Rob Sherman Advocacy   
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"Fighting injustice, one victory at a time."

 

Liberal News and Commentary
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

President Bush (the First)
"Atheists Are Not Citizens"
Documents Found

      For seventeen years, people have been asking me for proof that a conversation took place between Vice President Bush and me in which George H. W. Bush told me that atheists should not be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic, because this country is "One nation under God."  Copies of correspondence about that issue have now been located.

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      At a news conference in Chicago on August 27, 1987 (not 1988 as has been reported elsewhere), which I covered as a fully credentialed journalist, I asked Vice President Bush several questions.  In response to one question, Bush said, "I don't know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic.  This is one nation under God."  The March 3, 2002, edition of Liberal News & Commentary contains the full story about that news conference and my verbal exchanges with Mr. Bush.

      Ever since then, people from around the country and around the world have called or e-mailed me, saying, "Where's the proof?"

      Several internet reports, such as this one, have made reference to letters exchanged by the late Jon Garth Murray, then-President of American Atheists, and The White House, in February, 1989.  According to those reports, Mr. Murray strongly objected to this presidential smear of atheists and White House counsel C. Boyden Gray replied by saying that the President is entitled to hold any view that he wants regarding atheists.  It is likely that the origin of those internet reports was a story in either the American Atheist Magazine or one of their newsletters.

      Being a print journalist, I didn't bother to make a tape of my conversation with Bush because my story would only appear in writing.  I had never seen nor asked to see the letters because I was there, so I knew that the events had actually taken place.  Others, however, wanted proof.  Where's a tape or a copy of the letters, they would ask.

      Today, I contacted the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.  I asked if there was any chance that such documents could possibly exist;  if they did exist, was there any chance that the documents would be stored at the Bush Presidential Library;  if the documents did exist and were housed at the Bush Library, what was the chance that they could find such documents amongst the millions of items in their collection;  and if they could find the documents, could I please obtain a copy?

      A team of archivists went to work on the matter right away.  Within a couple of hours, they had found the documents.  They are archived as Item # CF01193-002.  They'd be glad to send me a copy, but I'd have to send in an FOI (Freedom of Information Act) request.  Due to a backlog of requests, it would take about two years for them to get the documents to me.

      I have begun the process of obtaining copies.  In the meantime, if you're ever in Texas, stop by the Bush Library and maybe you can see those documents for yourself.

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