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The Candidates on Religion
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I only caught the last half hour of the debate last night, but I thought the question Schieffer asked Bush about the role religion plays in his policy decisions was a good one, given the attention that so many people give to it. I've seen several books on Bush and religion in the past six months, and Dems like to bring it up to try to paint Bush as a revival-tent preacher.

I think the faith-based initiatives are a lousy idea, but Bush is the first President that I can ever remember that says things like this:

But I'm mindful in a free society that people can worship if they want to or not. You're equally an American if you choose to worship an almighty and if you choose not to.

He's essentially reinforcing the secular right to freedom of religion in our country, and acknowledging the patriotism of non-believers. I think that's pretty damned significant, considering how many of his opponents try to portray him as one notch down from Billy Graham.

He also said this, though:

I believe that God wants everybody to be free. That's what I believe.

And that's been part of my foreign policy. In Afghanistan, I believe that the freedom there is a gift from the Almighty. And I can't tell you how encouraged I am to see freedom on the march.

I'd rather hear that freedom is an inherent human right, that freer societies are better societies, and that self-determination and democracy are superior to totalitarianism not because they are a gift from a super-spirit, but because when power is dispersed among an electorate, rather than concentrated in the hands of the few or one, and when it is kept in check by a balanced government structure and a free press, there is less abuse, more human rights, and more opportunity and prosperity.

Of course, Kerry's response wasn't any better:

I think that he just said that freedom is a gift from the Almighty.

Everything is a gift from the Almighty.

Great...let's pander to the religious majority. Then he talked about being blessed by Indians. Lovely.

I'll still be hoping for the day when a President doesn't have to wear his religion on his sleeve (I'm not holding my breath). But until then, I'm heartened to hear a President acknowledge non-belief as a legitimate viewpoint, and reaffirm a commitment to safeguarding religious freedom.

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