The Democratic candidates for President of the US held a debate that was hosted by CNN and YouTube. Of interest to those who support the separation of church and state, is one of the questions about religion and government:
COOPER: In our remaining few minutes, the questions turn to two subjects — God and guns. First question.
QUESTION: Hi, I’m Zenne Abraham in Oakland, California. The cathedral behind me is the perfect backdrop for this question. This quarter reads “United States of America.” And when I turn it over, you find that it reads “liberty, in God we trust.” What do those words mean to you? Thank you.
COOPER: Senator Biden.
BIDEN: Religion informs my values.
BIDEN: My reason dictates outcomes. My religion taught me about abuse of power. That’s why I moved to write the Violence Against Women Act. That’s why I take the position I take on Darfur. It came about as a consequence of the reasoning that we’re able to do it.
You know, look, I don’t think they’re inconsistent. I don’t find anything inconsistent about my deep, religious beliefs and my ability to use reason. I think the coin’s got it just right. I think I have it in perspective.
COOPER: Here’s a question from the other side of the coin.
QUESTION: Good evening. My name is Stephen Marsh of Thousand Oaks, California, proud citizen of the United States of America that does not believe in God. However, the former President Bush said this statement was an oxymoron.
Now, I am worried about the amount of time given to evangelical concerns while secular voters are more or less getting a snubbed — the faith and politics forum.
So my question is this: Am I wrong in fearing a Democratic administration that may be lip service to the extremely religious as much as the current one? And if so, why? Thank you for your time.
COOPER: Senator Edwards?
EDWARDS: As president of the United States, we will embrace and lift up all Americans, whatever their faith beliefs or whether they have no faith beliefs, as Stephen just spoke about. That’s what America is.
Now, my faith is enormously important to me personally. It’s gotten me through some hard times, as I’m sure that’s true of a lot of the candidates who are on this stage.
But it is crucial that the American people know that as president it will not be my job — and I believe it would be wrong — for me to impose my personal faith beliefs on the American people or to decide any kind of decision, policy decision, that will affect America on the basis of my personal faith beliefs.
COOPER: Senator Obama?
OBAMA: I am proud of my Christian faith. And it informs what I do. And I don’t think that people of any faith background should be prohibited from debating in the public square.
OBAMA: But I am a strong believer in the separation of church and state, and I think that we’ve got to translate…
By the way, I support it not just for the state but also for the church, because that maintains our religious independence and that’s why we have such a thriving religious life.
But what I also think is that we are under obligation in public life to translate our religious values into moral terms that all people can share, including those who are not believers. And that is how our democracy’s functioning, will continue to function. That’s what the founding fathers intended.
Part II: CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate transcript
To me Senator Edwards came out the strongest in support of separation of church and state while Biden and Obama were less definite. YMMV.
Republicans get their turn with this format on September 17th.