Mike Huckabee and the First Amendment

Mike Huckabee was questioned about a number of topics on Meet the Press this week but the most significant were related to his views on religion as they impacted public policy. Tim Russert confronted Huckabee with a statement from a 1998 speech where he said, “I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ.” Huckabee stood by that statement however initially it appeared that there was hope for some moderation of his views in a follow up exchange:

MR. RUSSERT: But where does this leave non-Christians?

GOV. HUCKABEE: Oh, it leaves them right in the middle of America. I think the Judeo-Christian background of this country is one that respects people not only of faith, but it respects people who don’t have faith. The, the key issue of real faith is that it never can be forced on someone. And never would I want to use the government institutions to impose mine or anybody else’s faith or to restrict. I think the First Amendment, Tim, is explicitly clear. Government should be restricted, not faith, government. And government’s restriction is on two fronts: one, it’s not to prefer one faith over another; and the second, it’s not to prohibit the practice of somebody’s religion, period.

Unfortunately these principles don’t spill over into practice, as is seen in subsequent discussion of issues such as homosexuality and abortion. He considers gay behavior a matter of choice and apparently feels that regardless of whether one is born gay they should refrain from having sex. He is already on record as opposing gay marriage and has stated “There’s never been a civilization that has rewritten what marriage and family means and survived.” (Hat tip to Think Progress for these last two references). Huckabee also spoke of legal sanctions against doctors who perform abortions:

MR. RUSSERT: But when you say aberrant or unnatural, do you believe you’re born gay or you choose to be gay?

GOV. HUCKABEE: I don’t know whether people are born that way. People who are gay say that they’re born that way. But one thing I know, that the behavior one practices is a choice. We may have certain tendencies, but how we behave and how we carry out our behavior–but the important issue that I want to address, because I think when you bring up the faith question, Tim, I’ve been asked more about my faith than any person running for president. I’m OK with that. I hope I’ve answered these questions very candidly and very honestly. I think it’s important for us to talk about it. But the most important thing is to find out, does our faith influence our public policy and how? I’ve never tried to rewrite science textbooks. I’ve never tried to come out with some way of imposing a doctrinaire Christian perspective in a way that is really against the Constitution. I’ve never done that.

MR. RUSSERT: But you said you would ban all abortions.

GOV. HUCKABEE: Well, that’s not just because I’m a Christian, that’s because I’m an American. Our founding fathers said that we’re all created equal. I think every person has intrinsic worth and value…

After further discussion of abortion, Huckabee said:

GOV. HUCKABEE: I think if a doctor knowingly took the life of an unborn child for money, and that’s why he was doing it, yeah, I think you would, you would find some way to sanction that doctor. I don’t know that you’d put him in prison, but there’s something to me untoward about a person who has committed himself to healing people and to making people alive who would take money to take an innocent life and to make that life dead. There’s something that just doesn’t ring true about the purpose of medical practice when the first rule of the Hippocratic Oath is “First, do no harm.” Well, if you take the life and suction out the pieces of an unborn child for no reason than its inconvenience to the mother, I don’t think you’ve lived up to your Hippocratic Oath of doing no harm.

Huckabee, along with Ron Paul, is one of two remaining contenders for the Republican nomination who have admitted they accept fundamentalist biblical claims and reject modern science, at least with regards to evolution. Huckabee does at least state, “I’ve never tried to rewrite science textbooks.” Huckabee might not have rewritten any text books personally, but he has supported the teaching of creationism as opposed to evolution in the Arkansas schools. In 2006 The Arkansas Times quoted Huckabee as supporting the teaching of creationism, repeating the common conservative misconception about the meaning of the word “theory” when used in science. Huckabee made this statement in response to a question called into Arkansas Educational Television Network:

Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that’s why it’s called the theory of evolution. And I think that what I’d be concerned with is that it should be taught as one of the views that’s held by people. But it’s not the only view that’s held. And any time you teach one thing as that it’s the only thing, then I think that has a real problem to it.

In addition to his error with regards to the meaning of “theory” and his failure to recognize that evolution has become established science because the theory has been tested and proven, Huckabee’s answer contained another falacy described in the article:

Huckabee’s answer was laced with important misconceptions about science. Perhaps the most insidious problem with his response is that it plays on our sense of democracy and free expression. But several court decisions have concluded that fairness and free expression are not violated when public school teachers are required to teach the approved curriculum. These decisions recognized that teaching creationism is little more than thinly veiled religious advocacy.

Fairness does not mean we should teach science and unproven religious claims along with established science. On teaching of creationism, as well as his views on homosexuality and abortion, Huckabee fails to support the First Amendment’s guarantee of separation of church and state despite his initial words in support of the First Amendment


  1. 1
    LC says:

    Vote for Huckabee! You’ll have a better, moral conscience!

    May god bless you.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    My moral conscience tells me not to vote for a candidate who imposes their religious views upon others.

  3. 3
    Steve Miles says:

    Poor Huck.
    The Hippocratic Oath never said “do no harm.” Florence Nightingale coined the phrase in her book on hospital architecture. The Greeks of 500 BC did not regard a fetus as alive. That did not happen until about 300 years later.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Huckabee is wrong about the Hippocratic Oath but I didn’t bother to comment on that as the origins of the phrase is unknown. Sometimes it is referred to as a Hippocratic aphorism (but not part of the Hippocratic Oath). Compared to all his other absurd comments I didn’t think this was worth worrying about.

    I figure it matters if a president doesn’t understand evolution at all. Compared to this, confusing the Hippocratic Oath with another common medical principle is trivial.

  5. 5
    steve says:

    mike huckabee is a piece of shit he is nothing more if you vote for him you may as well kiss your freedom away its like electing hitler or bush but bottom line is if there was a good canadate they would nominate me im a god honest guy about everything

  6. 6
    R Hersh says:

    Hillary should respond with a Childrens Rights Amendment.
    One thing to include: Kids should have the right to grow up without “accidental” exposure
    to the marketing of age restricted stuff like cigarettes, booze, gambling. Free speech should not include the right to entice minors to use age restricted products. They should only be able to promote their wares in age restricted environments. No more beer commercials during football games. No more billboards for Seagrams in a velvet bag. No more mostly bare butts on gambling billboards. No more gambling billboards at all. Joe Camel was kicked off, but a general rule against promoting age restricted stuff didn’t come out of it. That general rule could be in a Childrens Rights Amendment.

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