Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio told an atheist in the audience that he won't be "forced" to stop talking about his faith on the campaign trail and argued that atheists should want his faith to influence his decisions.
During Rubio's Monday town hall meeting in Waverly, Iowa, an atheist attendee named Justin Scott, a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation who also runs his own YouTube channel, commented during a question and answer session on Rubio's recent campaign ad that simply features Rubio talking about how he follows his faith and that his goal is to live alongside God for eternity.
Scott argued that it seems like Rubio, who is Catholic, is more interested in running for "Pastor-in-Chief" rather than Commander-in-Chief and then asked Rubio how he would defend the rights of nontheists if he is elected president in 2016.
"As I said during my speech, you have the right to believe whatever you want, you have a right to believe in nothing at all. You certainly have that right. I can't force you to be Christian," Rubio responded. "Christianity is a free gift and we Christians believe that salvation is a free gift that has to be willfully accepted. You can't force it on people. You have a right to believe in whatever you want. Now, I am going to share my faith, especially when I am asked. Because, my faith influences who I am and every aspect of my life."
Rubio insisted that his faith is the "single greatest influence" in his life and added that nontheists shouldn't worry about the influence that faith has in his decision making.
"You shouldn't be worried about my faith influencing me. In fact, I think you should hope my faith influences me and here's why. You know what my faith teaches me? My faith teaches me that I have an obligation to care for the less fortunate. My faith teaches me that I have an obligation to love my neighbor. My faith teaches me that I have an obligation for those who are hungry to help try to feed them; for those that are naked, to help clothe them," Rubio said. "My faith teaches me that I have an obligation that I need to minister to those in prison. My faith teaches me that I have an obligation that if I want to serve Jesus that I have to serve [others]. I think you should hope that influences me."
If elected president, Rubio vowed that all Americans won't be coerced to violate their faiths, beliefs and convictions.
"We are also going to have a country where no one is forced to violate their conscience, which means that no one is going to force you to believe in God. But, no one is going to force me to stop talking about God," Rubio asserted. "I am not going to force you to pray. I am not going to force you to go to church. I am not going to force you to espouse beliefs that you don't have. But, no one is going to take away my right and your right to live out the teachings of your faith — no one."
As the freedom of religion and speech are protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, Rubio explained that the Founding Fathers understood that all rights were given by the Creator.
"If you don't believe the Judeo-Christian values influenced America, you don't know history. I am not saying you, I am just saying in general. This nation was founded on the principle that our rights come from our Creator," Rubio said. "If there is no creator, then where did your rights come from? That's why it is important for us to understand that and we are going to protect the rights of Americans to continue to believe that."
After Scott posted the video recording of Rubio's response to his question on his YouTube channel, a link to the video was tweeted by Eric Teetsel, director of faith outreach for the Rubio Campaign and the former director of the Manhattan Declaration.