As an advocate of individual rights and free markets, I am deeply concerned about attacks on economic liberty and property rights. However, I also believe that the greater modern threat to individual rights is the attempt by some religious groups to make politics conform to their faith.
In coming election cycles, I will vote against any candidate who does not explicitly and unambiguously endorse the separation of church and state, whether on his or her web page or in direct correspondence. I ask that candidates declare whether they:
1. Endorse the separation of church and state.
2. Oppose the spending of tax dollars on programs with religious affiliations, such as “faith-based” welfare.
3. Oppose the spending of tax dollars to teach creationism and/or intelligent design as science.
4. Oppose efforts to restrict the legal right of adult women to obtain an abortion.
5. Oppose bans on embryonic stem-cell research.
To date, Mark Udall is the only candidate to reply. (Mitt Romney’s campaign sent me a letter, but it was entirely nonresponsive to my letter.) Udall, currently in the U.S. House, is running for U.S. Senate next year. His letter, dated November 21, is “paid and authorized by Udall for Colorado, Inc.” The letter lists http://markudall.org/ as the associated web page. Here’s what Udall has to say:
First, I fully support the continued separation of church and state in this country. As our founding fathers recognized when they made religious freedom a fundamental principle of our Constitution, our nation is home to people of a large variety of religious backgrounds and beliefs. Our government has no role to play in selecting those beliefs, in advocating for one religion over another religion, or in supporting the presence of religion in favor of no religion. I will continue to vote against legislation that compromises our country’s ability to keep religion and government separate. That includes programs that discriminate against people based on their religious belief or that use government funds to support one religion over another.
Second, I am a firm believer in protecting an individual’s right to make her own choices with regard to her reproductive health. Such decisions are deeply personal and involve the consideration of many factors within the realm of those held sacred under our constitutional right to privacy. In addition, as we saw when abortion was illegal, denying women their right to choose an option does not eliminate the need for it. That said, we must provide access to reproductive health education, adoption, and contraception to limit, as much as possible, the number of women forced to make the difficult choice of whether or not to have an abortion.
Third, I strongly oppose government bans on embryonic stem-cell research. My father suffered from Parkinson’s disease and I have always wondered whether [his] life could have been saved if the incredible medical advancements now possible through stem-cell research had occurred just a few years earlier. I believe that it is our obligation to prevent future deaths from terminal diseases, like Parkinson’s, if it is possible, and will continue to support stem-cell research.
While I could criticize several details of Udall’s reply, I could hardly ask for a stronger endorsement of the separation of church and state. So far, I have seen no such statement from Udall’s likely opponent, Bob Schaffer. Unless that changes, my vote will go to Udall. If Schaffer offers a similarly strong endorsement of the separation of church and state, then I will vote on other considerations. If I vote for Udall, my vote should not be taken as an endorsement of all of Udall’s policies; I strongly disagree with his environmentalism and welfare statism.
I am impressed by Udall’s answer for another reason: candidates and politicians rarely offer so detailed a reply to letters unaccompanied by checks with large figures. Merely the fact that Udall’s letter responds to my letter in a detailed a thoughtful manner says something good about Udall.