***Update***: If you’d like to donate to Mr. Barbour to help him recoup the cost of the campaign, information is here. There is no PayPal link just yet.
Yesterday, I posted about Don Harris, a member of the Albuquerque City Council in New Mexico, who was being challenged in the local election by a man named David Barbour.
Harris had gone after Barbour for having ties to atheist organizations and donating money for a science scholarship.
There are some updates to that story.
Most importantly — and not unexpectedly — Harris looks like he’s going to win the election in a landslide.
However, in the process, a lot of you wrote to both candidates expressing your thoughts on Harris’ lowbrow tactics.
Here are excerpts of some of the emails sent to Harris:
I was appalled and disappointed to see that instead of relying on your record of accomplishments benefiting your city, you stooped to mail a sleazy, ad-hominem rag full of distortions and lies about your opponent, David Barbour. This is not worthy of you as a City Councilor or as a representative of the people in any capacity.
I do not appreciate you acting as if atheism or California is something bad. I honorably served my country in the Navy and was stationed in San Diego. I came from California to Texas after utilizing the GI Bill. I was not an atheist until college got me away from my tunnel vision that I had while growing up in a very small Illinois town where I almost never went to church. Atheists can be good people too.
In addition to revealing your own religiously based prejudice against what amounts to upwards of 20 million of your fellow Americans, you have also given the impression that you believe a significant portion of the population of Albuquerque shares your contempt for those with views different from their own.
To all these people, Harris sent a similar response. Something along the lines of:
I was intending to expose his radical politics, and, in retrospect, how I did it was a mistake.
Harris doesn’t explain why Barbour’s politics are “radical” nor does he acknowledge what he is “apologizing” for… probably because he doesn’t get why we’re all upset. That’s disappointing.
If he’d like to issue a real apology, I’d be glad to post it.
As for Barbour, many of you reached out to him as well. It sounded like he appreciated the support. Reader Vas received this response from him in regards to what Harris said about him (with permission to reprint):
I’m a Unitarian. Its my understanding that Mr. Harris is a fundamentalist Christian, and it appears that to him, anyone outside his particular sect is a Godless radical. I mentioned that I was a board member at my church as a way to indicate that I had some experience in governance. Mr. Harris’ response in email was quoted in a blog as:
“Mr. Barbour, in both the League of Women Voter’s questionnaire and in the Albuquerque Journal questionnaire commented that he was on the Board of a “church,” obviously attempting to make himself look more mainstream than he is on such things.”
When I was living in California, I was on the board of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists for approximately 2 years. We have a part time minister there so the congregation is partly lay led. The “sermon” I gave there was on the rise of religious humanism in the UU faith which took place in the 30s and 40s. I gave it a provocative title, “The Importance of Being Atheist.”
Mr Harris may actually believe that my beliefs disqualify me from being a city councilor, but I rather suspect that it is a cynical attempt to gain votes.
Barbour is right with that last comment and, unfortunately, it’s too late to rectify the situation by voting Harris out of office.
But it’s not too late to bring more attention to this sad new low in politics and make sure we atheists are prepared to respond in the future. Just as politicians would be rightfully maligned for criticizing an opponent for being a “Jew” or “Hindu,” they should be punished for using “atheist” in the same vein. We need to be leading the charge in that.
Thanks to everyone who wrote letters. Hopefully, we can catch the problem earlier next time and have a chance to make a larger difference.