Independent conservative presidential candidate Evan McMullin spoke to Scroll and BYU-Idaho radio Oct. 6.
“I advocate for a new generation of leadership, but also a new conservative movement,” McMullin said. “A new conservative movement that rededicates itself to the cause of liberty including religious liberty, but also a conservative movement that is inclusive of people from different faiths and different races.”
He said there are a lot of African-Americans who are conservative and people of faith but do not feel welcome in the Republican Party because of Trump’s racism and bigotry found within the party even before Trump.
A recent survey, conducted by Scroll, found that religious liberty and national security are the two of the most important issues for BYU-I students in this election.
Religious liberty “is in the DNA of our country”
We asked McMullin what role those issues play in his vision for a new conservative movement.
“My family came to the United states in the 1600s,” McMullin said. “The McMullins left Ireland looking for greater religious liberty and economic opportunity, and they landed at the beginning of that century in what we now know as Massachusetts. In the 1800s, they joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
He said his family soon faced persecution after joining the Church and fled across the plains to Utah.
McMullin said his mother’s family left Poland during World War II for Philadelphia, where they found opportunity and religious liberty.
“This is in the DNA of our country,” he said. “It’s in the DNA of my ancestors and my experience in the country.”
He said despite its prevalence throughout our history, religious liberty is under threat, and America needs a president who understands that.
McMullin said this is a presidential cycle where the Libertarian candidate does not understand religious liberty.
“I am the only candidate — the only candidate who will stand for religious liberty in this race,” he said.
Protecting religious liberty
“I would start with the Supreme Court,” McMullin said. “Certainly, I would reverse executive orders that President Obama has made for the executive branch that I think have infringed upon religious freedom. I would, certainly, veto any laws that would infringe upon religious liberty.”
He said he wants to open up laws to allow the clergy to speak on politics.
“Right now if church leaders speak about politics, they risk losing their charity status — their tax status — and I don’t think that’s right,” he said. “I think they ought to be able to speak on politics without fear of losing their tax status.”
Religious freedom and national security
When asked if there should ever be any compromise between religious liberty and national security, McMullin cited Trump’s proposal to limit Muslims from entering the United States.
“Let’s just think through this a little bit,” he said. “I think it’s useful to actually think about the policy — it’s not something Donald Trump spends a lot of time doing.”
He said this kind of policy would require potential terrorists to be honest about their religion despite their desire to commit a terrorist act.
“Why would they not lie about that if they are coming to do us harm?” McMullin said.
He said determining what people’s faith is would be impossible.
“Not only is it an impossible policy to implement — to try to implement it would be very ugly,” he said. “And when I say ugly, I mean just a gross violation of our most fundamental principles. There should not be a religious test.”
Muslims and national security
“Essentially, every counter-terrorism victory we’ve had since 9/11 has come, in part, because we had the support of Muslims, either Muslim countries or individuals who have helped participate,” McMullin said. “I’ve been involved in that firsthand; I know that’s the case.”
He said terrorist groups succeed when they make people believe this is a war between Muslims and Christians, because this belief helps terrorist groups recruit more people to come and attack us.
“We are much better off if we understand that terrorists — that we have a terrorist problem, not a Muslim problem,” he said.
Evan McMullin’s qualifications to be president of the United States
“I was a CIA operative for 11 years,” McMullin said. “And I ran this country’s most sensitive counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East. I had access to this country’s most sensitive intelligence information, and was trusted with some of our biggest secrets and asked to do some of this country’s most difficult work.”
He said after his time in the CIA, he spent time in the private sector learning how companies create jobs. Since then, he has worked as a national security advisor to congress and eventually became the chief policy director for the House Republicans.
“What I know are things that, certainly, Donald Trump doesn’t know,” he said. “I know more about the way the government works, more about what kind of reforms need to take place, more about its budget, more about its financial condition than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined.”
He said he feels very confident in his experience compared to any of the other candidates.
“I’m only 40 years old,” he said. “I’m younger than they are. But I’ve lived a lot of life in that time. I’ve spent it doing things that are directly related to the challenges that this country faces which are a stagnant economy, national security threats and a government that needs to be reformed.”
McMullin said he plans to visit the Idaho Falls and Rexburg area in the coming weeks.
The entirety of the interview will air on KBYI 94.3 this Wednesday at 12:40 p.m.