A Young Atheist Running for State Office?

A senior at Winthrop University in South Carolina is making plans to run for the state’s House of Representatives in 2010. If he won, he’d be the youngest legislator in United States history.

It’d be a historic win for another reason, too: D.C. Swinton is the president of the Winthrop Organization of Freethinkers (WOOF). In other words: He’s an atheist.

And that in itself is enough to get some people riled up:

… A brief skim over his platform leads to only one possible conclusion: He hasn’t got a prayer.

And even if he did, he wouldn’t know what to do with it.

Swinton is president of the irreligous club Winthrop Organization of Freethinkers (WOOF)…

… Either way, judging from their titles, neither book is in sync with the values of South Carolinians, specifically the residents of Greenville County, 57 percent of which are Christian Church-goers, according to Bestplaces.net.

So far, Swinton is about as useful to the people of District 24 as a gift from an atheist is on Christmas morning.

Some of his positions make sense. Some don’t. You can judge them for yourself here.

What’s important to me in this story is that an atheist is running for office. That’s fantastic. You don’t have to support this candidate (especially for that reason alone), but the more atheists who run for elected office, the easier it becomes for the rest of us to come out of the closet, to run for office in the future, and to express our opinions to the masses.

I wish Swinton the best and I hope other atheists consider running for office, too. Forget bus ads — let that be the next trend.

(Thanks to Carrie for the link!)

  • http://carmenego.wordpress.com/ Carmenego

    “about as useful to the people of District 24 as a gift from an atheist is on Christmas morning”

    What a terrible thing to say! I gave my grandparents a wine bottle opener for Christmas last year and they use it all the time!

  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com Arkonbey

    For some reason, this phrase bothered me:

    …as a gift from an atheist is on Christmas morning

    Me, I give great Christmas gifts! If an atheist’s gift was thoughtful, timely and/or useful, why would it be any less welcome than a Christian’s gift? That feels extra insulting to me.

    That said, I wish him luck. Be proof, sir, that you don’t need to be a Christian to be ethical and competent.

  • ChameleonDave

    His policies seem virtually all rational and progressive. I don’t think he has much chance of winning an election unless he emigrates.

  • Amy G

    He’s living in the wrong state! I wish him well, and I agree that the more atheists that run for office, the easier it will become for the next person to do. I honestly wonder how many politicians are actually agnostic or atheist and simply pretend to be Christian in order to get an office.

    Arkonbey, I give great Christmas presents too! It’s something I take pride in. :)

  • http://3harpiesltd.org/ocb Judith Bandsma

    Living in SC, as I do, I wish him luck but…

    It took Herb Silverman 7 years and as many lawsuits to become a notary because he crossed out ‘so help me god’ on the application. (Requirements for notary; application and $25).

    The part that is so ironic is that the SC state constitution mirrors the US constitution in that it includes the language “there shall be NO (emphasis mine) religious test for public office”

  • SgtSkepper

    Just FYI.

    I just looked up atheists in UK parliament and found quite encouraging results: There’s an all-party Parliamentary Humanist group with 110 members and on the BHA distinguished supporters page, I count 13 MPs, 14 lords and 5 baronesses. That’s only the ones who are supporters of one specific humanist group. I should imagine there are even more out there. Perhaps American atheists could point to the fact that UK politicians are no more evil than US ones to show that atheism in office would not destroy society.

  • Matto the Hun

    @Arkonbey

    man, you’re right. That phrase was just a downright dick thing to say.

  • Valdyr

    Perhaps American atheists could point to the fact that UK politicians are no more evil than US ones

    Are you kidding? People over there have foods called “spotted dick” and “blood pudding”. They’re homosexuals who eat pureed babies!

    Me, I give great Christmas gifts! If an atheist’s gift was thoughtful, timely and/or useful, why would it be any less welcome than a Christian’s gift? That feels extra insulting to me.

    Really. How much of an asshole would you have to be to refuse someone’s thoughtful gift because they have a differing religious opinion?

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com/ Robert Madewell

    “So far, Swinton is about as useful to the people of District 24 as a gift from an atheist is on Christmas morning.”

    What an idiotic thing to say! Isn’t a gift a gift? What would make a Christmas gift from an atheist any different from a Christmas gift from a Christian, Buddhist, Pastafarian, or Zoroastrian? What a dork!

  • no name please

    I lived a dozen years in Rock Hill. My wife was Winthrop’s PR director and I worked for the college library. My wife earned her MBA there. In other words, I know Rock Hill and Winthrop. Rock Hill is in York County – as in Jim and Tammy Bakker and the PTL club. When I worked there, state employees had to chose whether to take Martin Luther King day or Jefferson Davis day as a holiday. MLK day was universally known as n***er day. It was legal to drive with a cocktail in your hand. This kid doesn’t have a snowball’s chance. I’m also a little concerned about his apparent obsession with pornography and booze.

  • Kaylya

    I hate it when “journalists” instantly dismiss ideas as “stupid” or something while not knowing anything about them. Like the light colored roofs. It’s not a matter of home decorating, it seriously would save a lot of energy (20% off the cost of air conditioning!) and reduce the effects of global warming (by reflecting rather than absorbing the incoming sunlight). Article on the effects of switching to white roofs

    Now, in this instance, it’s a campus paper, but you see the same stuff on CNN as the talking heads banter about some issue – at the same time, he could have spent 3 seconds plugging “white roofs” into google, as he wasn’t live on air.

  • stogoe

    Swinton is about as useful to the people of District 24 as a gift from an atheist is on Christmas morning.

    I got ninja’d on this, but are they really going to refuse a Christmas present just because the gift giver wasn’t hectored into it by their invisible friend? Weak.

    I’m also a little concerned about his apparent obsession with pornography and booze.

    why? Okay, it’s probably a bad idea to flount your love of booze and porn in your campaign literature, but I don’t see it hurting his chances any more than being an atheist does.

  • Luther

    A senior at Winthrop University in South Carolina is making plans to run for the state’s House of Representatives in 2010. If he won, he’d be the youngest legislator in United States history.

    I would be skeptical of this claim unless he is a prodigy. A couple of years ago I attended Democracy For America event in NH. Two of the speakers were college students that were members of the legislature. My recall was that both were less than Seniors when they were elected.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    Looking at his platform, it sounds pretty good (even if a few of those things may not be in the hands of the state legislature — for example, I don’t think that South Carolina can increase MPG requirements for cars [California did it, or at least tried, but an exception for CA is written in the federal clean air laws, if I'm not mistaken].

    I can tell why Hemant is skeptical of some of his positions, though — Swinton wants to lower the math requirement for graduating from high school! I can’t say that I support that either. Fining people that don’t graduate from high school or get their GED doesn’t seem like a very good idea to me either. Otherwise, his platform is very green and fairly progressive, and I like what he has to say regarding a living wage for South Carolina.

    If I lived there, I would vote for him!

  • Ron in Houston

    Speaking of gifts, I’ve given “spotted dick” as a gag gift a number of times.

    I’ve never eaten it, but one of the folks opened the can and said it wasn’t bad.

  • Nivex

    At least he is making the run in a state where he would be allowed to serve if he wins. In my current state of residence, atheists are legally forbidden from holding public office.

    http://freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Laws_and_other_rules_against_atheists_and_agnostics

  • Kalyn

    Well, I don’t agree with several of his stances on issues (some of which, including nuclear power) are very important to me. So I’d wish him all the best, but I probably wouldn’t be voting for him.

    However, I do agree that this is a big step…the more non-theists that run, the more will eventually be elected.

  • Revyloution

    Some of his positions seem… a bit odd, Ill agree. And some are just wrong.

    D.C. is in favor of altering the state’s high school diploma requirements to include a greater number of credits required for History, less for Math, and a required number hours of community service.

    History is great, but cut math? Seriously, our math in the US needs to be expanded, not shrunk.

    D.C. is in favor of the legalization of marijuana, with taxes similar to those of tobacco products.

    ? Comparing marijana with with tobacco is the wrong way to go. Its more comparable with alcohol, and should be taxed and controlled similar to it.

    D.C. is in favor of increasing the “living” wage – no longer using “minimum” in his campaign and beyond – higher than the national standard.

    Minimum and living wage is a very complicated topic. I hope he has taken some economics classes to fully understand the consequences of raising minimum wage. Its a far better approach to ensure services to the poor, than to just guarantee them higher wages.

    D.C. is in favor of passing legislation that would require each party represented in a race for a state office to have at least one female candidate involved in a primary.

    Quotas suck. They cause problems. The gender gap is closing, and we have plenty of women in government. Support them? Absolutely. Mandate them? No, it would be ineffective to the cause of feminine rights.

    And the white roof law? Ok, that seems a bit eco-draconian. Encouragements and incentives are a far better way to move people to a ‘greener’ way of thinking. People need to be motivated to think about their environment, not legislated into it.

    I fall much closer to the center of most politics, and even on the conservative side on particular issues. Its hard enough having to fight the preconception that all atheists are immoral baby eaters (Sorry Hemant), but I also have to fight the preconception that all atheists are granola munching bleeding heart liberals (and I like granola!). I am glad to see someone who doesn’t hold up platitudes of faith to get elected, but I don’t feel that I could support this candidate.

  • http://jonathan-keith.com Jon

    D.C. does not support the “birther movement” in any shape or form

    An Atheist and a genius in one. Amazing.

  • http://nullprogram.com Chris Wellons

    Not that I live in SC, but looking at his platform the guy seems crazy to me. :-) Some points seem at odds, which I think makes him look naive. For example, marijuana legalization and increasing sin taxes, a somewhat unusual combination I think.

    He has green hysteria, as indicated by the expensive, poorly thought out, and generally ineffective “green” proposals. He has the silly roof thing, worrying about traffic lights, and the worst, increasing pointless recycling (why is it noted as being “free of charge”, when, if the recycling was worth anything, it would be generating income). And his anti nuclear power stance says a lot about his (lack of) knowledge. Half of his environmental proposals would have the opposite effect of their intentions.

    I would only agree with a couple points on his platform: marijuana legalization (minus the sin taxes), the no school voucher thing, and possibly the Confederate flag thing. The rest I would be indifferent or, in most cases, against. I’d imagine that platform wouldn’t be popular in SC either, for different reasons than mine (maybe he should try NY). Combine that with the atheist thing, which people love to vilify, especially in the South, and I bet his chances are slim.

    I guess the point of my off-topic rambling is that even though I’d like to see an elected atheist in office, I wouldn’t want it to be this guy. :-P

    @Nivex: For the US states, that list doesn’t seem to be very accurate. When I moved to Maryland I investigated the religious clauses in the MD constitution, thinking they would prevent me, an atheist, from doing jury duty. I found that they had been struck down decades ago. Even though they are no longer valid they do still shamefully remain there in the text, and I imagine removing them would cause an uproar. I would expect the clauses have also been invalidated in the other US states by now too.

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com/ Robert Madewell

    Here’s the guy I’m running against in 2010.

    http://www.state.ar.us/house/details.php?district=85

    I don’t have a snowballs chance in hell! He’s such a tool for his religion!

  • False Prophet

    I have a history degree, and even I think cutting math requirements is a bad idea. Especially if @No Name Please is right and half of Rock Hill celebrates Jefferson Davis Day…

    Some points seem at odds, which I think makes him look naive. For example, marijuana legalization and increasing sin taxes, a somewhat unusual combination I think.

    Actually, that makes sense: he wants to legalize marijuana, but tax it like tobacco. In other words, smoke up pot-heads, ’cause you’re supporting the state now! In all seriousness though, isn’t that the primary argument of legalizers? Stop wasting money on the ineffective “war on drugs” and recoup from users instead?

  • Chris

    Some points seem at odds, which I think makes him look naive. For example, marijuana legalization and increasing sin taxes, a somewhat unusual combination I think.

    This is a very common position for the pro-legalization folks. And one of the most stated reasons for legalizing it among more “serious” pundits. Perhaps it represents a bit of a marriage of convenience between pot-loving libertarians and those who would use taxation to control behavior and increase the state’s influence, but such compromises are what politics is. It would be naive to expect an intellectually pure platform from a politician (and frankly, I wouldn’t want one).

  • Cafeeine

    As a non-Carolinian, non-American, I have no god in this hunt, but I think the best thing here is what has been said, that we need more atheists running for office and losing, because this gets the new car smell off the ‘openly atheist candidate’ meme. Getting the ideas out there. From what I’ve read, I might not have voted for this kid if I could, but its a good thing that he’s running.

  • S. Hall

    I’m just glad an atheist is running for office, win or lose — as Cafeeine said, it gets discussion going in areas that are alien to most everyone in the general public.

    I want to see an atheist president in my lifetime. Or at least a serious contender for the post. Unfortunately, I think we may have a fairly long wait.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    The best way to get people to stop smoking pot is to legalize it, have the government sell it (like ABC stores), tax it heavily, and keep a database of those that buy it.

    The pot black market will dry up (just like the liquor black market) because it can’t compete with the government. No one will want their name in a database so people will stop smoking pot (except for a minority of people who will only be able to get menial jobs). All employers will want to tap into that database. Its Orwellian, but it would work.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    Jeff,

    If no one will want their name in a database, then people will turn to the black market.

    It’s more practical not to have a database.

    Also, I despise the idea of having the government collect that kind of information from the citizens. What’s next, a database of atheists or Muslims? Count me out.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Teleprompter, I agree with not wanting to live in an Orwellian society.

    It’s hard to maximize freedom (minimum laws, no lists), safety (low crime), and public health (not taking drugs) all at the same time.

  • Richard Wade

    Over at the Johnsonian where professional good ol’ boy Eddie Scarry wrote that Ode to Ignorance, so far all of the commenters are busy fenestrating him a new orifice. I was glad to join in with this:

    Mr. Scarry, thank you for being so open and honest about your being a hate-filled bigot. Your crack about a Christmas gift from an atheist clearly says, “I’m so filled with good, righteous Christian hatred and fear of anyone who is different, that no matter how useful or wonderful a gift from an atheist might be, I’d reject. it.”

    Go lay that one at Jesus’ feet.

    The rest of your arguments are just as irrational and illogical. Ban the NAACP? Is that what you’d do if you were in power? Is that your solution to bigotry in your state? Get rid of those who oppose it instead of getting it out of your minds and hearts?

    Your last name is fitting. Keep your writing job and stay out of office. Please.

  • Ordinary Girl

    Winthrop is my alma mater, so this is surprising and interesting news. I wish DC luck. I no longer live in SC, so I can’t consider voting for him.

    I’m embarrassed that the opinion was published in The Johnsonian.

  • http://jonathan-keith.com Jon

    I think the best thing here is what has been said, that we need more atheists running for office and losing

    This is probably a good idea, because then maybe the Atheists will realize how nonsensical their ideas are.

  • Carlie

    “about as useful to the people of District 24 as a gift from an atheist is on Christmas morning”

    I’d take a few free computers from Bill Gates on Christmas morning, if he’d give me some.

  • D.C. Swinton

    Well, thank all of you for your comments. I’d like to say that my approaches are NOT odd in the long run. That’s something a middle-aged person would come out and say, isn’t it? I’m bringing a new way of thinking to South Carolina and am not trying to be the status quo. If you haven’t noticed, that has not worked for us, nor most other states.

    As for my thoughts on women being involved in politics, I strongly and wholeheartedly disagree with the statement that there are enough women in politics. HELL NO! You really must not pay attention to the makeup of our 535 Congresspersons, and the legislatures of every state. You know why women don’t run as often? Because the men exude this idea of superiority. I’m hoping to pass legislation to promote equality.

    My environmental standpoints are NOT the wrong way to go. South Carolina has the potential for so much alternative energy, it’s ridiculous. We should be done with antiquated energy systems as they lose over HALF the energy produced from the plant during transport over the lines. Nuclear power definitely leads to thermal pollution of our river systems, and that is NOT something South Carolina, nor any other state needs. We also hold one of the greatest amounts of nuclear waste in the country, and until the late 1980s, we WERE the nuclear waste site of the United States. As for recycling, I’d encourage the man that says there’s no point in establishing a large recycling program to visit South Carolina and all of our lovely landfills. If he divided up the waste in just ONE of them, over half of the piles would be able to be recycled. If you charge for waste, you receive more revenue for the state, and waste management is a huge deal for South Carolina as well. Recycling leads to lower petroleum prices, and that’s something I know South Carolinians and others would love to see.

    Once again, I thank you for all of your comments, but for you naysayers, you simply add fuel to my fire to prove you wrong…just another person on the list to show I will win.

    Regards,
    D.C. Swinton

  • ChameleonDave

    Perhaps it represents a bit of a marriage of convenience between pot-loving libertarians and those who would use taxation to control behavior and increase the state’s influence, but such compromises are what politics is. It would be naive to expect an intellectually pure platform from a politician (and frankly, I wouldn’t want one).

    No, it quite simply makes sense.

    It is sad that you think that one has to be a stoner or a rabid anti-drug campaigner in order to be consistent. Decriminalisation and regulation of all drugs will make for the result of best utility for society.

    The consistency is in seeing that cannabis, codeine and alcohol all need to be treated in the same fundamental, sane way.

  • http://christiangiftshome.com Crucifix

    Crucifix must be from Holy Land and then it will have a real power

  • Ninive

    Guess what? My husband ran for local office last year (city council) and was the most voted candidate (democrat). It’s a small Virginia town in the DC suburbs. Although at city level it doesn’t really matter, who know whether he might try a state position one day. He’s an atheist (has and does participate in the ocasional atheist meeting, and I am an activist atheist. I am a member of the Beltway Atheists, a large group in the DC area. So I URGE smart, intelligent and well intentioned wannabe politicians to run for office. Just proselytizing won’t take us anywhere. If you have good ideas, invest in signs, knock on doors,and once in office and after having done a good job as a lawmaker, advertise your atheism.

  • Dean

    I know of another atheist who will be announcing his candidacy in SC soon, but don’t want to scoop him.

    I don’t agree with much of what DC proposes, but I can’t recall having more than 50% agreement with any elected politician. I’m one of his legion of Facebook fans. I’m not in his district, but there’s a good chance I would prefer him to his opponent.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X