Ben Franks

Is there an atheist running for public office in Texas?!  Is he qualified?  Will his supposed atheism be used against him?!

Yes.  Yes it will.

According to the Republican Party of Texas,

Candidate for the Sixth Court of Appeals, Ben Franks, is reported to be a professed atheist and apparently believes the Bible is a “collection of myths.”

During debate over a plank in the State Democrat Platform, members of the Platform Committee debated dropping “God” from a sentence on the first page of the document. The plank stated: “we want a Texas where all people can fulfill their dreams and achieve their God-given potential.”

According to an article published in the El Paso Times, Ben Franks states: “I’m an atheist…”

All elected or appointed officials in Texas must take the oath prescribed by Art. XVI, Section 1(a) of the Texas Constitution:

“I,  _____   , do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of   _____  of the State of Texas, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State, so help me God.

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. Mr. Franks is a personal injury trial lawyer practicing in Texarkana, Texas and is the Democrat nominee for the 6th Court of Appeals.

I like the part where “collecton of myths” is in quotation marks.

So to recap, a man trying to be a judge may not want to say “So Help Me God,” and thus, he is violating the law and shouldn’t be a judge.  But if he did say it, they’d probably accuse him of mocking their god and lying to the public.  Is there any way for him to be qualified in the minds of the Texan Republican?

[tags]Ben Franks, Republican Party of Texas, atheist, So Help Me God[/tags]

  • Alexandre

    If “so help me God” is the only part of his oath related to theism, it looks like rather weak ammunition against Franks. IANAL but it seems to me that one can request the help of an entity without believing in that entity without fear of perjury.
    It all sounds like a “wedge issue,” but it might raise visibility of the importance of secularism in the justice system.

  • Helen aka Ir

    Another blogger discussing what the Texas GOP wrote about Ben Franks said this:

    Third, article 6 of the United States Constitution strongly suggests that excluding atheists from the bench is unlawful:

    [...] all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

    Seems like a good point to me…

  • Siamang

    What the heck is quotes doing around “collection of myths”? They aren’t quoting him as saying the Bible is a “collection of myths.” They just say he “apparantly believes” it.

    I guess “apparantly” just because he’s an atheist!

    Dude if they said a Christian couldn’t be a judge or a mormon or something, it’d be a national scandal and an outrage. Heck, if they said a Jew or a Muslim couldn’t, it’d be on FoxNews right now.

  • txatheist

    I hope he wins but he is definitely putting himself in a tough situation for running as a Democrat. Democrats rarely win and usually only in Austin and sometimes along the southern border.

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Ben Franks, Part 2()

  • Gary McGath

    Quakers will not take an oath that says “So help me God.” I suppose the Texas Republican Party must think Quakers are excluded from holding office as well.

  • Rose Greenbow

    A man who stands for nothing, falls for anything. What moral base or guide does Ben Franks have to judge between good and evil, right and wrong? Even the worst terrorists have a basis for their actions in accordance with their beliefs. I know Democrats who refuse to vote for this man who has no guideline to make judgements. I would not want him deciding any case of mine.

  • Hemant

    I don’t know much about the man. All I know is that the very idea he might be an atheist is being used to attack his credibility. And that’s just wrong. Atheists have plenty of moral sense. We rely on our intellect, and so we don;t, in fact, fall for anything. It’s also not very difficult to tell the difference between good and evil. I can go into this in-depth when I’m more awake :)

    I think it should be noted that there have been many religious people in office who have done things most people would consider wrong. So to use Franks supposed atheism as a reason not to vote for him seems like a weak ploy by the Texas Republicans.

  • Jeremy Pierce

    People misuse scare quotes all the time. The general misconception of how they should be used is that you put something in quotes if you disagree with it. The correct use of quotes is to indicate someone’s exact words, whether you agree with them or not, and even then it should be put in direct discourse. The sentence with the quote words is indirect discourse, which does not generally include a quotation. This is a non-partisan problem, of course. People do this sort of thing all the time with the views of theists or social conservatives.

  • Joey Pack

    I know Ben Franks

    This has been taken totally out of context….. I know Ben Franks and I work with his wife, as usual the Republican Party is doing its far share of fear tacticts. And He will win I believe!!!!!!!! YEAH!

  • Mrs. Ben Franks

    I am Mrs. Ben Franks. My husband is a very morally upright individual. He stands far and above most people I know as far as morals are concerned. He is not an atheist he believes in the Consitution and laws of our country that provide for religious freedom I believe that the Republicans who claim to be Christians tend to have extreme problems with minorities and anyone different than themselves. I, personally, as the wife of the candidate, do not have these bigoted, holier than thou, uber-judgmental opinions about my fellow man. My husband and I (the purported atheist family) have a child in 1st grade at an Episcopal school in our hometown. She attended a Baptist preschool and kindergarten. What atheist is going to send their child to school where they attend chapel daily? These claims are outrageous and some of the “people who know him” that the Republican party refers to have probably sent their children to the same schools (their last name likely being on some of the buildings) and at least 2 people who have “probably” commented to the Republican propaganda machine (but wish to remain anonymous) have lived across the street from our family. The only difference is that they are “STRAIGHT” REPUBLICAN TICKET no matter what and Ben Franks and I are Democrats…period. And that, along with his indisputable legal expertise, scares the Republicans over the edge. They’re grasping for anything to win for the sake of “winning.” Make a difference! Vote Democrat on Nov. 7th

  • Siamang

    I’d say I was praying for him, but I’m an atheist!

    I’ll say I’m pulling for him.

  • Roy Gathercoal

    On Quakers and oaths:

    I am one, and I won’t. I wouldn’t even “affirm” when testifying before a grand jury. It took longer to explain why substituting the word “affirm” for “swear” didn’t make a difference.

    Seems only the judge who talked about it later saw the point. If I “swear” or “affirm” that I am telling the truth in this specific situation, then I (logically) must be saying that one should not expect me to tell the truth in another situation.

    I believe it is of utmost importance to live a life of integrity, and telling lies–before grand juries or before my son, cannot be a part of that life. I am unwilling to do anything that would indicate otherwise.

  • Roy Gathercoal

    as to the question of atheism being a detriment to public office:

    “Dude if they said a Christian couldn’t be a judge or a mormon or something, it’d be a national scandal and an outrage. Heck, if they said a Jew or a Muslim couldn’t, it’d be on FoxNews right now.”

    Actually, (with sadness and an ache in my spirit) I would imagine it easier for an avowed atheist to get elected in these United States than for a professed Muslim to win office.

    In a strange sort of way I wish the point were true–that it was only a matter of religion, and not a piece of a much larger cultural hubris and stupidity–but I fear it is not.

    In each election, from the time Jefferson hired a soundrel to write ferocious and untrue things about his opponent, John Adams to the latest in which you could pretty much tell someone’s party affiliation based on whether they “believed” Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (I think I got the name right).

    Those who are different in “politically salient ways” from the majority have always had a tough time of things.

    This is not, by the way, a US phenomenon. Right now Hindus and Muslims are killing one another (and killing Christians) in Northern India. A friend of mine is there now, and just reported back on the difficulties trying to avoid being shot or tortured by both the Maoists and the Hindus.

    (Hey, aren’t the Maoists atheists?) . . .ducking and running. . .

  • Roy Gathercoal

    Jeremy, about the proper use of quotes.

    While it is true that quotes should be used when repeating someone’s exact words, it is not the case that this is the only allowed use.

    Bypassing for now the small fact that most of the world does not have the benefit of an official governmental agency deciding what is, and is not, “allowed meaning”. . .

    . . .quotation marks are frequently used, even in formal peer-reviewed journals, to indicate phrases or words in which the definition or use is the point of disagreement.

    Further, in the way-less-formal-than-that world of e-communication (what a wretched term) punctuation usage rules are primarily assumed to be utilized for the benefit of the reader’s understanding.

    Sometimes, it is just helpful to have that extra bit of indication–the e-world is full of misunderstanding as it is, and much of this is do to overly quickly written and thus easily misunderstood grammar. And sentence fragments, even!

    You certainly have a point about the misuse of “scare quotes” to help demonize their target, but I do believe the Texas Republicans’ (note the lack of a plural possessive terminal “s”) intents, actions and *probably illegal* behavior is a much bigger target than is their grammar.

  • Jerry smith

    I would strongly suspect that Ben Franks never intended to run for public office when, in 2002 at a meeting of the platform committee for the Texas Democratic party, he said (during a discussion about whether to delete a reference to God from the platform) “I’m an atheist, (and) this does not bother me. I’m a pragmatist.” This leads one to believe one of the following conclusions: (1) he is an atheist — as he said — but he is now ashamed of it, (2) he was not an atheist when he said what he said, or (3) since he decided to run for office, he has now reformed and found God.

  • Don Morriss

    Reply to Mrs. Ben Franks:

    As “The” former neighbor to Ben Franks, Candidate for Justice, Sixth Court of Appeals, (as referred to in her blog of Oct 31) I can affirm that I have never commented, publicly or privately, about my neighbor’s religious beliefs or lack thereof. In fact, in an earlier letter to potential supporters of Bailey Moseley, I remarked that Mr. Franks is a nice guy. I believe in the freedom of religion and if he chooses to not to believe in a higher power and creator, then so be it.

    My sole issue, both publicly and privately, with this candidate is the classic plaintiff lawyer versus businessman view. Franks has stated his goal on the bench is to reverse tort reform which has been duly enacted by the Texas Legislature. I disagree with attempting to legislate from the Bench and I submit that a Justice should only interpret existing laws. If he wishes to reverse tort reform measures, Mr. Franks should run for the legislature. This is not even a Democrat versus “straight Republican” issue, as suggested by Mrs. Franks. Many Democrats will disagree,as well, with Mr. Franks on this issue of legislating from the bench.

    Don Morriss