclusion of nontheists, and support for separation of church and state and scientifically based regulations and legislation.

Of the lead Republicans, Gingrich’s responses were overwhelmingly negative, showing hostility toward secular Americans and an unwillingness to separate his religious beliefs from his previous and prospective roles as an elected official. His statements were hostile to atheists, going so far as to refer to atheists as un-American. He said, “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time [my grandchildren are] my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

“While voters will choose a candidate based on many issues, we hope this scorecard will help voters make a more informed decision,” Secular Coalition President Herb Silverman said. “We will continue to hold all our politicians accountable to the constitutional mandate for separation of church and state.”

Closer to the November 2012 election, the Secular Coalition will publish an updated scorecard to compare both the Republican and Democratic party nominees, including Vice Presidential running mates, and any notable third-party candidates.

View the 2012 Presidential Candidate Scorecard in its entirety at http://secular.org/content/2012-presidental-candidate-scorecard. View the PDF at http://secular.org/files/2012scapresidentialcandidatescorecard.pdf.



CONTACT: Lauren Anderson Youngblood, SCA communications manager:202-299-1091 ext. 205 or [email protected]

The Secular Coalition for America is a 501 c(4) organization that serves as the national lobby for atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic Americans. Composed of ten diverse member organizations, SCA works to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. For more information, please visit www.secular.org.

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