- (Photo: Reuters/Jeff Haynes)
A scorecard developed by the Secular Coalition for America has created debate over whether candidates should be allowed religious views or forced to follow a secular constitution.
The scorecard is a review by the coalition based on candidates’ stances on religious based issues. It was developed to help secular and nontheistic Americans to elect a candidate who would support their views. However, most presidential candidates received failing marks for mentioning their religious beliefs.
President Barack Obama was voted to have the most “secular stance,” but still only received average scores. Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum scored all but one “F” on the scorecard. Mitt Romney and Ron Paul also fell somewhere in between with mixed scoring, but few A’s.
However, President and CEO of DefendChristians.org, Dr. Gary L. Cass doesn’t believe that the scorecard is a feasible representation of presidential candidate’s negative qualities.
“If we took this scoring seriously, we would probably have to throw out all of the presidents America has ever seen,” he said.
He added, “It’s not only important for candidates to represent their religious values, but impossible not to.”
He refers to secular thought as humanism, which is defined as an outlook or system of thought that attaches prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.
“A person’s political position is nothing more than his most deeply held values. People derive their values from religion, including the religion of humanism. So it is impossible for anybody to divorce politics from their religion,” he explained.
The Coalition researched whether candidates had proclaimed that their actions were motivated by God. Obama, Perry, Paul, and Santorum all professed that they relied on God for support through prayer.
According to the coalition, Obama said on an ABC Nightline interview that he prayed to God for guidance every night.
Also Perry has said, “The idea that I could walk into that (the presidency) without God almighty holding me up would scare me to death.”
Romney earned an “F” under the “Religious Discrimination and Civil Rights” category for his definitive statement on the definition of marriage.
“I believe that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. The Defense of Marriage Act that exists in Washington today defines benefits, whether for veterans or non-veterans as between married spouses and for me that's a man and a woman,” he said.
Paul, Santorum, Romney and Gingrich were also given failing scores for supporting conscience clauses that protect medical practitioners from performing treatments that conflict with their beliefs.
Their views were roughly summarized in Gingrich’s statement: “No American working in a medical environment should be forced to perform any procedure that he or she finds morally or ethically objectionable based on religious teaching. This protection should include, but not be limited to abortion.”
He also affirmed, “Existing conscience clause protections need to be strengthened.”
SCA President Herb Silverman, told USA Today that faith shouldn’t be involved in the candidates’ positions because they are supposed to be following a “secular Constitution."
Gingrich opposed this very line of thought and received a failing score for his belief that a secular, atheistic world was not one that he would want his grandchildren raised in. He viewed the removal of religion from public space as a threat to the American culture.
“There is no attack on American culture more deadly and more historically dishonest than the secular Left’s relentless effort to drive God out of America’s public square,” the Coalition quoted Gingrich.
Dr. Cass elaborated on how religion is a part of American culture.
“Secularism has never and will never produce the kind of exceptional liberties that we receive from our Judeo-Christian religion,” Cass argues. “It’s ironic that secularist want to use Christian liberty to attack Christian liberty because Christians would never have been allowed to criticize the government in the former Soviet Union, which was based on secularism.”
The site gave Gingrich an “F” on Separation of Church and State for a quote on his website that supported faith within the Declaration of Independence: “The revolutionary idea contained in the Declaration of Independence is that certain fundamental human rights, including the right to life, are gifts from God and cannot be given nor taken away by government.”
Santorum also received an “F” in this category for similar views to Gingrich which supported that America was founded with God given rights. “America is a country that was founded on the concept that our rights come to us from our creator, come to us from God,” the presidential candidate said. “He doesn’t say just do whatever you want to do with them, in fact he has laws we must abide by. In our case we have civil laws, but our civil laws have to comport with higher laws.”
Dr. Cass has argued that the secular viewpoint doesn’t necessarily represent freedom from religion. “They (secular voters) are bringing their religious values to the ballot box like every other American,” he said.
Although he said that it is up to every person to decide “whether or not humans are a reliable source for values,” he doesn’t believe that spirituality can be separated from humanity.
Alan Cohen wrote, “I learned that we can invent all kinds of world philosophies devoid of spirit, but like tiny blades of grass that find their way through cement and eventually dislodge it, sooner or later our spiritual nature shines through” in his book, Why Your Life Sucks.
Cass would agree with his statement but takes it one step further: “Spirituality is more than grass breaking through the concrete, it’s like we are fish in an ocean and we can’t exist without some kind of religious frame of reference.”