Other Responses to the 2008 Candidate Questionnaire
Posted: October 19, 2008
In mid-October of 2008, the
ACA released the results of its Voters' Guide.
The Voters' Guide was based on the stated level of agreement of each
candidate to 23 statements we posed.
In developing the questionnaire, we had some debate about whether candidates
should be allowed to be able to write responses in their own words. On the one hand, it allows candidates to
express their views without someone else putting words in their mouths. On the other hand, we felt the statements
were clear and it would only invite equivocation. For this year, we decided to do the simple thing and just record
responses. Perhaps not surprisingly,
many candidates wrote responses anyway.
Their responses left us with
a little quandary. We promised the
candidates to only publish their initialed responses and publishing more might
give some candidates a disadvantage over those who followed the
instructions. Our solution is to
publish many of the responses without the candidates' names. This allows us to publish (and learn from)
their responses without giving advantage.
In this document, we recount
many of the written responses we got during the survey. We appreciate being able to interact so
directly with the candidates. With
luck, all of us will learn something and America will be made stronger in the
We got four letters from
candidates--instead of the filled-in questionnaires. All of these letters were from Republican candidates, saying that
they did not respond to questionnaires.
Several of the letters encouraged us to check out the voting record of
the candidate for further information.
We got only three responses from Democrats and two responses from
write-in candidates. The remaining 44 responses were from Libertarians. The
candidate responses in this article therefore reflect a strong Libertarian
slant and are not representative of all of the candidates running for office in
Texas. The Libertarian slant explains why many of the tax and government
influence questions got more reaction than the religion questions.
Many candidates wrote us
nice little notes:
- "Thanks for the opportunity to respond to your
- "Dear ACA, Very good questions! Thanks for the opportunity to share my
views with your group."
- "Thanks for the opportunity to share my views
with you and your organization."
- Responding to the thank you in our instructions,
he replied, "You're welcome! I
would prefer explanations of my answers be allowed! Thanks. May God bless all of the US, Too!"
A couple of candidates told
us they, too, were atheists. One wrote
a personal note to the group. His
envelope had a cross with "tax" spelled out horizontally and "evasion" spelled
out vertically. He wrote, "Lower your
taxes! Tax church income, land, stocks & bonds!! Now!!". Another local atheist candidate took the
opportunity to join our group and sent his membership dues. He specifically asked that we not endorse
him. (Nor can we, legally.)
A few candidates had general
comments on our questions:
- "Too many of your questions are compound
questions. One part I can strongly
agree with, but often the other part is not well defined."
- "Some of your questions need to be split up or
depend on the details."
Others made general comments
about some of the issues we raised:
- "Nothing in the Constitution precludes the full
exercise of Judeo-Christian values.
The Framers believed in freedom of religion. Nothing in the exercise of Protestant,
Catholic, or Jewish religion and the values interferes with the protection
of the Constitution or the right of any person to have no religion
- "I will support freedom of religion,
including the religion of atheism."
- "Note: Freedom of religion is also freedom from
religion = separation of church and state."
- "To be an atheist requires a great deal of
faith." Our answer is that it
depends on your definition of atheism.
Ours doesn't require faith.
One candidate altered the
meaning of a large number of questions by greatly altering the
questionnaire. His responses are not
included here as they are more confusing than helpful. Other candidate altered the meaning of a few
questions and we dealt with such alterations by marking them in the results
with an asterisk.
Eight candidates hand-signed
The remainder of this
article covers the candidate responses to each question.
1. If I am (re-)elected, then I will listen to and fairly represent the
interests of atheist constituents.
No candidates wrote a response to this question
2. I will not consider religion in any decision to hire or fire a member of
- "I have never been elected before! 30
years of business. I hired all religions of people!"
3. I would sooner resign from office than allow a religious consideration
to cause me to break my oath of office to support our nation's Constitution.
candidate crossed out "nation's Constitution" and replaced it with "Texas
statement/question" from a candidate who did not respond.
4. Our Constitution's provision that "The Congress shall have Power ... To
promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts", which was adopted unanimously
at the Federal Convention of 1787, stands as convincing evidence that the
Framers considered science and technology to be of fundamental importance.
A few people didn't seem to
realize that this was a quote taken from the U.S. Constitution.
"But not as important as being one nation under God."
"All the founding
fathers were Christians. I will protect the rights of all (Christians,
Atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, etc.) the same. "Dispensationalist
Christians" are not Christians. They are hate mongers who love war. Zionism is not Judaism, it is racism. There
might be some naïve American Jews who think that they are Zionists, but the
real Zionists are brutal racists." No,
not all of the founding fathers were Christians.
One candidate, who
strongly disagreed, wrote "What this means is that the creator or discoverer of
the art or fact of science is to have their work protected. This is a property
rights protection--not precisely what you state!"
5. Public schools should provide age-appropriate, scientific information on
methods of birth control and ways to reduce health risks of sexual activities.
This question bothered a
number of candidates who thought this was the purview of parents AND it
triggered the state-funded school issue for a few.
has failed terribly. What is 'age appropriate'?"
get better left to families and social reform groups."
candidate circled "age appropriate" and asked, "meaning what,
state has no business in sex ed.
It is parents responsibility."
out-of-wedlock birthrate was 2.2% from 1916 to 1920 in America. Since sex education and contraception
education was introduced, the out-of-wedlock birthrate exploded. If you
are truly scientific, and not controlled by dogma, you should see the more
we teach sex and contraception the more the out-of-wedlock birthrate goes
up. ...Japan has a 1% out-of-wedlock
birthrate, the lowest in the industrialized world. But in 1900, the out-of-wedlock
birthrate was 8.8%, almost the same as it was for black America that year.
And, Japan has a fairly high amount of premarital sex, not as high as
America but high enough to make the argument that less is the reason for
Japan's out-of-wedlock birthrate – a very ridiculous argument."
do not believe in government schools--period. However in the current
situation, I believe all decisions re curriculum should be made locally."
candidate circled "age appropriate" and added that it was a "parental
candidate, who crossed out "Public" wrote, "Please realize that I advocate
the privatization of all education. Government-run schools, private
schools, and home schools should all take these steps!"
6. It is appropriate to teach alternatives to established and accepted
scientific theories in public school science classes, regardless of supporting
A few candidates seemed to think that students have enough
scientific training to weigh the evidence themselves--without the aid of a
proper scientific education first.
- "I don't believe in creationism, but science
wouldn't advance if alternative ideas hadn't been considered--but they must
be considered with evidence."
candidate who did not answer wrote, "I do not understand this
statement." He also wrote, "I am a
firm believer in evolution. I do not believe in intelligent design. But, I
would allow intelligent design to be taught along with evolution in public
schools. If intelligent design is nonsense, then what are we afraid of[?]
The better argument wins. It is
better to win in free debate where [the] other side was given a chance."
7. The age of the Earth is closer to 4 billion years than to 6 thousand
We feel that some basic
understanding of science is a good thing for elected officials.
- A candidate,
who did not answer, said "depends on what I know."
- "If not
longer. [I] agree but this is
irrelevant to the job of Congress."
- One candidate
who didn't answer, wrote "who cares".
8. Speciation and the diversity of life are best explained by evolution
through natural selection.
- "Irrelevant to political activity." Not if you're hoping to make decisions
about the environment, biological entities, or science education.
9. Our Constitution's provision that "no religious Test shall ever be
required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United
States", which applies to all divisions of government (legislative, executive,
judicial, military, federal, and state, including subdivisions thereof), should
never be violated.
10. Public school teachers should never be required to respond to religious
tests, including to utter "under God" during the Pledge of Allegiance.
- "If it is still part of it (as it has
been since 1954), it is appropriate to say it when teaching the pledge to
the class." We wonder if teachers
are allowed to tell students how they personally feel about the pledge.
candidate underlined "never" and "required".
God' should not have been put in our pledge of Allegiance. There is
nothing godly about our foreign policy."
candidate circled "Pledge of Allegiance" and commented "an abomination
to any true American!"
can exercise their first amendment rights and not say the pledge at all."
11. Whenever children in public schools are free to proclaim "under God"
during the Pledge of Allegiance they are free to remain silent or to proclaim
candidate underlined "free to remain silent."
candidate underlined "proclaim alternatives."
answer becomes moot as education becomes privatized."
12. "E Pluribus Unum" or "In Science We Trust" would be a less divisive
national motto than "In God We Trust", "In Allah We Trust", "In Shiva and
Vishnu We Trust", or "Gott Mit Uns".
This was perhaps our most controversial question. The point was to get people to see the
divisiveness of our McCarthy-era red-scare motto.
of the above."
candidate crossed out the phrases from Allah on.
you want would be a tiny minority forcing itself on a large majority."
candidate changed "In Science We Trust" to "In Reason We Trust".
13. Our Constitution's provision that "Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof" requires strict government neutrality in matters of religion and
forbids government promotion of ceremonial Deism and monotheism.
candidate underlined "forbids government promotion of ceremonial Deism and
monotheism" and wrote, "This does not establish a state religion." Our response is that "an establishment
of religion" means something different than "the establishment of
candidate who disagreed underlined "prohibiting the free exercise
of our laws prohibit the free exercise thereof!"
14. A government employee who promotes, rather than accommodates, religion
in his/her official capacity should be reprimanded or fired.
candidate, who disagreed, wrote "1st amendment. Freedom of
employees should not be allowed to use their position to promote religion,
but they should not be forbidden to talk about religion." This candidate did not give a response
to this question.
not understand this question."
15. Tax exemptions given to religious organizations are discriminatory
and/or burdensome to the public and should be either opened to atheistic
organizations or eliminated altogether.
- "I believe non-profit atheistic orgs
would get the same benefit."
candidate said there should be "no more subsidies" and circled "eliminated
candidate underlined "should be either opened to atheistic organizations."
is a religion."
candidate underlined "eliminated altogether."
organizations religious or not, should get a tax exemption if they meet
the same requirements."
candidate crossed out "either opened to atheistic organizations".
candidate circled "eliminated altogether."
candidate remarked that the exemptions are not discriminatory to the tax
Wall Street should be taxed!!"
candidate crossed out "either opened to atheistic organizations."
candidate circled "eliminated altogether" and added "Eliminate all taxes,
16. Values of properties owned by religious organizations should
periodically be appraised and made a matter of public record, along with values
of associated property tax exemptions.
candidate added "& taxed too! Dammit!!"
candidate added, "and TAXED!".
17. A religious leader who learns of a commission of a felony should not be
immune from prosecution for failure to report the crime.
In hindsight, we could have made this question clearer.
- "If the failure constitutes felonious
on the crime and within confession/counseling, same rules as doctors,
lawyer is not allowed to become a witness against his client. So, a priest should be allowed to obey
the [word missing] of is church."
18. A prison inmate should not be paroled or granted prison favors on
account of religion.
19. A licensed pharmacist who, on account of religion, chooses not to
dispense a prescription drug to a customer should have his or her license
- "Go to another pharmacist." Our response is that many people don't
have that luxury.
candidate who disagreed, said "But is must be upfront and there should be
one available who will."
is a private matter between the pharm. and the client. However, I do not believe in state
is a matter between management and the employee of a private enterprise.
Management should be free to fire the bastard."
pharmacists if you do not agree with him."
20. Parents who, on account of religion, prevent their children from
receiving life-saving medical treatment should not be immune from prosecution
or from loss of custody of their children.
- "If harm results. … No.
Parents can still love their children better than almost anyone
on specifics, age of child, etc."
necessary, the children should be taken, but I do not favor punishment of
includes unborn Americans." Our
response is that we didn't know that fetuses had citizenship rights.
21. Schools that deny admission to, or otherwise discriminate against, children
on account of the religions of the children, or their parents, should be
ineligible to receive public education funds even if the funds are directed to
the schools by individual parents (as with vouchers) and not by the government.
- "It depends upon whether religion is
taught or enforced in the school."
candidate who strongly disagreed said "SA if not for 'even if'."
school founded by a religious group should be allowed to hold its
a school should have the right to deny admission to any student. Schools should never receive public
funds. Let the market provide schools that mat the students' and parents'
priorities (through competition)."
candidate crossed out much of the question, leaving "All schools … should
be ineligible to receive public … funds."
22. An employer who discriminates based on an employee's religion should be
ineligible to receive public funds.
- "It makes no sense to require a Catholic
church to hire a Muslim." Our
response is that it also makes no sense for the Muslim to be forced to pay
taxes to aid the Catholic.
some cases, religious holidays can be costly to an employer who has to
meet a regular work schedule. An
employer cannot be blamed for trying to reduce costs."
employee should sue for discrimination and be awarded damages if
discrimination based on religion is proven in court."
is illegal to discriminate against religion."
23. The legal definition of
marriage should not be restricted to one man with one woman.
We think that the "not" in the question made it confusing to
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- "Did our founding fathers ever consider marriage
to be anything else?"
- A candidate, who disagreed, said "However, I support
same-sex unions being given same legal status as marriage."
- "Should be any number & sexes."
- "Government aid or support should not depend on
marital status (whatever the definition!). The proper role of government
is to protect life, liberty and, the pursuit of happiness. Period.
Thus, most of the agencies of government (presently in existence) should
be dissolved ASAP."
From the officers:
The ACA Lecture Series returns Sunday, March 9th with Vic Cornell giving us an update on ACLU activities. The lecture starts at 12:15pm at the Austin History Center, 9th and Guadalupe. The building opens at noon.
ACA members! It's time to renew your ACA membership. You can do so online if you log in and then click here or check your e-mail for alternate instructions. Thanks for supporting the ACA.