As the road to the 2020 election snaps ever sharper into focus, outreach is becoming a more vital question to the Democratic hopefuls. It’s not uncommon for presidential wannabes of either party to hire a faith outreach coordinator to help organize the appeal to faith groups. But on Tuesday, one of the leading Democrats faced a different question: what about a secular outreach coordinator?
During a town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Elizabeth Warren was asked if she would hire someone to reach out to people who aren’t religious — a growing slice of the American populace who, studies show, tend to vote Democrat.
The question was asked by Justin Scott, the Iowa state director for American Atheists, in an exchange reported by The Friendly Atheist. Scott told Warren that it seemed like candidates were eager to “pander” to religious voters and wondered if nonreligious voters could be mobilized in a similar way.
“Many campaigns will hire a religious outreach director,” he said. “I think it would be fantastic for our country to bring all those voices in, to bring all voters in.”
Warren, who has not hired a faith outreach coordinator, responded by affirming their differences.
“Let me say something because I think it’s important. You’re an atheist. I’m a Methodist. But I grew up in a church that the first thing I ever learned was about the value of every single person. It was everything I learned. I’m not saying every Methodist is like that; that’s not my job, is to talk about all of them. I’ll tell you what I learned from the time I was little. I was a Sunday School teacher. I taught 5th grade Sunday School. Man, that was an experience. All I can say is no one was injured. Which actually was the bar in that particular 5th grade Sunday School.”
She went on to say that “if I had to describe a single guiding principle for me — the deepest of faith for me — it’s that every human being has value, whether you call it God, or a spirit, life … give it the name you want, but it’s about respect.”
She finished by pledging to consider Scott’s request. “I’m gonna think about that, OK?” she said. “It’s a good point! It would be!”
You can watch the conversation around the 55:20 mark in the video below.
In 2012, Michael Wear was the head of President Barack Obama’s faith outreach efforts. In 2016, President Donald Trump appointed a whole evangelical advisory board. In August, Pete Buttigieg hired Rev. Shawna Foster as his faith outreach coordinator.