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George H.W. Bush and the Atheists

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The story of George H.W. Bush and the Atheists originates from the campaign trail for U.S. presidential election, 1988, while he was the incumbent vice president, and "one of his stops was in Chicago, Illinois, on August 27, 1987."

The late atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair related in "The History of the Issue" that "At O'Hare Airport he held a formal outdoor news conference. There Robert I. Sherman[1][2], a reporter for the American Atheist news journal, fully accredited by the state of Illinois and by invitation a participating member of the press corps covering the national candidates, had the following exchange with then-Vice-President Bush."

Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?
Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.
Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?
Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?
Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.

In January 2007, Sherman obtained copies of correspondence relating to the matter from the Bush Presidential Archives. In a letter of protest at his comments, America's Atheists Inc. sought an apology from Bush. Nelson Lundy, the Associate Counsel to the U.S. president, drafted a response. In a memo written for C. Boyden Gray, he wrote that "the letter alleges some campaign remarks by the President and his Illinois campaign chairman that might not be too easy to defend, if in fact they were made."[3] In response to another letter a few months later, Lund drafted another memo to Gray. In it he wrote "because I do not believe that we can defend the remarks allegedly made during the campaign, and because I assume that you would not recommend that the President issue an apology, I think the best course is to ignore this follow-up correspondence: continuing to exchange letters would only make it increasingly obvious that we are refusing to address the issue he is raising." [4]

Quote Source

"The exchange appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera on Monday February 27, 1989. It can also be found in Free Inquiry magazine, Fall 1988 issue, Volume 8, Number 4, page 16."[5][6] "For further information, contact American Atheist Veterans at the American Atheist Press's Cameron Road address."[7]

"Copies of this brochure (order #8286) are available at the cost of ten cents each from: American Atheist Veterans, 7215 Cameron Road, Austin TX 78752."[8]

The original online source for this material, frequently cited on both pro- and antiatheism websites (for example: [1][2][3][4][5]), no longer exists. According to the National Secular Society (UK), it was taken from The History of the Issue by Madalyn O'Hair, a "Reprint of American Atheists booklet from the early 1990s." [6]

President George W. Bush on religion and patriotism

According to the January 12, 2005, Washington Times:[9]

"Mr. Bush told editors and reporters of The Washington Times yesterday in an interview in the Oval Office that many in the public misunderstand the role of faith in his life and his view of the proper relationship between religion and the government.
"'I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you're not equally as patriotic if you're not a religious person,' Mr. Bush said. 'I've never said that. I've never acted like that. I think that's just the way it is.'"

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. RobSherman.com website.
  2. Robert Zorn, "Sins of the Father (Update), Chicago Tribune, May 26, 2005.
  3. Nelson Lund, "Correspondence Asking for the President Apologize to America's Atheists for his Campaign Remarks", Memo to C. Boyden Gray, February 21, 1989, p. 40.
  4. Nelson Lund, "Correspondence Asking for the President Apologize to America's Atheists for his Campaign Remarks", Memo to C. Boyden Gray, June 1, 1989, p. 20.
  5. Inactive link at Infidels.org.
  6. "Common Arguments (1997)," Infidels.org.
  7. Inactive link at Infidels.org.
  8. Madalyn O'Hair, "'Can George Bush, with impunity, state that Atheists should not be considered either citizens or patriots?' The History of the Issue," StephenJayGould.org, undated.
  9. James G. Lakely, "President outlines role of his faith," Washington Times, January 12, 2005.