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Other Responses to the 2008 Candidate Questionnaire

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 process.

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 questionnaire."
  • "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 at all."
  • "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 their questionnaire.

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.

36 11 1 1 1

No candidates wrote a response to this question

2. I will not consider religion in any decision to hire or fire a member of my staff.

39 7 1 2 1
  • "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.

37 6 1 4 1
  • One candidate crossed out "nation's Constitution" and replaced it with "Texas State Constitution."
  • "Ambiguous 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.

24 18 4 1 1

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.

23 13 5 3 6

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.

< >"This has failed terribly. What is 'age appropriate'?""Might get better left to families and social reform groups."One candidate circled "age appropriate" and asked, "meaning what, specifically?""[The] state has no business in sex ed. It is parents responsibility.""The 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.""I do not believe in government schools--period. However in the current situation, I believe all decisions re curriculum should be made locally."One candidate circled "age appropriate" and added that it was a "parental decision."One 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!"SAAUDSD469919

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."A 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."SAAUDSD329321

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".SAAUDSD259933< >"Irrelevant to political activity." Not if you're hoping to make decisions about the environment, biological entities, or science education.

36 12 1 1 0

10. Public school teachers should never be required to respond to religious tests, including to utter "under God" during the Pledge of Allegiance.

27 11 3 6 2

< >"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.One candidate underlined "never" and "required"."'Under God' should not have been put in our pledge of Allegiance. There is nothing godly about our foreign policy."A candidate circled "Pledge of Allegiance" and commented "an abomination to any true American!""They can exercise their first amendment rights and not say the pledge at all."

27 19 1 2 0

< >One candidate underlined "free to remain silent."One candidate underlined "proclaim alternatives.""This answer becomes moot as education becomes privatized."

15 3 16 11 4

This was perhaps our most controversial question. The point was to get people to see the divisiveness of our McCarthy-era red-scare motto.

< >"None of the above."One candidate crossed out the phrases from Allah on."What you want would be a tiny minority forcing itself on a large majority."One candidate changed "In Science We Trust" to "In Reason We Trust".

28 5 7 7 1

< >One 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 religion."One candidate who disagreed underlined "prohibiting the free exercise thereof.""Many of our laws prohibit the free exercise thereof!"SAAUDSD2215362< >One candidate, who disagreed, wrote "1st amendment. Freedom of speech!""Government 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."Do not understand this question."SAAUDSD2012744< >"I believe non-profit atheistic orgs would get the same benefit."One candidate said there should be "no more subsidies" and circled "eliminated altogether."One candidate underlined "should be either opened to atheistic organizations.""Atheism is a religion."One candidate underlined "eliminated altogether.""All organizations religious or not, should get a tax exemption if they meet the same requirements."One candidate crossed out "either opened to atheistic organizations".One candidate circled "eliminated altogether."One candidate remarked that the exemptions are not discriminatory to the tax exempt organizations."But Wall Street should be taxed!!"One candidate crossed out "either opened to atheistic organizations."One candidate circled "eliminated altogether" and added "Eliminate all taxes, too!"SAAUDSD2415416< >One candidate added "& taxed too! Dammit!!"One candidate added, "and TAXED!".SAAUDSD2013743< >"If the failure constitutes felonious behavior.""Depends on the crime and within confession/counseling, same rules as doctors, etc.""A 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."SAAUDSD2720200< >"Terms are too long!!!"SAAUDSD1598810< >"Go to another pharmacist." Our response is that many people don't have that luxury.A candidate who disagreed, said "But is must be upfront and there should be one available who will.""That is a private matter between the pharm. and the client. However, I do not believe in state licensing.""This is a matter between management and the employee of a private enterprise. Management should be free to fire the bastard.""Change pharmacists if you do not agree with him."SAAUDSD9121376< >"If harm results. … No. Parents can still love their children better than almost anyone else.""Depends on specifics, age of child, etc.""If necessary, the children should be taken, but I do not favor punishment of the parent.""This includes unborn Americans." Our response is that we didn't know that fetuses had citizenship rights.SAAUDSD1611894< >"It depends upon whether religion is taught or enforced in the school."A candidate who strongly disagreed said "SA if not for 'even if'.""A school founded by a religious group should be allowed to hold its religious beliefs.""But 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)."One candidate crossed out much of the question, leaving "All schools … should be ineligible to receive public … funds."SAAUDSD2615431< >"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."In 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.""However employee should sue for discrimination and be awarded damages if discrimination based on religion is proven in court.""It is illegal to discriminate against religion."SAAUDSD1811695

We think that the "not" in the question made it confusing to some.

< >"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."

Atheist Community of Austin

The Atheist Community of Austin is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting positive atheism and the separation of church and state. The ACA serves the local Austin community through outreach programs, providing informational resources and various volunteer activities. In addition, the ACA serves the community-at-large through free online portals including informational wikis, regular audio/video podcasts and interactive blogs.

We define atheism as the lack of belief in gods. This definition also encompasses what most people call agnosticism.

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