I'm an atheist voter. I represent millions of atheists and non-theists around the country, one of the fastest growing voter blocs and you said earlier that you want to stand up for religious freedom and all of that. My question is for atheist voters that are looking for somebody that will uphold their rights as Americans and not pander to a certain religious group.Notice the core of Scott's question. He states atheist voters are looking for a candidate to "uphold their rights as Americans and not pander to a certain religious group." He then asks Rubio "how do you plan on upholding our rights and focusing on non-theists."
I just noticed your recent ad. It mentioned nothing about policy, it mentioned nothing about ideas. It simply talked about wanting us to follow faith and find God and go to heaven and things like that, which is fine for those people that align with you.
My question is how do you plan on upholding our rights and focusing on non-theists. You know, there's, there's talks in our community about you running as Pastor-in Chief instead of Commander-in-Chief, so I'm curious your thoughts.
Scott's line of questioning is strange. Must the president of the United States focus on non-theists in order to uphold their rights? If that's true, then he must also focus on every group of every religious persuasion, a daunting process in a widely diverse country of 330 million people. Scott also includes a couple of ad hominems in his question, using the label "pastor-in-chief" and implying Rubio may be pandering to a certain religious group.
Notice, there are no specifics tied to his concerns. He doesn't point to any legislation Rubio sponsored that violates the First Amendment rights of non-believers. He offers no specific instances where Rubio personally showed animus towards non-believers and Rubio does a great job of answering Scott by pointing to the First Amendment. (You can watch the entire exchange here.)
Scott's similar question to Mike Huckabee offers more illumination on Scott's concern:
I'm an atheist, and I feel as if the Republican Party lately is hell-bent on tearing down separation of church and state. I want to know your thoughts on that. I also want to know why should I vote for you. Why should millions of atheists around the country support a candidate that has made comments like you've made about us?At this point, Huckabee asks Scott "What have I made about you?" Scott again dodges any specific charges, simply offering a generalized caricature of the comments as "they haven't been pretty." Huckabee answers he would in fact uphold the First Amendment and how if guarantees Scott and any other non-believers "to be atheists as much as it guarantees me the right to be a Christian, or somebody else the right to be a Jew or Muslim or Hindu, or Buddhist." Huckabee is right here. The separation clause of the First Amendment simply says the Federal Government cannot compel any religious belief or non-belief upon its citizenry.
One point Scott seems to miss here is being a passionate believer about one's particular faith is not a disqualifier for office, even the office of president. If one holds to Christianity, that doesn't simply mean the person attends Sunday church. It means the Christian worldview will shape his or her understanding of all reality. That's protected by the very First Amendment that also protects Scott's view of reality.
Because Scott can't seem to offer specifics of where the candidates demonstrate a predilection to abridge the rights of non-believers and cannot even name exactly which rights he means, his question strikes me as pandering. He's unjustifiably biasing a candidate solely on their religious views. Thus, Scott really fails to add any substance to the discussion on the candidates and how non-believers will fare under their leadership.
Tomorrow, I will explore a bit more of Scott's comments and specifically his concern with religion in schools. But for now, the lack of detail should be more troubling for those who are cheering Scott on than for any of the candidates.