Religious Freedom Already Part of 2020 Presidential Campaign

Religious Freedom Already Part of 2020 Presidential Campaign January 28, 2019

I expect you are as leary about starting the 2020 presidential campaign as I am.

The first votes won’t be cast for 371 days and the last for 645.

I promise to avoid being overtly political in the (very long) meantime.

That said, the ability to live our faith freely is a major topic here, and politics does affect that. In fact, one unexpected candidate is already making religious freedom one of the major themes of her campaign.

Democrat U.S. Rep Tulsi Gabbard announced on CNN on January 11th that she would be running for President.

Just three days prior, she had written an op-ed for “The Hill” called, “Elected leaders who weaponize religion are playing a dangerous game.”

In it, she criticized fellow Democrats (including those from her home state of Hawaii) for using the faith of a nominee for the US District court to criticize him. She wrote:

“Standing up for freedom of religion for all people is as critical now as it’s ever been–hatred and bigotry are casting a dark shadow over our political system and threatening the very fabric of our country.”

Then in the ramp up to the official start of her campaign (a speech on Feb 2), she released this video yesterday, January 27.

In the video, Gabbard says, “Whatever the path people have chosen for their lives, it is important that every one of us stand up, call out, and condemn those who are seeking to incite bigotry based on religion.”

She mentions both last year’s attack of a synagogue in Pittsburgh and John F. Kennedy’s famous campaign speech about his Catholicism.

Because Gabbard is probably best known for resigning from the Democratic National Committee in 2015 to protest the way they were treating Bernie Sanders, she is often associated with the progressive wing of the Democratic party.

This is the same wing of American politics that often treats religious freedom as nothing more than a dog whistle, so it may seem unusual that Gabbard is staking so much of her campaign on the subject.

But a little look into her personal life reveals the reasoning. Gabbard is herself a Hindu and grew up in a religiously conservative household.

In the campaign ad she says, “My spiritual practice, my relationship with God is something near and dear to my heart.”

And she is already the victim of religious discrimination on the campaign trail. She has been accused of supporting controversial Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for building a similar relationship with him as many other US politicians, likely because of her Hindu faith.

In 2016, I wrote that in light of Donald Trump’s nomination, the Democratic Party had an opportunity to appeal to religious voters by boldly supporting religious freedom.

It appears most in the party have ignored the advice continuing to demonize those of faith for living their values in the public square. Perhaps Rep. Gabbard has noticed the opportunity to build an unlikely political coalition.

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  • The Last Danite

    Mark my words: in fifteen years this will be the biggest culture war battle in the nation.

  • John Mulqueen

    I regret contributing money to her early campaigns. She has shown little ability to make intelligent discriminating decision of important matters, such as the regime in Syria, and Congressional questioning of a potential judge’s biases in making decisions that affect all people Religious freedom as she is categorizing it is a smoke screen. Let her stay in Hawaii and leave presidential politics to mature sensible people

  • Jack McMillan

    I support Tulsi. This began when Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hi) questioned a federal judge nominee about his Catholic faith and his membership in the Knights
    of Columbus, a Catholic men’s organization. This was clearly unconstitutional and possibly illegal. The U.S. Constitution clearly states there shall be no religious tests for those holding or applying for any office of trust in the United States. The radical Left of course doesn’t care what the Constitution says (after all,it was written by white men). They are zealously pursuring their secular religion which involves destroying everything that made America a great nation in the first place. They want socialism, so America will be just like Venezuela. They want to flood the country with people who don’t have Western values because they know you can’t preserve Western civilization with non-Western peoples.

  • Jack McMillan

    I think we may already be there. The Left wants to destroy Western culture and a big part of that culture is Christianity. You’ll never see them criticizing
    Islam, despite the violence that religion exports. No, they reserve their ire for Christianity.

  • Gramz59

    Tulsi Gabbard has been all over the map on social issues and has made some really huge mistakes. She has flip flopped from anti-abortion, anit-LGBTQ to claiming she supports those groups. But, her background is one of conservativism. Her criticism of Sen Hirono’s questioning of Kavanaugh during his nomination hearing was less than honest. She knew darned well what Mazie was concerned about. It had nothing to do with freedom of religion. It had everything to do with concern about his truthfulness. She doesn’t make good choices. Like meeting with Trump after the election and then traveling to Syria because she thought she could convince Assad to become a fan of democracy. She has a lot of growing up to do yet. Chronological age doesn’t necessarily equal emotional or cognitive maturity. She was quick to condem the DNC after Russia leaked their hacked emails. And she clearly bought into the Russians influence campaign by refusing to support their duly elected nominee. Most relevant to this conversation though, are her views on Islam. She is quite willing to use religion as a weapon when it suits her. She is not presidential material. Period.

  • Jam

    I’d suggest you give us your working definition of “religious freedom” if you want coherent replies. In today’s Christian lingo it means “freedom to discriminate on the basis of my beliefs, even to break federal and state laws because of my interpretation of Christianity.” But until evangelicals took control, “religious freedom” meant the freedom to differ on religious grounds, or not conform to religious or secular expectations based on one’s right of conscience, so long as those differences did not include breaking civil laws.

    But if you limit your post to the law regarding Senate confirmation hearings only, then Yes, congress has a right to question candidates about demonstrated implications of their religious beliefs (but not the beliefs themselves) if the impact of such beliefs encroach on the civil rights of other Americans. Article VI of the constitution simply assures the right of religious and non-religious people to run for elected office, regardless of religious membership or non affiliation.

  • Gramz59

    I am offended by these remarks. Sen. Hirono is hardly a radical leftist. I suspect you don’t know any “radical” leftists, let alone had discussions with any. You see, the Constitution is precisely what allows us to all have different beliefs and express them. You seem to not like that. Religion is a personal choice and guaranteed by our Constitution. Even the so-called “secular religion you claim the radical left is using to destroy all that made America great. Gee, where have I heard that before???? Furthermore, socialism (and communism)is an economic system as well as a political system. Only capitalism has no political equivalent of the same name. Capitalism is most frequently associated with democracy on the political end.

    To which are you referring when you state that the left wants socialism? You do realize that there are no pure economic systems in the world anymore? Even our beloved USA has socialistic economic elements. Medicare, Social Security, etc. Christianity is perhaps the most socialistic religion, in that Jesus instructs us to care for the poor, the ill, the children. I seem to recall that he doesn’t much like the money changers. Those were the “politics” of his teachings. Unfortunately, there are groups that refer to themselves as Christians who take a different tract than Jesus. They follow a more secular leader: Ayn Rand.

    Your last sentence mirrors something Rep. Steve King (R-IA) recently espoused that has been roundly condemned as racist even by Republicans. So, let me see if I understand you. Socialism bad? Racism good?

  • Gramz59

    Just so you know, there are extremists in both Christianity and Islam. I know more Christians who are violent in word and deed than the Muslims I know. It isn’t the Left who wants to destroy any religion. It’s the Right who wants to dominate our country, despite what our Constitution says.

  • Jam

    Fake news anyone? I’m a liberal New Yorker and I’ve never once heard anyone — anyone— say he/she wants to “destroy Western culture” or Christianity, Judaism or Islam. Can you cite any evidence for your claim? Instead we respect all religious and secular institutions that exist to promote the well being of the human condition. Further, we note with affirmation any religious institution or culture that seeks to improve its policies and beliefs in light of science, without fear of change, and to adapt itself to new and thoughtful discoveries.

  • Bill Pavuk

    I appreciate Gabbard’s statements. A big part of why we are where we are in our public discourse is that most on both sides defend our rights and principles in the context of calling out those on the other side. Adultery, graft, financial malfeasance, sexual harassment, etc., most Dems and Republicans are concerned with these things and speak about them only in the context of what the other party is doing wrong. I am a big believer in the notion of taking the log out of our own eyes first, and as a Democrat I expect more of Democrats, not just that we clear an ethical bar that others in both parties have lowered for us over the years. To me, if Gabbard and others are going to defend the religious freedoms of Muslim and Hindu citizens, then they need to also speak up when, for example, a nominee for federal judge is regarded as unfit for being in the Knights of Columbus. To me, that’s what integrity looks like. And all the “but the GOP isn’t going to play fair and do likewise” protestations in the world doesn’t change that for me.

  • Jam

    Can you provide a link to Hirono’s actual questioning of the nominee? Thanks.

  • Jam

    Well played, and thanks for your elegance. BTW Do you have the context, or a direct link, to her actual questioning of the federal nominee? I’ve heard it described differently but did not see the actual clip yet. Thanks again.

  • Bill Pavuk

    I have only read commentators and opinion pieces that referenced the nominee’s fitness called into question because of his membership in the Knights of Columbus, along the lines of a fear that such a person would rule with God and not the Constitution.

  • Sean

    “They want to flood the country with people who don’t have Western values because they know you can’t preserve Western civilization with non-Western peoples.”

    I would differ a bit with this statement, although there is probably some truth to it. I think the main motivation Democrats have for mass non-Western immigration is to flood the US with Democratic voters.

    This is effectively a demographic coup against the American voter. There are billions of people in the world and we are a nation of 330 million or so. Once Democrat voters can be mass imported, my vote is worthless, nor does any politician ever have to worry about my interests or protect my human rights ever again.

    This has been done before, many, many times. Latvia was 9% Russian minority in 1935. By 1989, at the end of Soviet domination, Latvia was 34% Russian. These were Russian colonists who were allowed or encouraged to move to Latvia to cement Soviet political control over the native Latvians and suppress their native culture.

    Many American voters consider immigration their first concern. This has been falsely painted as racial or ethnic bias. If millions of leftist Europeans were brought in to overwhelm the native voter, most people would feel the same way.

  • joe ho

    lol. In the industrialized West Christianity is collapsing under the weight of its own absurdities. The blatant hypocrisies of the religious right only help to accelerate the process.

    The rise of the “nones” is unstoppable. Even full-blown atheism is increasing at a rapid rate among the young. Christianity’s patriarchal, misogynistic, anti-gay mythology no longer speaks to most young people.

    In Western Europe, Christers are claiming victory if people say they are culturally-Christian, even if they don’t believe in the Christian god or the Bible. That’s how low the bar is being lowered.

  • louisquinze

    Unfortunately Christianity is dying from the self-inflicted wound of hypocrisy – belief without discipleship. The real thing takes self-discipline – dying to self-will and loving G-D before one’s own desires. Loving our neighbour as oneself. ‘Acting justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly with G-D’. (Micah – Old Testament, so it’s been around for a long time.)

  • billwald

    Far as I know, there is no case law or constitutional definition of “religion.” In the US we give tax breaks to religions that don’t “believe in”any god and condemn some religions that do believe in god . . . For example traditional Mormons still practicing polygamy in SW Utah.

  • The Last Danite

    >atheism on the rise
    >suicide rates on the rise

    Really makes you think

  • joe ho


    >atheism on the rise
    >wealth on the rise
    >life expectancy on the rise
    >infant mortality declining
    >extreme poverty declining
    >educational level on the rise

    Really makes you think.

  • The Last Danite

    >wealth on the rise
    >life expectancy on the rise
    >infant mortality declining
    >extreme poverty declining

    Thanks fossil fuels and capitalism!

    >educational level on the rise

    Thanks United States world dominance!

    Notice how you posted nothing atheism can claim credit for. How about:

    >80,000,000 dead in state atheist nations in under 100 years
    >atheist’s have laughable birth rates
    >immense historical ignorance (dArK aGeS sToPpEd ScIeNcE!!1!)
    >moral relativism
    >rising depression rates

  • joe ho


    Western Europe

    >atheism rising
    >suicide rate falling

    Wealth correlates NEGATIVELY with religiosity. As countries become wealthier they become less religious.

    you’ve posted nothing that atheism is responsible for
    you confuse atheism with totalitarianism/communism

    If Communism Killed Millions how many did Capitalism Kill

    When Christian Europeans Colonized the New World They Killed So Many the Climate Cooled.

    Makes you think!

  • The Last Danite

    Atheist regimes didn’t murder millions? That is as bad as holocaust denial.

    >Wealth correlates NEGATIVELY with religiosity.

    Wealth correlates with marriage, education, and family. Hence why Jews and Latter-Day Saints tend to be more successful than the average.

    >As countries become wealthier they become less religious.

    And then the suicide rates start climbing (Nordic nations have a higher suicide rates than many African nations). One of the best kept secrets of psychology is that religious people are far more mentally and emotionally healthy than staunch atheists. In fact, as is increasingly recognized nowadays, religious people tend
    to be healthier, not only mentally but even physically, than their irreligious counterparts.

    Just compare the mental and emotional health of CS Lewis to Sigmund Freud

  • joe ho


    Totalitarian nations didn’t kill in the name of atheism. Christian capitalistic nations did kill in the name of Christianity.

    The widely known psychological fact is that any health benefits religious people enjoy come NOT from their belief system but from the social support they received. That can be separated out.

    NOrdic countries had a higher suicide rate when they were Christian. It’s called Seasonal AFfective Disorder.

    In 2016, Finland, the Scandinavian nation with the highest suicide rate, ranked above but quite near the United States, and below 31 other nations.

    The suicide rate in Guyana is more than double that of Finland, and the highest ranking nations seem to share locations in Eastern Europe, West/Central Africa and the northeastern bits of South America. Denmark and Norway both rank below countries like Switzerland, Austria or Australia, with equivalently decent standards of living.

    Just compare the mental and emotional health of David Koresh and Sam Harris.

    As wealth rises, so do suicide rates. It’s a trade off.

    Christianity is a scourge. Thank goodness it’s on its way out in the industrialized West.

  • The Last Danite

    >Totalitarian nations didn’t kill in the name of atheism.

    It was a crime to pray in public in the USSR but sure they didn’t care about religion. Same logic as “Hitler didn’t want to kill the Jews he wanted them to be relocated”

    > That can be separated out.

    It actually can’t. Religious observers have demonstrated better mental health and emotional stability due to adherence to faith. Brushing it off does not explain it. If your claims were true we would see the opposite effect.

    >Christianity is a scourge. Thank goodness it’s on its way out in the industrialized West.

    Christianity built the west and lead to the modern world. If you don’t think mass irreligion has no negative side effects just look at the below replacement birth rates in Europe. Think those nations will be around in a century or enjoy their welfare states for long?

  • joe ho

    lol. The mass murders you attribute to communist regimes were not done in the name of atheism. They killed in the name of totalitarianism. “However, most religions were never officially outlawed.”

    And why did totalitarian/revolutionary regimes turn against religions–especially the religious hierarchies? Because religions had been complicit in supporting unjust regimes like the Tsars and the French monarchy, which mercilessly exploited the poor, keeping them in their place. They were seen as enemies of the people because of their political stance (“divine right of kings”), not their religious one. Much of the reason why Christianity has lost its hold in Western Europe is because of its support of or acquiescence of the Fascist regimes of WWII, e.g. Franco’s Spain.

    The Atheist Atrocities Fallacy

    That can and has been separated out. And all effects have been correlational. Not causative.

    The 2018 UN World Happiness Report: most atheistic (and socially well off) countries are the happiest, while religious countries are poor and unhappy

    The basis for WEstern civilization was built by the pagan Greeks and Romans. They developed the idea of the dignity of the individual and democratic forms of government. They developed our ideas of philosophy, law, literature, art, architecture, engineering, science and medicine over several thousand years before the Judeo-Christian nonsense was added on as a superficial layer in the 3rd century of the Common Era. It was the Renaissance and the Enlightenment which gave secular pushback against Christian barbaric nonsense that real progress was made.

    The European nations continue to become less religious even as their birth rate falls and the number of immigrants rises. Many religious immigrants are happy to adopt the secular values of their new countries. In France, a strong majority of 2nd generation Muslims say their religiosity is much weaker than their parents. And when they intermarry with Europeans, their religiosity weakens even more. Only 7% say their religiosity is stronger than their parents.

  • AntithiChrist

    Tulsi is neither a Hindu nor a Democrat, despite any claims she may make along those lines.

    From your post:
    “Gabbard is herself a Hindu and grew up in a religiously conservative household.”

    Gabbard was raised from birth by her Republican parents, Mike and Carol Gabbard, in the Science of Identity cult. This cult is a breakaway sect of the Hare Krishna cult (ISKCON), itself originally rooted in Hinduism.

    The cult’s guru, supreme leader Chris Butler’s bio can be found here.

    Heads up: if you hate gays and lesbians, you will LOVE the teachings of Gabbard’s beloved (by Tulsi) guru.

    When Tulsi stands up for “Religious Freedom,” she is standing up for “Religious freedom TO” discriminate, operate outside of secular laws, etc.

    Don’t be fooled. She represents and promotes an ideology that would make Franklin Graham blush, and that’s saying a lot.

    And that’s just her Obama-esque “reverend problem.” During his campaign Obama disavowed Reverend Write’s more radical (or at least politically untenable) messages. Will Tulsi? Not without specific politically motivated orders from her guru himself would she ever do that. It’s her cult leader.

    I won’t go into her pro-Trump/Putin/Assad support or her anti Obama posturing, or her amazing popularity in the Russian media (that is to say: Putin’s media.)

    I can go on, but I think you get the picture.

  • Zzyzx Zybisco

    The Constitution forbids the Right (or Left or anyone else) from “dominating the country?” Where does it say that?

  • Nimblewill

    Most of us only want religious freedom as it is defined by us.

  • Statistics Palin

    Tulsi Gabbard is now whoring herself to the Syrian dictator who regularly nerve gasses his people including children.

  • Gramz59

    No need to refer to what she is doing as prostituting. In case you didn’t know it is offensive to do so.

  • Statistics Palin

    I would care if I were worried about offending a sex worker because.prostitues don’t deserve to be compared to a mass murder apologist.

    As for your feelings, I wasn’t speaking to you. So f*ck off.