George H. W. Bush: I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
Can George Bush, with impunity, state that atheists should not be considered either citizens or patriots?
(Used with kind permission from American Atheists: all rights reserved)
When George Bush was campaigning for the presidency, as incumbent vice-president, one of his stops was in Chicago, Illinois, on August 27, 1987. At O'Hare Airport he held a formal outdoor news conference. There Robert I. Sherman, 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.
On October 29, 1988, Mr. Sherman had a confrontation with Ed Murnane, co’ chairman of the Bush-Quayle '88 Illinois campaign. This concerned a lawsuit Mr. Sherman had filed to stop the Community Consolidated School District 21 (Chicago, Illinois, suburb) from forcing his first-grade atheist son to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States "one nation under God" (Bush's phrase). The following conversation took place.
Sherman: American Atheists filed the Pledge of Allegiance lawsuit yesterday. Does the Bush campaign have an official response to this filing?
Murnane: It's bullshit.
Sherman: What is bullshit?
Murnane: Everything that American Atheists does, Rob, is bullshit.
Sherman: Thank you for telling me what the official position of the Bush campaign is on this issue.
Murnane: You're welcome