Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Republican Debate Includes Discussion of Church-State Issues and Attitudes Toward Muslims

Last night's CNN debate among 7 Republican candidates for the Presidential nomination included an extensive exchange on separation of church and state, and attitudes toward American Muslims. Here is a lengthy excerpt from the full transcript:
[Question from audience:] 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 commissioner.
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.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
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.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
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 -

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
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 administration.
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 persuasion.
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 lied."
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.
(APPLAUSE)
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. 

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