Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the youngest candidate in the Democratic primary field, took a shot at the Republican party on the basis of religion during the first debate on June 27, 2019.
Buttigieg said that the policy of separating children from their parents at the border was hypocritical. His argument was that the GOP cannot claim to be the party of religious values and yet be willing to detain “children in cages.”
Here’s what led to that moment.
Buttigieg Shifted to Religion After Commenting on Whether Illegal Border Crossings Should be Downgraded From Criminal to Civil Offenses
At this point during the debate, the conversation had turned to the topic of illegal crossings along the southern border. The moderators asked about something that Julian Castro said on stage the previous night.
On night one, Castro said that he wanted to make an illegal border crossing a civil offense, not a criminal one. He challenged the rest of the Democratic field to promise to do the same thing.
The debate moderators brought that up on night two and asked the candidates if they agreed with Castro’s sentiment.
Pete Buttigieg: ‘We Should Call Out Hypocrisy When We See It’
Pete Buttigieg, a practicing Christian who was married in an Episcopalian church in South Bend, shifted to religion when giving his answer. He agreed that decriminalizing illegal border crossings is a good idea.
Buttigieg went on to call out Republicans for claiming to hold strong religious values, specifically Christian values. Here’s what he said verbatim:
“That criminalization, that is the basis for family separation. You do away with that, it’s no longer possible. Of course, it wouldn’t be possible anyway in my presidency because it is dead wrong.
We’ve got to talk about one other thing. The Republican party likes to cloak itself in the language of religion. Now, our party doesn’t talk about that as much, largely for a very good reason. We are committed to the separation of church and state and we stand for people of any religion and people of no religion.
But we should call out hypocrisy when we see it. And for a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that it is ok to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.”
One of the people on social media who appeared impressed by Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s statement, or at least the political value of it, was Republican strategist Frank Luntz. He wrote, “Mayor Pete just delivered his best lines of the #DemDebate by contrasting the GOP’s purported religious values with their support of forcibly separating children from their parents at the border. It is worthy of a 30-second ad.”
Buttigieg’s campaign staff was clearly on the same page. Within minutes, his campaign shared part of Buttigieg’s quote as a graphic to his Twitter account.