Hillary Clinton on Religion, Religious Faith, Secularism, Atheism, Church/State

What Does Clinton Say on Issues that Matter to Secular Atheists & Separationists

Whether she is elected president or not, Hillary Clinton is and will remain for some time a leading figure in the Democratic Party. Her views on matters like religion, the role of religion in government and public life, church/state separation, secularism, faith-based initiatives, reproductive choice, atheists and atheism, religion in public school, and related issues should matter to atheists. Secular atheists need to know where she really stands on religious and secular issues before they vote for her so they know exactly whom they are voting for and what long-term policies they are effectively supporting.

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Hillary Clinton grew up in a Methodist household, she taught Methodist Sunday school like her mother, is a member of a Senate prayer group, and regularly attends the Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington. Hillary Clinton can be placed in the moderate to liberal wing of American Christianity, but she appears to share a number of attitudes with more conservative American Christians. Clinton's liberalism is a relative matter: she's more liberal than many in America, and certainly more liberal than the Christian Right, but she has a long way to go to support truly progressive stances when it comes to religious debates.

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It's not absolutely necessary for a devoutly religious person look down upon atheists, but the correlation appears to be strong and it would be understandable why. Given how important devoutly religious people regard their faith in their god not only to their lives, but also to matters like morality, it would be a surprise if it weren't difficult for them to regard as fully equal those who reject not only their religion and their theism, but also that religion and theism are necessary or even reasonable. Since how Hillary Clinton consistently insists that her religion is very important to her life, atheists should wonder what she really thinks about atheists and atheism.

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Hillary Clinton on the Pledge of Allegiance: Clinton's Anti-Atheist Bigotry

The Pledge of Allegiance tells us whether a politician truly believes in political equality for all or if they only believe in equality for those who believe in God like they do. We won't have a national politician oppose the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance any time soon because anti-atheist bigotry is so strong, but the degree to which a politician defends it says a lot about how bigoted they are. Hillary Clinton seems to be very, very bigoted against atheists. We can't expect strong support from her for our equality, but we shouldn't see her repeating the Christian Right's major talking points and acting like a Christian Nationalist who would sees atheists as inferior outsiders.

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Hillary Clinton on America as a Christian Nation: America for Christians Only?

The idea that America is a "Christian Nation" is important for the Christian Right. They need people to believe this in order to sell their agenda to enshrine their form of Christianity over law, politics, and culture. It would be nice if liberal Christians consistently opposed this rhetoric, but not all do. Hillary Clinton, for example, doesn't go quite so far as to use the phrase herself but she has been more than willing to support the idea that America is a nation for "people of faith." This excludes people who don't have religious faith in any gods, but why does Hillary Clinton not want to include secular atheists as equals in America?

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Hillary Clinton on Religion in the Public Square

A popular refrain from the Christian Right is that strict church/state separation prevents religious believers from freely expressing or living out their religion in public. This is false; all that's restricted is use of the government to promote their religion. Hillary Clinton seems to agree with the lies of the Christian Right and said in 2005 that room must be made for religious believers to "live out their faith in the public square." They already have this and Christians dominate the public square over all other believers and secularists. Christians resent how they don't dominate as much as they used to and want to expand special privileges for themselves. Hillary Clinton appears to share this perspective.

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Hillary Clinton on Prayer in Public School

Hillary Clinton opposes state-sponsored or state-written prayers as was common practice in the past; personal and private prayers, however, should be completely free: "Students may participate in individual or group prayer during the school day, as long as they do so in a non-disruptive manner and when they are not engaged in school activities or instruction" Hillary Clinton also believes that students should not be prevented from expressing religious beliefs in the course of open-ended school assignments. This has been a touchy issue in church/state separation as evangelical parents encourage their children to use any opportunity to "witness" and promote their faith.

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Hillary Clinton on Faith-Based Initiatives

Faith-based initiatives have been an important aspect of President Bush's efforts to undermine the constitutional separation of church and state. Hillary Clinton is a strong supporter of faith-based initiatives, denying that providing funds for religious programs and indoctrination is contrary to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Religious groups have always been able to apply for and receive federal funding; the only hurdle has been that they can't use those funds to promote their religious beliefs or discriminate on the basis of religion. Insofar as Hillary Clinton seeks to remove these hurdles, she threatens the future of church/state separation in America

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Hillary Clinton on Science & Evolution

The Christian Right attacks many aspects of science at almost every opportunity, but their primary target is and probably will remain evolutionary theory. They try to prevent evolution from being taught in schools; almost the only political defense of science comes from Democrats like Hillary Clinton. According to Clinton, no form of creationism — not even Intelligent Design creationism — should be taught as if it were science alongside evolution: "Schools may not provide religious instruction, but they may teach about the Bible or other scripture in the teaching of history or literature, for example." There are possible venues for teaching about creationist beliefs, but Hillary Clinton agrees that science class is not one of them.

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Hillary Clinton on Flag Burning

In 2005, Hillary Clinton co-sponsored a bill that to "make it a crime to destroy a flag on federal property, intimidate anyone by burning a flag or burning someone else’s flag." Burning someone else’s flag is already a crime; intimidating someone by burning a flag is unconstitutionally vague; otherwise, there are already laws about threatening people with dangerous objects. This leaves the ban on burning flags on federal property, a likely location of protests. That’s the target of the law: to make flag burning illegal in as many anti-government protests as possible. Clinton said she opposed a constitutional amendment banning flag burning, but support for this law expressed hostility to unpopular speech and/or political opportunism.

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Hillary Clinton on Equality for Gays

Hillary Clinton opposes legalizing gay marriage and regards this as being "very positive" because she supports civil unions for gay couples. Clinton thinks she supports "full equality" because she favors civil unions which would presumably have the same characteristics as marriage, so why not call it marriage? The only reason is to preserve it for heterosexuals, and thus preserve some bastion of heterosexual privilege in order to reassure them that they are superior to gays. Hillary Clinton may thus not consciously oppose gay rights and equality, but she also doesn't entirely favor it. She has made some movement in that direction, for example by supporting gays being able to serve in the military, but she has a long way to go.

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Hillary Clinton on Reproductive Rights & Abortion

Sexual liberty and autonomy are targets for the Christian Right in their "culture war" on modernity, making defense of reproductive choice a defense against religious authoritarianism. Hillary Clinton strongly supports reproductive choice: "I believe in the freedom of women to make their own decisions about the most personal and significant matters affecting their lives." Clinton also supports general sex education and opposes abstinence-only education. However, Clinton supports bans on late-term abortions and calls abortion a "sad, tragic choice to many." This indicates that Clinton regards abortion as akin to murder and referred to the fetus in a 2003 debate as "the child, the fetus, your baby."

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Hillary Clinton on Stem-Cell Research

Efforts to ban stem-cell research have fractured the Republican coalition of religious and social conservatives, but support for stem-cell research remains strong among Democrats generally. Hillary Clinton supports lifting current bans on stem-cell research. In a 2007 conference, Clinton said: "When I am president, I will lift the ban on stem cell research. This is just one example of how the president puts ideology before science." If Clinton does support the general principle that politicians should put science and the well-being of the people ahead of personal ideology, including religious ideology, then she'll support undoing a large number of errors committed by President Bush.