November 4, 2008

Religion and Politics ’08: Mike Gravel

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Background

Hometown
Springfield, Mass.

Age
79

Religion
Unitarian Universalist

Education
Columbia University, B.S., 1956

Candidate Website
www.gravel2008.us

Candidacy Status
Formally announced candidacy on April 17, 2006
On March 26, 2008, Gravel announced his intention to join the Libertarian party and seek the Libertarian presidential nomination

Political Experience
U. S. Senator from Alaska, 1969-1981
Speaker of Alaska House of Representatives, 1965-1966
Alaska State Representative, 1963-1966

Professional Experience
Founder, The Democracy Foundation, 2001
Real estate developer in Alaska, 1980s
U.S. Army, 1951-1954

Family Information
Spouse: Whitney Steward Gravel
Children: Martin Gravel and Lynne Gravel Mosier

Religious Biography

In His Own Words

“I believe that faith – whatever denomination we choose – should improve us morally and ethically, and encourage our kindness and compassion for all people. It should not be a tool to condemn others, and should not politicize the beliefs of others.”
(Announcement of presidential candidacy, April 2006.)

Mike Gravel grew up as a Roman Catholic in a largely Jewish neighborhood of Springfield, Mass. As a youth, he attended French-speaking Catholic schools. As an adult, he became a Unitarian. He describes the Unitarian tradition as one that “accepts many paths to spiritual experience.”

As a U.S. Senator from Alaska, Gravel relied on theUnitarian Universalist Association (UUA) publishing arm, Beacon Press, to publish “The Senator Gravel Edition” ofThe Pentagon Papers in 1971. The book, which made him a nationally recognized and controversial figure at the time, disclosed top secret Department of Defense studies that shed light on three decades of American involvement in Vietnam. At the book’s launch, Gravel held a press conference alongside then-UUA president, the Rev. Robert N. West.

As a presidential candidate, Gravel has championed gay and lesbian rights, especially the right to marry; the UUA also firmly believes in that cause.

Though he disagrees with the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality, Gravel has not entirely turned his back on Catholic moral reasoning. In a 2001 examination of the Vietnam War’s moral legacy, for example, he invoked “just war” principles from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to argue that the war had been immoral.

If elected president, Gravel would be the fifth Unitarian to occupy the White House.

On The Issues

Abortion Gravel supports Roe v. Wade and abortion rights, and he criticized the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2007 for upholding a ban on partial birth abortion, saying it’s a procedure the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists deems medically necessary in certain cases. Compare McCain and Obama

Church and State Gravel has not taken a position on the federal government’s proper role in maintaining separation of church and state, according to campaign press secretary Alex Colvin. Compare McCain and Obama

Death Penalty Gravel has said little about capital punishment on the campaign trail, but he called for abolition of the death penalty in his 1972 book, Citizen Power. He still believes capital punishment should be outlawed, according to campaign press secretary Alex Colvin. Compare McCain and Obama

Education On rising college tuition costs, Gravel says: “The cost of education must be born [by] the central government, not as a burden on the student.” He says he would increase funding for public education by cutting defense spending by more than 15 percent. Gravel notes that 30 percent of young Americans don’t graduate from high school, which means that “a third of our children are condemned to a substandard economic existence.” Compare McCain and Obama

Environment Gravel aims to curtail global warming by imposing a carbon tax on oil and coal. He also supports converting gasoline stations to hydrogen fueling stations within the coming decade. Although early in his political career he supported drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he now opposes it. Compare McCain and Obama

Faith-Based Initiatives Gravel has not taken a position on faith-based initiatives, according to campaign press secretary Alex Colvin. Compare McCain and Obama

Gay Marriage Gravel supports gay marriage and opposed the Defense of Marriage Act. He also supports domestic partner benefits for all Americans. In an open letter to the LGBT community, Gravel wrote that “depriving gays and lesbians of equal rights is immoral.” He marched in San Francisco’s 2007 Gay Pride Parade. In response to a questionnaire from Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights advocacy group, Gravel said he believes U.S. citizens should be able to petition for immigration sponsorship of same-sex partnersCompare McCain and Obama

Health Care Gravel supports universal health care by means of a single-payer voucher system. Under his proposal, every American would receive vouchers according to his or her anticipated needs. People could use their vouchers with any physicians they choose. Gravel says: “A universal health-care voucher plan will also relieve American businesses of the financial responsibility of insuring their workers while ensuring that their workers get adequate care.” Compare McCain and Obama

Immigration Gravel wants to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in order to reduce Mexican migration to the United States. According to Gravel’s analysis, NAFTA has led to the loss of more than 1.3 million Mexican jobs, and NAFTA partners need to renegotiate in order to “allow Mexican workers to remain in their motherland.” Compare McCain and Obama

Iraq War Gravel opposed the invasion of Iraq and now advocates a full withdrawal of troops within 120 days. In a November 2006 speech, Gravel explained: “There are Americans who say that by leaving Iraq, we would be saying that our soldiers died in vain. But the only thing worse than soldiers dying in vain is more soldiers dying in vain.” He says coalition partners should assign reconstruction contracts to Iraqi companies, not American firms. Gravel also opposes sanctions as foreign policy tools; he says international sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq led to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children. Compare McCain and Obama

Poverty Gravel says America’s war on drugs must end because it “does nothing but savage our inner cities and put our children at risk.” Gravel proposes to help end poverty by creating a progressive tax system in which consumers of new products would be taxed at a flat rate. This would encourage Americans to save, Gravel says. This proposed system would replace both the income tax and the Internal Revenue Service. Compare McCain and Obama

Stem Cell Research Gravel supports stem cell research as an important advance in health care. In a June 2006 interview for a blog, Gravel compared stem cell research to research on human cadavers, which he says was once taboo but has yielded important discoveries. He says the government should not limit the advancement of science in the area of regenerative medicine, which includes embryonic stem cell research.Gravel supports stem cell research as an important advance in health care. In a June 2006 interview for a blog, Gravel compared stem cell research to research on human cadavers, which he says was once taboo but has yielded important discoveries. He says the government should not limit the advancement of science in the area of regenerative medicine, which includes embryonic stem cell research. Compare McCain and Obama