Confronted by an “activist atheist,” Marco Rubio said he’ll champion a country where “no one is forced to violate their conscience.”
“No one is going to force you to believe in God, but no one is going to force me to stop talking about God,” said the Florida senator, prompting applause and a whistle of support from the crowd.
During a town hall on Monday morning, Justin Scott, 34, of Waterloo asked about Rubio’s new ad, explaining that atheists such as him are “looking for somebody that will uphold their rights as Americans, and not pander to a certain religious group,” he said.
In the commercial, Rubio does not mention specific political policy but discusses how “our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our creator for all time. To accept the free gift of salvation offered by Jesus Christ.”
“You have a right to believe whatever you want,” said Rubio, a Roman Catholic, in response. “You have a right to believe in nothing at all.”
Rubio went on to explain how his faith has been the “single greatest influence in my life, and from that I’ll never hide.”
The ad may signal a greater appeal by Rubio to social conservatives, in addition to the business-minded voters who are backing him, said Chris Larimer, a political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa.
Rubio and his supporters have said he will unite the Republican party.
But in Iowa, the two branches of the Republican Party have been drawn to different candidates. In 2012, for example, many Evangelical voters supported Rick Santorum while establishment voters backed Mitt Romney.
“I think what he’s trying to do is put a foot in both pants,” Larimer said.
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