Republican Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa was asked about reaching voters who are nonbelievers on Nov. 2, and responded twice that parents should take their kids to church (video below).
The Friendly Atheist notes that Justin Scott, who asked the question, made similar inquiries of candidates during the presidential primaries.
Scott asked Branstad how to get young voters, who are nonbelievers, involved in the political process.
"I think we need to try to lead by example," Branstad replied. "I mean like taking our children to church and encouraging them to get involved."
Scott reminded Branstad that "nonbelievers don’t go to church."
Branstad replied: "I know. But that’s a reason why parents need to try to provide some leadership and encourage that. And encourage our children to stay involved, even when they go off to college. And that’s a challenge."
Cody Hashman, an organizer of the Center for Inquiry’s Openly Secular campaign, responded to the exchange in a Nov. 3 press release:
Proselytizing and church sermons are not how you engage secular Americans in politics -- it’s how you alienate them. What nones and nonbelievers need is to be recognized and respected by their representatives. Secular Americans deserve an equal voice in our political process, and their values and concerns need to be taken seriously by our leaders and institutions.
For a sitting governor to assert that church and religious belief are the way into political involvement is deeply disappointing. As an Iowan, I would hope our governor would look to connect with his secular constituents, not convert them. Don’t preach to us, governor. Reach out to us.
In April, Branstad signed a proclamation "in the name and by the authority of the state of Iowa" that called on Iowans "to read through the Bible on a daily basis each year until the Lord comes," noted the Des Moines Register in May.
The proclamation also encouraged citizens to participate in prayer events that were sponsored by the National Governor’s Prayer Team, Iowa Prayer Caucus and the United States Prayer Council.
Branstad was criticized at the time by the ACLU of Iowa and the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers, but Branstad's spokesman Ben Hammes said the governor has previously signed proclamations for Muslim Recognition Days, which recognized that Muslims live in Iowa and share their rich traditions with people.