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Liberal News and Commentary
Sunday, March 3, 2002

Vice President Bush Quote Regarding Atheists

Story updated on Feb. 4, 2004

      Over the past, fifteen years, I've received numerous e-mail inquiries regarding a conversation that I had in 1987 with Vice President Bush regarding atheists.  Since there is continuing interest in the subject, today's Liberal News & Commentary presents the circumstances surrounding the conversation and a transcript of that conversation.

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      Vice President Bush came to Chicago on Thursday, August 27, 1987, to announce that additional townships had been declared flood disaster areas, subsequent to rainfall of seven inches in one day, earlier in the week.  (We can only deal with an inch or two at a time.  Otherwise, we flood.)

      The Vice President held a news conference at O'Hare Airport that afternoon, which I attended as Midwest Bureau Chief of American Atheist Press, publisher of the American Atheist Magazine and many very well written books and pamphlets on the subject of atheism.  After taking several questions about the disaster declaration, the questions turned to politics.

      Bush had just announced his candidacy, one week earlier, for the nomination of his party for President.  The Republican National Convention and the election were one year away.

      I asked Bush, "What are you going to do to win the votes of Americans who are atheists?"

      Bush replied, "I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community.  Faith in God is important to me."

      I followed up:  "Do you support the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?"

      He replied, "I don't know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic.  This is one nation under God."

      After other reporters asked a few questions about issues that they were concerned about, I was then able to get in one more follow-up question on my subject:  "Do you support the constitutionality of state/church separation?"

      Vice President Bush responded, "I support separation of church and state.  I'm just not very high on atheists."

      The entire Chicago political press corps was there, along with members of the White House press corps and national news reporters, but no reporter thought that this anti-atheist bigotry was sufficiently newsworthy to do anything with it, other than me.

      If you have any unanswered questions about this matter, please feel free to contact me in any of the manners described below.

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