Roughly halfway through last night’s Republican debate on CNN, candidates quit talking about the economy and how awful Obama is to talk about faith. Here are some excerpts that I found particularly interesting followed by some commentary about what I think makes them noteworthy.
Just what role does faith play in your political life?
I think the key to the success of this country, how we all live together, because we are a very diverse country -- Madison called it the perfect remedy -- which was to allow everybody, people of faith and no faith, to come in and make their claims in the public square, to be heard, have those arguments, and not to say because you're not a person of faith, you need to stay out, because you have strong faith convictions, your opinion is invalid.
-Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum
Nonbelievers got a shout out! Even if it was from Rick Santorum, who decries the "secularization" of our society and denies that the Crusades were Christian aggression towards non-Christians; it was still an acknowledgment of our group. Nonbelievers, or “people of no faith,” are increasingly becoming more visible, and that is the way it should be. Roughly 15 percent of Americans claim no religious affiliation or are atheist or agnostic. That’s 46 million people. We deserve more recognition on the national stage.
I'm just wondering what your definition of the separation of church and state is and how it will affect your decision-making.
Well, the protections between the separation of church and state were designed to protect people of faith from government, not government from people of faith.
-Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty
Exactly – except that it was meant to protect people of faith and no faith from government. So why is it OK, in Pawlenty’s eyes, for the government to establish Days of Prayer or give tax money to groups that proselytize? Where are nonbelievers’ protections from government actions promoting religion? Perhaps Pawlenty does explicitly want to protect the people of faith from a secular government and not the government from being used as a proselytizing tool for people of faith. In 2003, Pawlenty praised faith-based initiatives for being able to “change peoples’ hearts.” I was unaware the government should be investing tax money in the heart-changing business.
When asked about abortion rights, Congresswoman Michele Bachman began to speak on the “right to life.”
And I think the most eloquent words ever written were those in our Declaration of Independence that said it's a creator who endowed us with inalienable rights given to us from God, not from government. And the beauty of that is that government cannot take those rights away. Only God can give, and only God can take.
-Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann
While the Declaration of Independence does reference “their Creator,” does that necessarily mean God? The “Creator” referenced may have been a rhetorical flourish of Thomas Jefferson’s that was not meant to be a factual chronology of our inalienable rights and how we received them. God never sent me a notice in the mail, giving me my rights, nor have I ever heard of God taking someone’s rights away. I thought I had these rights by virtue of being a human being, the same way I walk on two legs, breath air, and have a large brain because I am a human being. Setting this point aside, Bachmann still does not stand by her assertion that government cannot take away these rights of questionable origin. In 2003, she introduced a constitutional amendment to the Minnesota constitution that would define marriage as between one man and one woman. Maybe Bachmann believes God didn’t give gays and lesbians the right to pursue their happiness.
Watch the candidates' full comments on faith and church/state separation here.
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