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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Reubin Askew, July 8, 1974. Interview A-0045. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role of faith in politics

Askew says that he believes faith plays a significant role in politics—voters are not necessarily interested in candidates of certain religious faiths, but that they live according to the rules of their faith. He predicts an increasing role for faith in the political sphere. His own faith has guided some of his positions on race and desegregation in Florida—he cites his support for busing in 1972 as an example.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Reubin Askew, July 8, 1974. Interview A-0045. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
Governor, several years ago you and John West, Bob Scott, Linwood Holton were all featured in some interviews that David Gillespie did for a Presbyterian magazine, and what role did religion play for you and mean in your political decisions and your political life?
REUBIN ASKEW:
Well, first of all, I cannot separate my faith from any other part of my life. And I think that if I attempted to do it, it would reflect a lack of understanding or commitment to it. I don't believe that you can compartmentalize your faith. I think that your faith has to be at the center of your life and from it must emanate all of your decisions. As far as attempting to impose any religious dogma as a result of it, I really don't believe that I have done that. But the approach to any decision making, I just don't think that you can separate your faith nor would I ever try to.
JACK BASS:
To what extent do you think that religion plays a role in southern politics? A number of people have remarked that it is a factor and that particularly the large fundamentalist groups that dominate in many of the southern states, less so in Florida than some of the other states, that it has a very significant political effect. Do you perceive this?
REUBIN ASKEW:
Well, I think that . . . I don't believe that this is peculiar, just say for Florida, that the people would like to know what type of person they are electing. And I think that faith plays an important role in it, not necessarily what you profess, but how you live that which you profess. And I think that you are going to find that in the years ahead, nationally, people are going to be concerned about that. Again, not the particular faith, you know, but the type person. I think that more and more, the electorate is going to look beyond what a politician says and to see what he has done and how he has lived.
JACK BASS:
When you talk about faith, that you couldn't separate your own religious faith and religion from decision making, how did that effect, say, you decision in entering the busing controversy in '72?
REUBIN ASKEW:
I think that my faith would have gone much more into my fundamental feeling that I have about the race question per se, rather than just any question of busing.
JACK BASS:
But that was one sort of controversial decision, when you took what was generally considered to be an unpopular position.
REUBIN ASKEW:
It was a very controversial position that I took and I think it largely reflects my feeling of which my faith is a part of, you know, that God meant all of us to have a chance. As far as the device of busing, I don't think that my faith tells you what is right or wrong in that regard, nor did I attempt to pass judgement on this question. I just felt that I needed to share with the people of Florida why I felt as I did and why I thought it was important that we not do anything that would limit our ability to dismantle a dual system of public schools and to work toward the equality of educational opportunities for every child. I am a product of the public school system and I feel that it is important for every child, regardless of their color, place of residence, that they have a chance to rise above their own beginnings. And I saw in it, a real question, not just to minority groups, but to people generally who were not born into a situation that would guarantee them an adequate education in the event that the public schools fell apart.