Religion and Politics ’08: Duncan Hunter
Western State University, B.S.L. & J.D., 1976
Formally declared candidacy Jan. 25, 2007
Formally withdrew candidacy Jan. 19, 2008
U.S. Representative from California, 1981-present
Chair, House Armed Services Committee, 2003-2007
Attorney, private practice, 1976-1980
U.S. Army, 1969-1971
Spouse: Lynne Hunter
Children: Duncan Duane Hunter, Sam Hunter
Duncan Hunter has been a Southern Baptist since birth and remains an active worshipper in that tradition.
According to Roy Tyler, Hunter’s press secretary, the candidate was “born again” – or converted in a way that Baptists regard as saving grace – at age 14. Tyler added that Hunter fulfilled what he felt was a sense of dual duty to both God and country by enlisting in the U.S. Army at age 21 and serving in the Vietnam War.
In the 1970s, Hunter accompanied his parents on a trip to the Holy Land where, Tyler says, they made a point to walk where Jesus had walked, and ever since, Hunter has been a committed advocate for the state of Israel. In May 2007, Hunter pledged, “I will never, never, never abandon Israel” at an event organized by broadcaster and Christian Zionist John Hagee.
Today, Hunter serves on the advisory board of Rescue Task Force, a Christian nonprofit organization based in his California congressional district, which is committed to addressing material needs in disaster areas. He attends First Baptist Church of Alpine in California. Tyler says Hunter usually visits a Protestant church for worship when he is traveling on a Sunday.
If elected president, Hunter would be the fifth Baptist to occupy the White House.
On The Issues
Abortion Hunter has made ending abortion a top priority. As president, he would support a constitutional amendment making all abortions illegal. He has sponsored numerous anti-abortion bills in Congress, including the Right to Life Act, which would have conferred all rights of personhood at the moment of conception. Another, the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act of 2006, would have required abortion providers to inform pregnant clients that a fetus feels pain after 20 weeks and to offer anesthesia for the fetus. Compare McCain and Obama
Church and State Hunter has clashed with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and other groups in favor of keeping religion and government separate. In 2006, he was instrumental in enabling the Department of Defense to take ownership of a controversial La Jolla, Calif., hilltop site where versions of a cross have stood for nearly a century. Before the transfer, critics had tried for more than 10 years to remove the Mount Soledad cross from public land. Compare McCain and Obama
Death Penalty A supporter of capital punishment, Hunter has opposed efforts that would make it easier for criminals on death row to appeal their sentences. He also voted against a 1994 initiative to curtail the list of crimes subject to a federal death penalty. Compare McCain and Obama
Education Hunter supports school vouchers for use in private and parochial schools. He also aims to encourage home schooling by ensuring that home schooled children have the same access to federal financial aid programs as do public school students. Compare McCain and Obama
Environment Hunter supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He also voted in favor of a September 2005 bill to roll back federal powers to protect endangered species. Compare McCain and Obama
Faith-Based Initiatives Hunter believes faith-based groups should be eligible for public funding. In 2001 he voted for a bill that would enable faith-based organizations to compete on equal footing with secular non-profits for government funding. Compare McCain and Obama
Gay Marriage Hunter opposes gay marriage. He co-sponsored a House resolution seeking a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. He says that “marriage is one of the most important social institutions we have” and that “children need the unique influence offered by both a father and a mother.” Compare McCain and Obama
Health Care Hunter has supported the Bush administration’s strategy for controlling health care costs. He voted for the 2003 limited Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors and for a 2004 bill to cap medical malpractice awards at $250,000. Compare McCain and Obama
Immigration Immigration is one of Hunter’s primary campaign issues because his California district borders Mexico. One of Hunter’s biggest claims to fame is what he calls the “Hunter Fence,” a federally funded border fence project that aims to block illegal migration and drug smuggling across the California-Mexico border. He co-authored and voted for the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which calls for more than 700 miles of new fencing along America’s border with Mexico. Compare McCain and Obama
Hunter is a vocal supporter of the Iraq War. Along with the removal of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq regime marks, in his view, “the greatest protection of human rights in this decade.” He believes a successful Iraqi government must protect the free exercise of religion and must not be a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Hunter’s son, Duncan Duane, is a U.S. Marine who has served in Iraq.
Poverty Hunter says tax cuts are the best tool for reducing poverty because they enable the poor to save and support their families. He advocates what he calls a “Fair Tax,” which would replace the national income tax with a national retail sales tax. As part of his anti-poverty agenda, he supports tariffs on Chinese imports to help preserve American manufacturing jobs. Compare McCain and Obama
Stem Cell Research Hunter supports the use of adult stem cells, harvested without destroying human embryos, as integral to the pursuit of regenerative treatments and cures for disease. He opposes the use of embryonic stem cell lines for research. He voted against the proposed Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, which would have expanded the stem cell lines eligible for federal funding for research. Compare McCain and Obama