This is the third installment in my series on the 2012 Presidential candidates and religion. I decided to do this series, in part, because the overwhelming focus of the race has been—and likely will continue to be—the economy, with some discussion of foreign affairs intermingled in the debate.
The candidate’s social and religious views have largely remained backstage, but that does not mean that these world views will not affect a future presidency. A President elected on a get-more-jobs platform will still have plenty of opportunities once in power to make decisions that are driven by religious perspectives, and the American people deserve to know which religious leaders, viewpoints, and lobbyists are likely to gain Oval Office access if a given candidate is elected.
In this column, I’ll suggest what the answers to those questions might be if Michele Bachmann—who is currently a Minnesota Congresswoman—were to be elected president.
A Bachmann Administration Would Likely Be Dominated by Evangelical Christianity
Michele Bachmann’s rhetoric, her theory, and even her grasp of science are all steeped in her evangelical Christian religion. There can be little question, then, that a Bachmann Administration would put out the welcome mat to those lobbying for evangelical Christian values and issues. It seems clear that Bachmann, as President, would thrust her own religious worldview on the nation, believing that in doing so, she was merely serving the nation’s own good.
Indeed, just last week, Bachmann said, “We need more biblical world view to let people know what is it that the principles of God stand for. If people understand the principles of ours, it won’t be difficult to understand who would best represent those values in the White House and in Congress.”
Accordingly, Bachmann does not believe in the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state. To the contrary, in 2006, she warned a Christian group that public schools “are teaching children that there is separation of church and state, and I am here to tell you that is a myth.” Obviously, the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause is no myth, but one can only surmise that Bachmann would seek judicial nominees—both for the lower federal courts, and possibly even for the U.S. Supreme Court, were a vacancy to arise—who would give the Establishment Clause no teeth. That means a Bachmann Administration could be a short road to a “Christian country.”
God is ever-present in Bachmann’s assessments of the world. Indeed, she even sees in natural disasters God’s judgment of humankind. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Bachmann said, “I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.” There is no doubt about Bachmann’s sincerity as she spoke these words, though her segue from hurricanes to spending is labored, to say the least.
Bachmann won the Iowa Ames Straw Poll in no small part because her organization skillfully courted the evangelical vote. In an odd turn, though, one of her chief organizers of the evangelical vote in Iowa was Peter Waldron, who spent time in a Ugandan jail after he was arrested on terrorism charges after the authorities discovered assault rifles and ammunition where he lived. That fact, along with his seeming association with Bachmann, is troubling. It is one thing to be associated with someone in this era who was convicted on terrorism charges, and quite another to choose such a person as a campaign organizer, as she did.
Bachmann’s Religious Beliefs Would, If She Were Elected, Heavily Influence Her Foreign Policy and Her Views on Social Issues
Bachmann’s religious beliefs would also inform her foreign policy, particularly with respect to the United States’ relationship with Israel. Bachmann said, in a 2010 speech, that if America were to fail to support Israel, “a curse” would be levied against the United States, based on the Book of Genesis in the Bible. I, for one, would be fascinated to see whether this “curse” would be just a repeat of the earthquake/hurricane scenario where God has decided to warn us about big government, or whether it ramps up to a more severe level, as in Armageddon. That is a question worth asking her at the next debate. This is no isolated comment: Impending doom is not an uncommon theme in Bachmann’s public professions of faith and her views on policy.
On social issues, in turn, Bachmann is a straight-up far-right conservative Republican. She is, in her own words, “100 percent pro-life.” Does that mean she is an absolutist on abortion, i.e., one who would not even permit exceptions for the health and/or life of the mother? That is 100% extremist, and troubling. Once again, this is a question well worth asking at the next debate among Republican hopefuls.
Bachmann is even opposed to human embryonic stem cell research, despite its potentially lifesaving applications.
Furthermore, Bachmann has been a critic of the vaccine that prevents HPV and, therefore, protects against cervical cancer. Her reasoning is that receiving this vital protection would somehow persuade girls to have more sex, and that parents should be able to determine whether their children get this vaccination. The American Academy of Pediatrics has been critical of Bachmann’s position, and particularly of her statements that the vaccine has serious side effects, which is not true. When quizzed about other vaccinations that are used to protect against deadly diseases, Bachmann has retreated from the parental-rights theme. Her anti-vaccination position thus is apparently limited to circumstances where the lives being saved are women’s, and the disease is sex-related.
Finally, Bachmann is opposed not only to same-sex marriage, but actually to homosexuality itself, which she has referred to as “bondage.” Indeed, she is a co-owner of a clinic, run by her husband, which uses religious precepts to supposedly transform homosexuals into heterosexuals. While plenty of politicians have not embraced same-sex marriage, including President Barack Obama, there are very few who have expressed such antipathy. This is another issue that would likely drive her choices for the federal bench. It seems obvious that no openly gay individual would ever get on her short list, and that she would have some sort of litmus test in favor of hating and/or discriminating against homosexuals.
Predictably, Bachmann also believes that intelligent design is actually a scientific theory competing with evolution. Hilariously, she asserted during a 2006 debate that “[t]here are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.” Yet the relatively recent decision Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District turned in part on the lack of scientists who give any credence whatsoever to “intelligent design.” To put it bluntly, Bachmann simply seems uneducated on science when she suggests that schools should simply put intelligent design and evolution “on the table” and let students decide. That’s like putting astronomy and astrology on the table for students to decide. Or, to put it differently, like putting apples and oranges on the table . . . .
Like current Republican frontrunner Rick Perry, Bachmann supports the theory of limited federal government, but when the topic at issue is one of her religiously motivated social causes, such as the structure of marriage, she is willing to use the federal system to overcome state prerogatives. (Perry shares the same hypocrisy, as I explained in my earlier column about his candidacy and views.)
Accordingly,Bachmann has said, “I’m running for the presidency of the United States. And I don’t see that it’s the role of a president to go into states and interfere with their state laws. I do support a constitutional amendment on marriage between a man and a woman, but I would not be going into the states to overturn their state law.” One has to wonder if Bachmann doesn’t understand that a constitutional amendment in this area would, in fact, overturn state law, or if she just doesn’t care.
Anyone who is thinking of voting for Bachmann on economic issues alone should pause, get acquainted with the full range of her beliefs that pervade every corner of her thinking, and consider the kind of president she would really be. It is abundantly clear that she would enter Washington with the intent of bringing her evangelical religious world view to the White House, to share it with others, and—worst of all—to actually impose it on those with different beliefs, no doubt for their own good. While it is tempting, in this era, to focus solely on economic issues, candidates like Perry, Santorum, and Bachmann are running religio-centric campaigns as well—and we forget that point, or brush it aside, at our peril.