Because this strategy worked so well for Elizabeth Dole, another conservative politician has decided to make a play for the bigot vote by stirring up anti-atheist prejudice against a challenger. In this case, it’s on a smaller scale: a race for city council in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can read about it in the New Mexico Independent, a local paper. (HT: Daylight Atheism reader Brian Westley, who was also the first one to tell me about the Dole ads. He’s good at finding this stuff!)
According to the mailer, sent out by city council member Don Harris:
David Barbour, recently moved here from San Francisco. He is a donor to Atheist organizations and speaker at Atheist events and attends radical political protests even in foreign countries. [italics and caps as in original —Ebonmuse]
Evidently, Mr. Barbour was a presenter at a 2004 event titled “The Importance of Being Atheist,” hosted by a Unitarian Universalist group, and contributed to a scholarship essay contest run in 2008 by San Francisco Atheists (source). And I say, good for him! We need more civically minded, politically engaged atheists taking part in our great democracy. We have as much right to participate in the electoral process as any other citizen.
Mr. Harris, on the other hand, has a great deal to be ashamed of. Making a campaign issue out of someone’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, is a disgusting, despicable tactic. Whether someone is atheist, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or anything else makes no difference in their ability to serve their country, and trying to imply otherwise is a form of out-and-out bigotry no different than urging voters to defeat a candidate because they are black or because they are female. Whether in races for Senate seats, city council seats, or anything in between, this naked and shameless appeal to prejudice is an evil that no one should tolerate.
Unfortunately, this story was reported too late for us to help out Barbour’s campaign – the election was today, in fact. I’ll post an update when I hear how it turned out. But let this be a reminder to us that we must always be vigilant in fighting prejudice wherever and whenever it rears its head. By volunteering and contributing to support atheist candidates for political office, we can dispel anti-atheist bigotry and erect a bulwark against the forces of theocracy that are always seeking to push their way into our government.