Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) pushed for a confluence of faith and politics during a discussion with University President John J. DeGioia Wednesday night in Copley Formal Lounge.

In his speech, part of the Berkley Center’s ongoing series, “Religion and the 2008 Election,” Brownback first discussed his views on the relationship between religion and government before answering a series of questions posed by DeGioia and audience members.

“I don’t believe in a theocracy. I think it’s bad for religion. I think it’s also bad for government,” Brownback said. “But at the same time, I don’t think you should drive faith out of the public square. I think faith brings a lot to the public debate.”

The senator encouraged people to “celebrate” religion and let their personal faith enter into the political world.

“When faith informs public policy, it helps ensure that human dignity is at the center of everything,” Brownback argued.

Brownback stressed the notion of universal human dignity throughout his speech and responses. He described this perspective as “pro-life and whole life.”

“I believe that human dignity attaches at the very beginning. I believe it continues to the very end. I believe it applies not only to the child in the womb, but the child in Darfur, the man in prison and even the illegal immigrant that comes into America,” Brownback said. He is the father of five children, one adopted from China and one from Guatemala.

DeGioia, citing California pastor Rick Warren’s work in Africa that utilizes faith networks for humanitarian goals, asked Brownback about the role the communities can have in developing countries and how it can relate to government.

Brownback responded by saying that individuals and government should continue to make an impact in areas in need of development. Government, he said, should have a supportive role but should shy away from dictating the areas’ religions.

He said that faith, and only faith, can “ensure human dignity” in politics because while politics change, the fundamental values and truths within faith remain the same throughout time.

In response to a question from an audience member, Brownback discussed why he did not support a federal bill on homosexual hate crimes this year.

In part, he said that when some countries’ governments passed homosexual hate-crime legislation, people who do not support homosexuality had been prosecuted for those views. He said he thinks legislation would infringe upon people’s rights to have anti-homosexual views.

He added that he thought several states were “sufficiently” addressing the issue.

The senator also spoke on other hotly debated issues in politics today, including the presidential race, immigration, abortion and the Iraq war.

“I hope that what we can show the Islamic world is that you can engage in the global economy, you can work in the United States and be a good Muslim at the same time,” he said, “that you can engage and you can practice whatever faith that you want to. That we believe in freedom of religion.”

Brownback, who pulled out of the 2008 presidential race in October, said he believes the presidential candidate who seems most able to stimulate bi-partisan work in government will ultimately be the most successful.

He concluded by encouraging audience members to educate themselves in ways beyond the classroom.

“I . encourage you to develop both your head and your heart,” he said.

The event was sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

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