No one will be surprised to learn that many in this year’s crop of presidential candidates think it’s perfectly great—no, essential—to mix religion with government. So, a scorecard released recently by the Secular Coalition of America [SCA] doesn’t contain any truly shocking revelations. But don’t stop reading just yet. The scorecard clarifies candidates’ ideas on religion and government by breaking them down into sub-categories: church-state separation, acceptance of evolution, and religious discrimination.
The resulting spreadsheet makes for very scary reading, for those of us who take seriously the Constitution’s separation clause, and for the 50 million “secular and nontheistic” [estimated by SCA] Americans who will help choose the next president in the 2012 election.
And, in case you were wondering, SCA also included President Obama in its ratings. He got the top ranking overall, but it’s a fairly low bar, when everyone else—except Mitt Romney and John Huntsman—gets an “F” on accepting evolution.
SCA’s summary chart of the findings looks like this:
Key: Candidate’s remarks and/or actions have been: A: Consistently positive; B: Neutral or occasionally positive; C: Mixes, with positive and negative responses; F: Consistently hostile or negative; N/A: At the time of publication, SCA was unable to verify the candidate’s position or did not have enough information to rate the candidate.
The full SCA report gives the details, including candidates’ responses to specific questions that factored into their scores. Here are a few excerpts:
On church and state separation
Bachmann: She linked the death of more than 40 Americans after Hurricane Irene in 2011 to a message from God admonishing politicians “to rein in the spending. In 2006, Bachmann told aChristian group that public schools “are teaching children that there is separation of church and state, and I am here to tell you that is a myth.”
Gingrich: From Gingrich’s presidential candidate website: “The revolutionary idea contained in the Declaration of Independence is that certain fundamental human rights, including the right to life, are gifts from God and cannot be given nor taken away by government. Yet, secular radicals are trying to remove ‘our creator’—the source of our rights—from public life.”
Attitude toward nontheists
Obama: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers,” hesaid. After the 2009 Fort Hood shootings he said, “Veterans’ Day is our chance to honor those Americans who’ve served on battlefields…They are Americans of every faith, and station. They are Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers.”
Bachmann: She said she believes “nothing is more important than” converting people before the world ends.
Gingrich: “There is no attack on American culture more deadly and more historically dishonestthan the secular Left’s relentless effort to drive God out of America’s public square,” 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.”
Santorum: “I think the key to the success of this country, how we all live together, because weare 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,” he said. However Santorum also stated, “The movement in our country to fly on ‘one wing’ reason alone will ultimately undermine the very foundation of our country—freedom.” (Two wings mean faith and reason.)
SCA’s rankings are based not on conjecture and stereotype, but on the candidates’ words themselves. Certainly, much campaign rhetoric is empty. But when it comes to religion, these people are serious. If one of them succeeds in defeating President Obama, those who want a firewall between government and religion have much to fear.
Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.