Courted By Candidates, Faith Voters Say They Want To Hear More
This week, Republican candidates played up their Christian credentials to faith and conservative activists at the Faith & Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority conference in Washington, D.C.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas didn't have to reach far to sell himself as the candidate of faith and the best choice for religious conservatives who are concerned about social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion.
"Religious liberty is under assault," Cruz said Thursday, citing the rise of radical extremist groups like Islamic State and an upcoming Supreme Court decision that social conservatives fear could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.
That's the type of message that resonates with attendee Jerri Dickinson, who traveled by bus from New Jersey to attend the conference.
"I'm a conservative as far as social issues are concerned," Dickinson said, "same-sex marriage and abortion. Pro-life is very important to me so I look at candidates that fill that hole," she said.
"It's really hurt my heart to see this country go to the depths of ... depravity it's gone to," she said, adding that she's troubled by things like abortion and pornography.
John Hutchison, of Wilmington, Del., said his religion guides his ideas of what's right or wrong.
"My faith teaches me a certain value system, that's my right as an American citizen," he said.
But despite the presidential candidates' focus on their religious message at the conference, faith wasn't the primary concern for some voters we spoke to. Here's what four attendees told us they would like to hear from — or ask — the next president:
What Faith Voters Want
Carly Campbell: Economy And DefenseLydia Thompson/NPR
The Chicago native said she came to D.C. to intern at the American Enterprise Institute and study at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. She said she would like to ask the candidates about the threat from terrorists like ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
"The economy and defense is why I am a Republican. I would probably ask what their solution is with ISIS in the Middle East. I know it's a touchy subject on people not really wanting to get involved again, but obviously something needs to be done."
John Hutchison: Gun RightsLydia Thompson/NPR
A shooting at a Charleston, S.C. church Wednesday put gun violence in the national spotlight once again. But Hutchison, who said he doesn't own a gun, thinks any efforts to curb gun access are missing the larger issue.
"They're not addressing the real problem with violence in this country. A gun is just a tool; why is our country becoming violent? It has nothing to do with owning a gun, it's a mindset that too many people are getting into."
Nick Allmaier: Higher EducationLydia Thompson/NPR
Candidates like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida have emphasized the value of vocational training in the place of traditional four-year college degrees. Allmaier, a rising senior at American University in Washington, wants to know where the contenders stand on education issues.
"I would really want to see what they think about funding for higher education. A lot of Republicans want people to get a college education in, you know, three years. It seems to be very anti-humanities, anti- that sort of stuff. And that's an important opinion to pay attention to."
Jerri Dickinson: Religious FreedomLydia Thompson/NPR
Dickinson said religious freedom should protect the ability of businesses to refuse service if something violates their beliefs. She said she's worried about the rollback of religious rights.
"They're taking Christian freedoms away and we're a nation of individual freedom. We can't do that here, and I see that happening more and more with big government."