October 19, 2006

Texas GOP Accuses Democratic Opponent of Atheism

You are in a tight politically-charged race for a seat on a Texas appellate court. This race is too important to lose. The court must be packed with ideological conservatives so that progressives will not make inroads. When it is time to pull out the big guns, what do you do? If you are a Texas Republican, you accuse your Democratic opponent of the worst possible offense. Murder? Rape? Pedophilia? No, atheism.

That's right, the Republican Party of Texas recently called the Democratic appellate nominee "a professed atheist" who believes that the Christian bible is a "collection of myths." Never mind that the Democrat has never identified himself as an atheist. According to the Republicans, "Should Franks be elected in November, one would have to conclude that he will hold true to his out of touch 'atheist' belief system and ignore the laws and Constitution of Texas."

If you read this article, you will notice that the debate ends up being about whether or not Franks is really an atheist. The more important issue of how this is in any way relevant is minimized. Where is the reasonable viewpoint that we would be better off with more atheists holding public office because they don't suffer from religious delusions?

While it is well known that the U.S. Constitution forbids a formal religious test to qualify candidates for office, this is absolutely no relevance on the election process. In other words, the voters are free to decide that they will not elect an atheist, regardless of his/her qualifications. The only thing prohibited by the Constitution here is a state-sponsored religious test. Then again, the Texas Constitution contains the a provision stating that public officials cannot be excluded from office on the basis of their religious beliefs as long as they acknowledge "the existence of a Supreme Being." I can't see how this can possibly be Constitutional, and I am baffled that the ACLU or some other relevant organization has not gone after this.

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