PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM:
YEAR 2000 ELECTION
The web site Web, White and Blue conducted a "rolling
cyber-debate" from 2000-OCT-1 to NOV-7. It receives questions from the
public, and submit one per day to the presidential candidates: Patrick J. Buchanan (Reform
Party), George Bush (Republican), Al Gore,
(Democrat), John Hagelin (Natural Law Party), and Howard Philips (Constitution
Ralph Nader of the Green Party declined to participate in the
survey. One question, from
"Amber" of San Diego CA was submitted on 2000-OCT-15 via Yahoo. She
"With religious diversity
increasing, what are your thoughts on the protection of religious
freedom and the separation of church and state? Should religions like
Wicca be banned from recognition by the military, as some legislators suggest?"
Patrick J. Buchanan's response:
He is participating in the survey, but elected to not answer this question.
George Bush's Response:
Religious Freedom And Tolerance Is A Protected Right
"I am committed to the First Amendment principles of religious freedom,
and diversity. Whether Mormon, Methodist, Jewish, or Muslim,
Americans should be able to participate in their constitutional free
exercise of religion. I do not think witchcraft is a religion, and I do
not think it is in any way appropriate for the U.S. military to promote
Governor Bush strongly supports religious freedom and tolerance, but
apparently only for the followers of some religions. He feels that the
followers of the three largest religions in the U.S. -- Christianity,
Judaism and Islam --
should have these freedoms. But he does not wish to see believers in
Wicca enjoy the same freedoms. That would
terminate the religious freedoms of about 500,000
Americans. Wicca and Native American
Spirituality are very similar, so one wonders about Bush's attitude
towards Natives' freedom
of religion. Then there are hundreds of small religions like Santeria,
Vodun, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.
In a way, Governor Bush dodged the question as did Vice President Gore:
when asked about the religion of Wicca, he responded with a comment
about Witchcraft. One of the 17 or so unrelated activities called
Witchcraft is Wicca, but most varieties of Witchcraft are unrelated to
Wicca. In fact, as Governor Bush correctly says, most " Witchcrafts" are not
religions at all.
The term "promote" in Governor Bush's response might be
confusing. He is an Evangelical Christian. Religious
conservatives commonly use the term "promote" where
others might use the term "permit," or "allow." For example,
conservative Christians often refer to human sexuality courses which
discuss sexual orientation in public schools as courses which promote
homosexuality. In the case in question, the U.S. army does not advocate
Wicca. They simply granted existing Wiccan soldiers precisely the same
rights and privileges as had early been given to followers of other
religions. Since U.S. courts have recognized Wicca
as a religion, they have no choice but to grant equal rights to Wiccans. An
excerpt from one court ruling is available.
Al Gore's Response:
Respect For Religion
Freedom of religion need not mean
freedom from religion.
"For too long, national leaders have
been trapped in a dead end debate. Some on the right have said for too
long that a specific set of religious values should be imposed,
threatening the founders' precious separation of church and state. In
contrast, some on the left have said for too long that religious values
should play no role in addressing public needs. These are false choices:
hollow secularism or right-wing religion. Both positions are rigid. They
are not where the new solutions lie. I believe strongly in the
separation of church and state. But freedom of religion need not mean
freedom from religion. There is a better way.
America's national identity is not
shaped solely by our diverse faith traditions. But we are a people who
believe that these traditions contribute to the formation of values with
which we agree to live out our common lives together.
Our founders believed deeply in faith.
They created the Bill of Rights in large measure to protect its free
expression. One reason America is the most religious country on earth is
precisely because of the church-state divide: people who are free to
worship as they wish, worship more freely.
Our founders also knew history. They
could look back on centuries of religious war in Europe that tore
nations apart. They resolved that religious war should never tear this
nation apart, and the only way to do that was to allow religious
The history of the United States
has proven our foundersí wisdom. They believed -- and I believe --
that we can protect against the establishment of religion without
infringing in any way on its free exercise. That belief is at the very
heart of our Constitution. And we must keep on working to make it a
reality in our public life."
Vice-President Gore clearly made three main points:
||He strongly favors the separation
of church and state.
||He states that this wall of separation is responsible for the vigorous
state of religion in America.
||He also emphasizes that lack of religious freedom in the past caused "centuries of religious war in Europe that tore
However, he didn't answer the main part of the question: whether the
religious rights of Wiccan soldiers should be terminated by the
Army. It would
be difficult for him to give a response to this question:
||If he said that
Wiccans should not be allowed religious freedom, then he essentially says that
there is to be no religious freedom in the U.S. This would contradict
the rest of his statement.
||If he said that Wiccans should be allowed religious freedom, then
conservative Christians would probably attack him for supporting Wicca. Wicca is one of
about 17 unrelated activities which has been called Witchcraft. Religious
conservatives often link Witchcraft to Satanism, Satan worship and
Satanic Ritual Abuse. The
problem here is that the single word "Witchcraft" has so many
And so, like politicians often do, he chose to ignore the question.
John Hagelin's response: 3,4
Spirituality Has A Role In Politics:
"I would uphold a strict separation between 'church' and 'state': i.e.,
the government should not espouse or promote any specific doctrine or faith. Nor
should any faith be denied recognition. However, while upholding the separation
of church and state, I believe that spirituality and ethics, in their broadest
sense, must have a key role in politics. If politics is the mechanism through
which we collectively choose what kind of a nation we seek to create, then if
politics is not informed by our highest, commonly shared moral and ethical
principles, what is it? Unfortunately, it is what it has, in fact, become:
government to the highest bidder. My Natural Law Party/Independent Coalition
candidacy is to restore the highest ethical principles to government and, as
important, through effective education that fully develops the mind, body, and
emotions, to revitalize America from the inside out."
Answer from Howard Phillips:
Chaplain Services In The U.S. Military Should Be Provided In
Light Of The Religious Traditions Of Our Country
"The military should not provide facilities to the Church of Satan or any
organization that promotes witchcraft.
The military should provide chaplain services to people who are within
the religious traditions of the country.
The military has the authority to make choices regarding such matters
and I would suggest that those choices be limited to providing chaplain
services for individuals who are of biblical background. Our law system is
a biblical law system, and to whatever degree Catholic, Protestants, Jews,
members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, etc. all fall within that
category. However, once you go beyond the biblical heritage of our
country, I think you are treading on dangerous ground.
Liberty of conscience is something that should be honored and
protected, and that's why the Constitution says that Congress shall make
no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free
None of us should be required to subsidize the propagation of the faith
of another person, regardless of whether that faith is the abortion faith,
homosexual faith, the environmental faith or even the Christian faith. The
government should not subsidize the propagation of ideas and that is why
we should not have a Legal Services Corporation, we should not have an
AIDS education program, which really promotes homosexual conduct. The
government should not be subsidizing sex education programs, which
encourages promiscuity or The National Endowment for the Arts, which
promotes perverse cultural preferences.
A primary purpose of the First Amendment was to protect religion from
government. Therefore, the government should avoid interfering with the
private expression of religious faith.
However, the military is a different story and different standards
apply to the military. That is why it is legitimate for the military to
provide chaplain services only for persons who adhere to a biblical faith."
Mr. Phillips ignores Native American spirituality which was the original
religious "heritage of our country" prior to 1492 CE.
Buddhists, Druids, Hindus,
Muslims, Sikhs, Taoists,
Unitarian Universalists, and Wiccans
should fear the Constitutional Party. So should followers of Asatru,
Baha'i Faith, Confucianism, Jainism,
Santeria, Scientology, Shinto,
Vodun, Zoroastrianism, and other
religions. He wants to create a two tiered religious system in the U.S.,
with Christianity and Judaism
(biblically based faiths) having full privileges, and the rest discriminated
Related essays on this Web site:
Copyright © 2000 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-OCT-18
Latest update: 2000-NOV-6
Editor: B.A. Robinson