Separation of Church and Candidate?

DES MOINES, IA - NOVEMBER 20:  Republican presidential candidates (LtoR) Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL),
DES MOINES, IA - NOVEMBER 20: Republican presidential candidates (LtoR) Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rick Santorum, and Carly Fiorina pray following the Presidential Family Forum on November 20, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Attendance at the event was lower than organizers had hoped as an early-winter snowstorm moved through the area dumping several inches of snow on the city. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Recently I wrote about presidential candidate Marco Rubio's comment that "all the answers are in the Bible" and his remarks to an atheist that our rights could only come from a creator. A number of readers agreed that Rubio's view made no sense, but they also mentioned that religious views of other candidates are just as bad, or worse. I agree. Rubio has never claimed that God told him to run for president. That alone distinguishes him from current candidates Ted Cruz and John Kasich, and dropout candidates Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Scott Walker.

Of those who dropped out, despite God's support, Ben Carson remains the most active politically. He is the new national chairman of My Faith Votes, an organization that wants Christians to decide who will be the next president and all national and local leaders.

So who was the last non-Christian president? William Howard Taft (1909-1913). Taft was a Unitarian. Earlier presidential icons Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln had no religious affiliation. None believed in the Trinity, and Christians accused all three of being atheists.

Well, what about this year's remaining presidential candidates?

Ted Cruz
: Fittingly, Cruz launched his campaign at Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell. At a National Religious Liberties Conference, Cruz said, "Any president who doesn't begin every day on his knees isn't fit to be commander in chief." In addition to eliminating atheists from presidential consideration, Cruz apparently would also like a prayer test for all candidates. His Religious Liberty Council seems to equate religious liberty with a God-given right to discriminate against gays. Pastor Rafael Cruz, Ted's father, has served as a surrogate for Ted's campaign. Pastor Cruz says that there is no such thing as separation of church and state, America is a Christian nation, and the Ten Commandments are the foundation of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. It would be interesting to ask Ted Cruz if he also believes this.

Donald Trump: Some Republicans think Trump is a RINO (Republican in name only), but I think Trump is a CINO (Christian in name only). I assume he's an atheist because I can't picture him believing in a power higher than himself. "Love your neighbor" is inconsistent with deporting 11 million neighbors. Trump's slogan sounds more like "Make America hate again." Among Trump's many unbelievable comments, here's the funniest: "Maybe I get audited so much because I'm a strong Christian." All things being close to equal, I prefer voting for an atheist. With Trump, however, things are not nearly close to equal.

John Kasich: Kasich said he was waiting for a message from God before entering the presidential race, but to his credit he said his family was a more important consideration. Though he is personally against gay marriage, many Republicans criticize his stand against "religious liberty" because of his radical idea that government officials should follow the law of the land, even when it conflicts with biblical scripture.

Hillary Clinton: Clinton is a liberal Christian who says that the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your might and to love your neighbor as yourself. The second part is secular, and the first part says nothing about political decisions. I'm fine with Clinton taking comfort in religion during difficult times, though I hope she mentions that public policy should not be based on particular religious views.

Bernie Sanders: Sanders is the first Jew ever to win a primary. He rarely mentions religion, though when questioned he says he's proud to be a Jew. He was asked on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" whether he believed in God, and Sanders replied, "What my spirituality is about is that we're all in this together and it's not a good thing to believe that as human beings we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people." Sounds like a secular humanist to me. Before the South Carolina primary, I went to a forum featuring Bernie Sanders in Charleston, where I live. During the Q&A, I said to Sanders: "You know how thrilled the LGBT community was when Barney Frank came out as the first openly gay member of Congress, which helped reduce discrimination against gays. I don't think you are the only Jewish socialist in the country who believes in God, so I'm hoping you will do for atheists what Barney Frank did for LGBTs and be the first senator to acknowledge being an atheist. It would mean so much to our community." Sanders paused for a moment, looking uncomfortable for the first time that evening, and responded, "Not gonna happen." Bernie's answer to my question was by far the shortest he gave that evening, and the only one that elicited no applause from an otherwise supportive audience.

Afterward, several people told me they were disappointed that Sanders dodged my question. I said his non-answer was an answer, and it shows what we are up against when even a proud socialist like Bernie refuses to acknowledge that he is an atheist for fear it might damage his reputation. Unlike Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders is the kind of atheist, closeted or not, I can happily vote for. I just wish he would be open about his atheism.