“Religious liberty” advocate Ted Cruz says atheists aren’t fit to be president

Not only did Ted Cruz fail to repudiate Kevin “Kill the Gays in Public” Swanson and back out from the Evangelical leader’s hatefest this weekend, the self-described “religious liberty” advocate used it as an opportunity to reject the premise of religious liberty entirely.

During a question and answer session with Swanson, Cruz answered literally the first question he was asked by declaring that atheist cannot be president (answer comes at the end of the video):

Said Cruz, when asked if religion was an important quality for a Commander-in-Chief, “Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief of this nation.”

Of course, we’ve already had secular presidents; just not ones who were able to declare their secularism openly. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison considered themselves deists, which was about as close as you could get in the late 1700s/early 1800s to saying you didn’t believe in God without getting tarred and feathered. Jefferson, a noted skeptic whose Jefferson Bible cut out all of the superfluous dogma from the King James version to tell Jesus’s story as a secular source of wisdom, actually faced accusations of being an atheist during his successful campaigns for political office, including the presidency. Madison, while less overtly skeptical, was nevertheless adamant that religion should have no place in the government, and opposed the idea of having chaplains in the military.

I wouldn’t expect Cruz to bring this up, especially not at a conference full of people who earnestly believe that the faithful are objectively better people than non-believers. But let’s be clear: To say that belief in God is a prerequisite for holding public office is as bad or worse than Ben Carson’s insistence that Muslims should not be elected president. At least in Carson’s case, he qualified his assertion by saying that Muslims who reject illiberal, anti-democratic interpretations of the faith would be acceptable. Cruz is making a similar claim with no qualification whatsoever. If you don’t believe there’s a man upstairs, don’t run for president. You can’t do the job.

As Hemant Mehta noted, Cruz stopped short of saying that atheists are disqualified from running for office entirely. Just that he thinks they are incapable of doing the job of president. But, as he continued (emphasis in the original), “just imagine what his reaction would be if Sen. Bernie Sanders said someone who wastes time praying in office wasn’t fit for the presidency. He’d be crying Christian Persecution the second someone handed him a microphone.”

And let’s not forget that Cruz’s abject rejection of religious pluralism comes just as we brace for another iteration of the War on Christmas. A candidate who has a clear chance at becoming the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States thinks that a lack of religious belief disqualifies one from public office, but insufficiently Noel-ified coffee cups are the real affront to religious freedom.

Christian supremacy in full effect.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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37 Responses to ““Religious liberty” advocate Ted Cruz says atheists aren’t fit to be president”

  1. Camera Obscura says:

    So you, as well as Ted Cruz believe in a religious test to hold public office. How unconstitutional of you.

  2. alex says:

    I dont know man….that bible of theirs is full of horrible things and viscious contradictions, I think they have the “christian” thing down to a T. Keep in mind their religion is based on a book filled “moral lessons” that include God ordering moses’ followers to stone a man to death for gathering sticks on a sunday, promoting slavery, rape…and features a commandment that says “thou shall not kill”. But I guess when this jelous, genocide loving God decided to supernaturally impregnate a virgin to come down to earth on a suicide mission as his alter ego Jesus….he showed his softer side.

  3. alex says:

    These far right extremists are truly dangerous to the fabric of our constitution as well as the fabric of our identity of a “free country”. As a libertarian minded independent I am morally forced to vote against my own economic interests in every election, because I know it’s more important to preserve religious liberty (it’s ironic how far right Christian fundamentalists fanatics twist this phrase to try to support their pro theocracy agenda).

    It’s truly scary how the new republican front-runner literally not only denies the scientific consensus of evolution through natural selection, but he says Darwin was inspired by satan!!!
    It’s truly sad that probably the best leading republican choice is a xenophobic narcissistic idiot that believes in building a wall and forcefully deporting over 11 million people.

    My friend joked that the movie “idiocracy” is slowly comming true…and sadly…he’s right

  4. Henry Simon says:

    I don’t know if they understand Christianity or not; I tend to think that they’re cynical enough to know and not care. The schism that conservatives have with Christian ethics is at its most obvious when they express there rage against the pope. The claim that the popes politics have superseded his Christian values is evidence that their greed and cynicism has surpassed their own.

  5. cobalt100 says:

    Anyone who believes that this life is not good enough and that there is a better life to live after you die is not fit to be in a public office. Ted Cruz is emotionally and intellectually impoverished.

  6. Kilia says:

    “Ted Cruz is suggesting we should discriminate against people based on their religious beliefs.”

    Well then I discriminate against Cruz’s religious beliefs!!

  7. Ryan McLaughlin says:

    Enough of this fucking bullshit. If you have an irrational belief in an invisible sky fairy, YOU ARE NOT FIT TO BE FUCKING PRESIDENT.

  8. I agree with you Henry 100% he is perhaps the most dangerous man in the United States. What I find so funny is that as a (Loud) self proclaimed Christian he is a man who fails to even remotely understand the meaning of being Christian. As an Atheist myself I feel I better understand what it means to be Christian than does Mr. Cruz.

  9. Jillette Razer says:

    I begin my day on my knees, not to pray though. Could I be president?? Also, check out the Ted Cruz coloring books, they’re gold.

  10. Henry Simon says:

    It’s contempt. He’s clearly tactically brilliant and thoroughly informed. He’s the single most dangerous man in America and he’s gotta direct line to the Koch brothers and Goldman Sachs. He’s the sum of all fears….At least he’s not at all charismatic.

  11. Jamie says:

    well,if we are going into the religious qualifications things, Ted Cruz is a Christian Dominionist, who want to rewrite the constitution to agree with their own interpretation of Christian Law. And the Dominionists think Cruz is their Messiah http://www.politicususa.com/2013/10/30/left-accept-ted-cruz-dominionist-messiah.html

  12. Matt Ross says:

    Ted Cruz is suggesting we should discriminate against people based on their religious beliefs. Fortunately the constitution protects us against his prejudice. Let’s hope the electoral process protects us against his candidacy.

  13. Butch1 says:

    His Achilles Heel is his religion and that no one likes him in the Congress or the Senate. No friends means no support. He’s too arrogant and burned too many bridges. That doesn’t mean he’s dumb by any means.

  14. Jon Green says:

    Oh no, we were *all* thinking it for sure.

  15. me jackson says:

    What Constitution is Ted Cruz reading? Certainly not the one that fails to mention God or Jesus. certainly not the one signed primarily by deists who didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus. Certainly not John Adams who said “The United States is not a Christian nation” on more than one occasion and included it, in writing, in a treaty that ended hostilities with Barbary coast pirates.

    Yet the religious right, to whom Cruz is pandering, insists that the US is based solely on Christian principles (despite a complete lack of evidence) and imposes a false (and illegal) religious litmus test on candidates for federal office.

    the ‘WAr on christians’ is completely bogus-the real war is on anybody who doesn’t share the “jesus is my personal savior” theology of the far right christian fascists.

    My reply to Cruz, Huckabee and the rest of the Christian fascists trying to take over the US with a Christian version of Sharia law is “get the behind me…”

  16. The_Fixer says:

    Yeah, but any gay man (and any non-gay man) who doesn’t laugh at that is perhaps approaching unconsciousness.

    Or maybe they just don’t have a somewhat juvenile sense of humor that I do.


  17. Jon Green says:

    I mean, we all know what he meant, but……..

  18. The_Fixer says:

    Said Cruz, when asked if religion was an important quality for a Commander-in-Chief, “Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief of this nation.”



  19. The_Fixer says:

    Ah, Brylcreme. Like insanity, a little dab ‘ll do ya. But too much of either makes a big mess.

  20. Bruce Chambers says:

    Sen. Cruz is free to openly announce that he is either completely
    ignorant of – or holds in utter contempt – the one of the key founding
    principles of this nation and its Constitution. He’s merely declaring
    that he, himself, is unfit to hold ANY public office in this country.

  21. Hue-Man says:

    Headline: “Half of the New Canadian Cabinet Members Chose to Skip “So Help Me God” in Their Oaths of Office”

    “In case you’re wondering, the affirmers included:

    Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
    Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General
    Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board
    Navdeep Singh Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
    Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
    Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
    Maryann Mihychuk, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
    Maryam Monsef , Minister of Democratic Institutions
    Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
    Harjit Singh Sajjan, Minister of National Defence
    Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
    Patricia Hajdu, Minister for the Status of Women
    Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and Canadian Coast Guard
    Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage
    Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism”


    I’ve no idea and don’t particularly care how many of them are “atheists” or whether their god(s) don’t line up with English christian notions.

  22. mf_roe says:

    I’m still convinced he will last longer than the current pair of front runners. He is far smarter than he seems, while the others decimate one another he collects the support of the powerful.

  23. mf_roe says:

    Kennedy never let his religion interfere with his political agenda. I for one believe he was assassinated because his political agenda interfered with the “true” religion of his adversaries.

  24. Butch1 says:

    How would he know? If any person isn’t fit to be a president it would be a right-winged religious fanatical one-trick pony show such as himself.

  25. Ol' Hippy says:

    I do understand, the US is waging a perpetual war. It’s just not done with a religious view now. We’ll never totally get it all cleaned up.

  26. Alan Magid says:

    Oh, Theo, not of woman born, are we forgetting somehing? First and Sixth Amendments are there too. Not just about owning a bazooka.

  27. Alan Magid says:

    Bill made Hillary promise to start her presidential day the same way as cruz. and for the same reason.

  28. MoonDragon says:

    The first presidential campaign of which I have memories of issues involved questions that one candidate’s adherence to his religion would interfere with his ability to do his job. I never thought I’d miss that.

  29. mf_roe says:

    Cleaning up? You do understand that Obama just rewrote the business plan and re-branded an idiot’s failure into a cynic’s betrayal.

  30. Ol' Hippy says:

    We’re still cleaning up the big mess of the last president after waging his holy war in the middle east. I believe we really don’t need any more “holy wars”. Enough already, quit forcing this nation to accept outdated myths and fairy tales. Rationality has to be a prerequisite for public office.

  31. AFV says:

    Is Ted Cruz even American enough to even become president? That whole place of birth thing in the Constitution mean anything? Can we nip this campaign in the bud? He’s wasting my time.

  32. Baal says:

    No president of the United States can use Brylcreme. The founding fathers and Moses said it.

  33. mf_roe says:

    Hard to build a system that excludes “Them” that can’t be used to exclude “Us”. I prefer to pursue a system of accountability that removes failed policies regardless of origin. The Zealots are the worst offenders when it comes to refusing to admit failure of their methods.

  34. nicho says:

    I think we’d be better off if we left religion out of it altogether.

  35. TheOriginalLiz says:

    I think we’d be a lot better off as a nation if we only elected atheists as our leaders.

  36. Bill_Perdue says:

    Electing this or that Democrat or Republican as president is not important. There are no saviors out there just a pack of lesser evils.

    What is important is building mass movements like the environmentalist movement that called out 400,000 people called out Peoples Climate March in New York in September last year. Large numbers of them were galvanized into action by their unions which included SEIU, the Transit Union, and the fastest growing and most militant left labor union in the AFL-CIO, National Nurses United. Combined with regular demonstrations at the WH, the Obama regime was forced to table Keystone.

    We won a similar victory in the fight for marriage equality, overcoming the damage inflicted by Obama’s attacks on marriage equality in 2008 and by 2012 our work, demonstrations and lawsuits had caused the resurgence of marriage equity in the polls. Once the polls changed Democrats and a scant few Republicans scrambled to rebrand and pretend that they were on our side. The matter was settled by the courts based on the relentless, militant and massive pressure out on them by the LGBT communities.

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