Marco Rubio airbrushes his faith-based agenda when confronted by an atheist voter

It’s no secret that Marco Rubio has been gunning hard for the Evangelical vote. From ads that include and are limited to Rubio discussing how his Christian faith affects his judgment, to ads telling voters that he wants the United States to start “acting” in accordance with its “traditional values,” the thrice-Christed senator from Florida has been completely up front about running as an avowed (conservative) Christian:

However, Rubio’s avowedly Christian campaign was challenged Monday night by an atheist voter. Citing the above ad and noting, as I did when it was released, that it includes precisely nothing by way of policy recommendations or a governing agenda, the man asked Rubio — with the camera on his phone rolling — if he was running to be “Pastor-in-Chief.”

Rubio responded by insisting that the voter had the right to believe whatever they want, while implying that he’d also have to be okay with living in a Christian nation. It’s quite an exchange. Here’s the video, via Marco Rubio’s YouTube channel:

Rubio’s answer isn’t just interesting because he asserted, incorrectly, that our secular rights come from a religious deity. His answer is interesting because it directly contradicts things that he and his campaign have said and done.

Here’s what Rubio said to lead off his answer:

Marco Rubio, directly at the "atheist voter"/videographer, screenshot via Marco Rubio / YouTube

Marco Rubio, directly at the “atheist voter”/videographer, screenshot via Marco Rubio / YouTube

First of all, as I said during my speech, you have a right to believe whatever you want. You have a right to believe in nothing at all. You most certainly have that right. By the way, I’m a Christian, I can’t force you to be a Christian. Christianity is a free gift; we Christians believe that Salvation is a free gift that has to be willfully accepted. You can’t force it on people. So, you have a right to believe whatever you want and I congratulate you on believing whatever you want.

I’m gonna share my faith, especially when I’m asked, because my faith influences who I am in every aspect of my life. First of all, I believe that you can’t really understand America unless…if you don’t believe that Judeo-Christian values influenced America you don’t know history…This nation was founded on the principle that our rights come from our creator. If there’s no creator then where did your rights come from.

Now compare that to what Rubio’s campaign website says about religious freedom, on a page explicitly titled “Religious Liberty Is Not Simply The Right To Believe Anything You Want” (emphasis added):

Religious liberty is the right to live according to your religious teachings and to have the opportunity to spread it to others, instill it in your children and live it in your everyday life.

Those of us of the Christian faith understand we are called to be Christians in every aspect of our lives and we are called to influence the culture around us.

In the new American Century, we need a president who understands that protecting religious liberty means understanding the Constitutional principles of the right to exercise your faith in every aspect of your life.

That includes public life, giving government officials like Kim Davis the license to impose their religious beliefs on citizens interacting with their state and local governments. For a prospective President Rubio, that also includes appointing Supreme Court justices that will overturn Roe v Wade and Obergefell v Hodges for entirely religious reasons, along with reversing President Obama’s executive actions prohibiting employment discrimination for federal contractors.

Rubio’s prior commitments to imposing his Christian faith on American politics and culture made it utterly nonsensical, to say nothing of suspect, when he made his (unnaturally seamless) pivot to why non-believers should be thankful to have a devout Christian as president:

I respect very much your willingness to stand up and ask that question because I know you’re in a small minority here of people who share that view that you have. But you have a right to it; it’s what makes this such a great country.

I would say this, though: You shouldn’t be worried about my faith influencing me. In fact, I think you should hope that my faith influences me. Here’s why:

You know what my faith teaches me? My faith teaches me that I have an obligation to care for the less fortunate. My faith teaches me that I have an obligation to love my neighbor. My faith teaches me that I have an obligation for those who are hungry, to help try to feed them. For those who are naked, to help clothe them. My faith teaches me that I need to minister to those in prison. My faith teaches me that if I want to serve Jesus, I have to serve…each other. And I think you should hope that influences me. I know it’s made this a greater country.

For all of Rubio’s stated care for the poor and the incarcerated — care that he says is derived from his Christian faith — his campaign suggests that this care comes in the form of thoughts and prayers instead of actual policy. The per-child tax credit included in Rubio’s (already regressive) tax plan was made non-refundable for the express purpose of excluding poor people. Rubio remains hostile to social welfare programs aside from the Earned Income Tax Credit, and defended his state’s decision to not expand Medicaid with an argument that PolitiFact rated “mostly false.”

While running for his Senate seat, Rubio attacked former Florida governor Charlie Crist for supporting automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons. Florida remains one of the worst states in the country when it comes to disenfranchising its ex-felon population.  Rubio, for his part, had no trouble writing a recommendation letter for his ex-felon brother-in-law who was seeking a real estate license, but he still hasn’t taken a clear position in whether he thinks that same brother-in-law, along with over 1.5 million other Floridians, should have his voting rights restored. All he knows is that was Charlie Crist was wrong and bad to try and make it easier for them to get their voting rights back.

Care for the poor and incarcerated, indeed.


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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10 Responses to “Marco Rubio airbrushes his faith-based agenda when confronted by an atheist voter”

  1. olandp says:

    Your faith teaches you to sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.

    We’re waiting.

  2. 2patricius2 says:

    If he really believed that his faith teaches him those things, he would act on them. But I don’t think he really believes any of those things.

  3. 2patricius2 says:

    Repulsive. He is such a pandering little hypocrite.

  4. dcinsider says:

    OMG. Christian is a hypocrite. Dog bites man. Yawn.

  5. BeccaM says:

    Feckless, faithless, pandering little twit.

    He’s had ample opportunities for those pronouncements to be more than mere words, and he’s never taken any of them.

  6. dommyluc says:

    He’s such a little putz. And stop wearing those Beatle boots, Marco. You are an insult to the memory of John Lennon and George Harrison.

  7. 2karmanot says:

    Cha Cha Heels is flaming!

  8. UncleBucky says:

    He spoke boucoup about his faith, but not a jot about the US Constitution.

    This man is dangerous. DANGEROUS. For he actually stated that he would defend his faith more than the US Constitution. Quite obviously.

  9. goulo says:

    “My faith teaches me that I have an obligation to care for the less
    fortunate. My faith teaches me that I have an obligation to love my
    neighbor. My faith teaches me that I have an obligation for those who
    are hungry, to help try to feed them. For those who are naked, to help
    clothe them. My faith teaches me that I need to minister to those in
    prison. My faith teaches me that if I want to serve Jesus, I have to
    serve…each other. And I think you should hope that influences me.”

    If only he and other Christian politicians actually ACTED in accordance with that teaching from their faith… instead of hypocritically acting AGAINST it, while only talking so much much about the teachings of their faith.

  10. CA_Reader says:

    Have that stupid kid read the Constitution of the United States; it specifically requires that religion may not be a reason for political office. Also, since he can’t be bothered to show up for his current day job, why does he insist on running for one where his absence will definitely be noticed.

    Stupid f****in’ kid.

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