Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) will debate U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) tonight in the only head-to-head meeting of the two major party vice presidential candidates before November.
The 90-minute debate will be divided into nine segments of about 10 minutes each. Every segment will begin with one question, followed by two-minute responses from each candidate. The balance will be filled with follow-up questions from the moderator.
At this point, we do not know what the topics of discussion will be. But we do know that both candidates are men of deep faith. Pence, a Religious Right ally, is someone we’ve written about at length. Kaine, a devout Catholic, performed missionary work as a young man and is opposed to abortion, at least on a personal level.
Given that religion is so important to both Pence and Kaine, here are five questions we would like to see asked tonight:
- Question: Should a politician’s personal faith impact laws that are meant to be followed by everyone?
Why it matters: Far-right fundamentalists want all U.S. laws, which are supposed to be secular, to be based in religious teachings. This would force a narrow brand of Christian faith on everyone.
- Question: What does religious freedom mean to you?
Why it matters: The Religious Right argues that the constitutional protection that gives everyone the freedom to believe – or not – as they see fit also gives the faithful a trump card to ignore many laws they don’t like – particularly laws concerning reproductive rights and the civil rights of LGBTQ persons.
- Question: Do you believe creationism should be taught in public schools?
Why it matters: Even though the U.S. Supreme Court said in 1987 that creationism is religious dogma that cannot be taught as fact in public schools, far-right forces constantly find ways to sneak creationism into the curriculum.
- Question: Do you support school vouchers?
Why it matters: Vouchers, also known euphemistically as “school choice,” are little more than a publicly funded bailout for sectarian schools, which is why the Religious Right is a big fan of them. But taxpayer money should never be used to finance religious instruction.
- Question: Should congress repeal the federal law that prohibits houses of worship and other 501(c)(3) non-profits from endorsing or opposing candidates?
Why it matters: The Religious Right has long advocated for a change to the law that is meant to keep churches out of partisan politics. Far-right fundamentalists want to see churches turn into political actions committees, which would ultimately be bad for both democracy and faith. This election season, Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has been particularly vocal on this issue. (If you agree that this law should not be changed, please sign our petition).
Tonight's vice presidential debate could include a lot of religious rhetoric.
These are some of the important matters that Americans United would like to see discussed during the vice presidential debate. After all, the First Amendment is under attack by far-right forces who want to convert the Constitution from something that protects us all into a device they can use to lash out at others.
This is a serious problem that is popping up all over the country. Citizens need to be informed about where candidates stand on our founding principles before they vote in November. Let’s hope these issues come up tonight.