Rep. Joe Walsh Asked About His 0% Rating from the Secular Coalition for America

Rep. Joe Walsh, a Tea Party-backed Republican, represents an area not too far from me (the 8th district of Illinois). During a recent town hall meeting, Jacob Kramer of the National Atheist Party had a chance to ask him about his 0% rating from the Secular Coalition for America:

It’s a surprising video… partly because there’s an actual dialogue. No yelling or screaming or protests or fights. The conversation is very cordial, and Walsh at least gives lip service to the idea of respecting (though not agreeing with) the secular viewpoint. If you think I’m totally off on that, let me know. Then again, Walsh also calls America a country founded by “god-fearing men,” suggesting he doesn’t know the secular history of our own country…

I have to tip my hat to Jacob, though. If this is what the National Atheist Party can do — get members of Congress to answer (on record) questions regarding church/state separation and other issues important to Secular Americans and start a real discussion about these issues — more power to them.

Chelsea Link definitely wants more of this (emphasis hers):

These are the types of conversations we need to be having with all our elected officials, because these are the conversations that will actually get us somewhere. If all the NAP did was record and publicize five-minute discussions like this one with every congressperson, they would immediately advance the public discourse on religion and government far more than any other party has in years.

Incidentally, Walsh has a document on his campaign website listing the “28 Founding Principles of the United States” and Phil Ferguson has a nice quick takedown of it.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sarah-Trachtenberg/563721001 Sarah Trachtenberg

    It’s nice to see such a civilized discussion. I was surprised Walsh acknowledged that there could be atheists in his district and didn’t stoop to demonizing them. What’s really important here is Kramer is pointing out to Walsh that there really are a lot of secular voters, which pols *need to know.*

  • eon

    And of course it’s a matter of opinion as to whether being “God fearing” is a good thing, not that fundamentalists can understand that.

    • Anonymous

      For me those two words show everything that is wrong with religion in general and Christianity in particular

  • Pcranny

    Pardon my British English, but which part of his arse did he pull those from?

  • Brian Lewis

    I give him major props for stopping the people who began clapping and saying that we need to respect all viewpoints.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChristopherTK ChristopherTK

      Joe Walsh is not known for deserving the “props” you offer; more likely he has learned from his many previously filmed mistakes and outbursts and taken a more sarcastic tone with those he wants to use as a soapbox to help drive support within his own voting ranks.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I have the only CA Congressman to get a 0%, Tom McClintock.  I was hoping ask him on his call-in, but couldn’t not make the scheduled time.  I did back-and-forth with him in email over H. Con. Res 13 (re-affirm IGWT) and he basically dodged everything.  But I think we need to keep at it.  I’ve had several calls from Democrats asking for money, and on each one I respectfully explain that I cannot support anyone who does not affirm that religion is not a requirement for nor guarantee of morality.  Still no takers.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Walsh was remarkably civil and barb-free in his response. Too often I hear officials reply to atheists with a subtle but still clear version of “Well I have to represent everybody in my district, including scum like you.”

    I was especially impressed with his forcefully quieting down the crowd when apparently some hecklers wanted to disrupt the dialogue. Those behaviors are common to see in crowds, and very rare to see in politicians.

    I still wouldn’t vote for him. His “28 principles” have more God in them than a sermon. He should have been a preacher instead of a politician, but I suppose the pay is better.

    • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

      Walsh semed to say that as long as he serves 51% of the voters, then that is fine.  Screw the other 49%.    The only way the interests of the 49% will be addressed is with a different candidate. 

      • Marco Conti

        I agree, I got the same impression. Did anyone else notice the big *SIGH* when he was asked the first question and he recognized it was about the NAP?

      • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

        I didn’t get that impression. He says early on that he needs to keep a lot of people happy because he has a diverse district. He seems like a pragmatist who wants to represent his constituents. He explicitly also at around the 3:55 mark that he wants to respect all viewpoints.

  • still 0%

    He was civil and, for the most part, spoke without inducing his god’s thoughts.  However, I thought he dodged the question by saying that his district was very diverse rather than acknowledging the constitutionality of the establishment clause.  To me it came off as patting a child on the head and going “there, there, I’ll give you a lollipop. Now let me get back to what I was doing”.  Maybe I’m too cynical . ..  .

    I was impressed that he asked to see what votes got him the 0% rating though. 

  • NewEnglandBob

    I agree with Still 0%. He was civil but dismissive.

  • http://twitter.com/SubtleSprout Nora Jameson

    what was really amazing was when he told the other people in the room to basically shut up and respect all view points- did NOT see that coming. Wow. Really impressed with his behavior despite his 0% rating…

  • Anonymous

    NAP just got my donation and support! 

  • Alexandra

    That was really refreshing, which is sort of sad.  The fact that he was so civil was awesome, but that that is that thrilling reveals how low the bar sits. 

  • Xeon2000

    I liked that he asked to see the specific votes that contributed to his 0% rating.  If nothing else, it seems to me like it’s at least raising awareness about what concerns secular groups have, and opening the channel for further communication on those issues.

  • Marco Conti

    While I still think Walsh is a douchebag, I have to say that as far as douchebags go he behaved relatively well and he was at least reasonable.
    I think we need to do a better job at communicating with reasonable people of any party. I may sound naive but I refuse to believe that an otherwise fair and intelligent person would agree with a completely bigoted and morally bankrupt ideology. They may still end up voting for such bigoted and bankrupt ideas, as they want to keep their job, but if at least we are able to introduce a seed of sense and reason, if we make them see atheists and humanists are not the monsters their constituency wants to believe they are, eventually that seed will grow and even bloom.
    One can hope.

  • Dan W

    I’m pleased with how civil Joe Walsh was, but he’s still clearly a theocrat who I wouldn’t vote for if I lived in his district.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

    Color me not impressed. He was dismissive, he waffled about the issue, and he still had a condescending air to him. Yes, I’m happy he stopped the crowd and told them to listen to all viewpoints, then immediately retread bullshit about our Founding Fathers as if it matters. He’s still wrong, and his position was that “well, we were founded Christian, so screw you, atheists.”

  • Summer Seale

    Considering his stance on listening to “all viewpoints” and quieting the crowd down, shouldn’t he have taken a dose of that medicine during Obama’s State of the Union a few years ago?


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