Religion in the New Hampshire debate

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Religion did rear its lovely head at St. Anselm’s last evening, and all things considered, the line-up offered some noteworthy responses. To be sure, the colloquy (reprinted after the jump) began inauspiciously, with Tim Pawlenty responding to a question about church-state separation by bolting on the religious right boilerplate about how our constitutional “protections…were designed to protect people of faith from government, not
government from people of faith.” I’d give a lot to hear some Republican politician say, “Actually, the founders left it up to the states to establish or not establish an official religion, and as a big fan of the 10th Amendment I’m down with that.”

Rick Santorum was up next, and he went where Barack Obama, of all people, went before–declaring that the “key” to America’s success was “to allow everybody, people of faith and no
faith, to come in and make their claims in the public square.” Maybe the defeated senator from Pennsylvania learned something useful during his time at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “Nones for Santorum” anyone?

John King then turned the floor over to Ron Paul, who displayed the classic Pauline eccentricity by declaring, “You can’t teach people how to be moral.” This was on the road to interpreting the Establishment Clause as “No theocracy.” “OK. Great,” responded King, and it’s hard to disagree.

Next, WMUR political reporter Josh McElveen steered the discussion over to Herman Cain, who is still trying to wriggle free from his statement back in March that he wouldn’t hire a Muslim for his administration. He’s didn’t wriggle very far this time, but did grab some applause by invoking the threat of Shariah law.

That gave MItt Romney the chance to act like the only adult in the room, and he didn’t blow it: “Well, first of all, of course, we’re not going to have
Sharia law applied in U.S. courts. That’s never going to happen. We
have a Constitution and we follow the law.” The candidate who’s got the best personal purchase on the importance of those constitutional protections (designed, pace Pawlenty, to prevent religious majorities from using government to disfavor religious minorities) went on to stress the importance of treating people with respect regardless of their religious persuasion and make clear that what mattered was the oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.

Always eager to have the last word, Newt Gingrich proceeded to disgrace himself by suggesting that some Muslims would lie about upholding the Constitution and so a little good old McCarthyism was needed to keep them honest.

On the evening that the Bruins tied up the Stanley Cup 3-3, my scorecard reads Romney 2, Santorum 1, Everybody Else 0.

Excerpt from June 13 Debate

I’m just wondering what your definition of the separation of church and state is and how it will affect your decision-making.

KING: Governor Pawlenty, I want you to take that one first.

PAWLENTY: 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. This is a country that in our
founding documents says we’re a nation that’s founded under God, and
the privileges and blessings at that we have are from our creator.
They’re not from our member of Congress. They’re not from our county

And 39 of the 50 states have in the very early phrases of their
constitutions language like Minnesota has in its preamble. It says
this, “We the people of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and
religious liberties,” and so the Founding Fathers understood that the
blessings that we have as a nation come from our creator and we should
stop and say thanks and express gratitude for that. I embrace that.


KING: Let’s spend a little time talking. Let’s spend a little bit of time talking about it.

Senator, let’s start with you. Just what role does faith play in
your political life? Are there decisions, certain issues where some
might you just, let’s meet with my advisers, what does my gut say, and
others where you might retreat and have a moment of private prayer?

SANTORUM: I’m some who believes that you approach issues using
faith and reason. And if your faith is pure and your reason is right,
they’ll end up in the same place.

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. Just the opposite — we get along
because we know that we — all of our ideas are allowed in and
tolerated. That’s what makes America work.

KING: Congressman Paul, does faith have a role in these public
issues, the public square, or is it a personal issue at your home and in
your church?

PAUL: I think faith has something to do with the character of the
people that represent us, and law should have a moral fiber to it and
our leaders should. We shouldn’t expect us to try to change morality.
You can’t teach people how to be moral.

But the Constitution addresses this by saying — literally, it says
no theocracy. But it doesn’t talk about church and state. The most
important thing is the First Amendment. Congress shall write no laws —
which means Congress should never prohibit the expression of your
Christian faith in a public place. KING: OK. Great. Let’s go
down to Josh McElveen, and let’s continue the conversation.


MCELVEEN: Thank you.

While we’re on the topic of faith and religion, the next question
goes to Mr. Cain. You recently said you would not appoint a Muslim to
your cabinet and you kind of back off that a little bit and said you
would first want to know if they’re committed to the Constitution. You
expressed concern that, quote, “a lot of Muslims are not totally
dedicated to this country.”

Are American-Muslims as a group less committed to the Constitution than, say, Christian or Jews?

CAIN: First, the statement was would I be comfortable with a Muslim
in my administration, not that I wouldn’t appoint one. That’s the
exact transcript.

And I would not be comfortable because you have peaceful Muslims and
then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us.

And so, when I said I wouldn’t be comfortable, I was thinking about the ones that are trying to kill us, number one.

Secondly, yes, I do not believe in Sharia law in American courts. I
believe in American laws in American courts, period. There have been
instances –


CAIN: There have been instances in New Jersey — there was an
instance in Oklahoma where Muslims did try to influence court decisions
with Sharia law. I was simply saying very emphatically, American laws
in American courts.

KING: So, on that point, Governor Romney let me come to you on this.

What Mr. Cain is saying that he would have — my term, not his — a
purity test or a loyalty test. He would want to ask a Muslim a few
question or a few questions before he hired them, but he wouldn’t ask
those questions of a Christian or Jew.

CAIN: Sorry. No, you are restating something I did not say, OK? If I may, OK?

KING: Please let’s make it clear.

CAIN: When you interview a person for a job, you look at their —
you look at their work record, you look at their resume, and then you
have a one-on-one personal interview. During that personal interview,
like in the business world and anywhere else, you are able to get a
feeling for how committed that person is to the Constitution, how
committed they are to the mission of the organization –

KING: When I asked — I asked this question the other night, though,
you said you want to ask a Muslim those questions but you didn’t you
have to ask them to a Christian or a Jew?

CAIN: I would ask certain questions, John. And it’s not a litmus
test. It is simply trying to make sure that we have people committed
to the Constitution first in order for them to work effectively in the

KING: Should one segment, Governor — I mean, one segment of
Americans, in this case, religion, but in any case, should one segment
be singled out and treated differently?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, of course, we’re not going to have
Sharia law applied in U.S. courts. That’s never going to happen. We
have a Constitution and we follow the law.

No, I think we recognize that the people of all faiths are welcome
in this country. Our nation was founded on a principal of religious
tolerance. That’s in fact why some of the early patriots came to this
country and we treat people with respect regardless of their religious

Obviously, anybody who would come into my administration would be
someone who I knew, who I was comfortable with, and who I believed
would honor as their highest oath — their oath to defend and protect
the Constitution of the United States.

KING: Mr. Speaker, go ahead.

GINGRICH: I just want to comment for a second. The Pakistani who
emigrated to the U.S. became a citizen, built a car bomb which luckily
failed to go off in Times Square was asked by the federal judge, how
could he have done that when he signed — when he swore an oath to the
United States. And he looked at the judge and said, “You’re my enemy. I

Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I’m in favor of saying
to people, if you’re not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you
will not serve in my administration, period.


GINGRICH: We did this — we did this in dealing with the Nazis and
we did this in dealing with the communists. And it was controversial
both times, and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there
are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country.
And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say no.