Non-theistic State Senator Says the Mafia Has Higher Standards Than the Catholic Church

Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers is one unique politician. After being the longest-serving senator in the state’s history (serving for 38 years, starting in 1970), he was term-limited out and left office in 2008. This past November, he was eligible to run for office again and took advantage of that opportunity, winning his race fairly comfortably.


Chambers is one of the few non-theistic, high-ranking politicians in the country. He’s also African-American and a powerhouse legislator.

He’s making headlines again for filibustering a bill that would “expand a prison work program.”

How is that news? Well, his filibuster included lots of unrelated remarks about religion:

Then, while burning up time trying to talk [Sen. Mark] Christensen’s bill to death, Chambers talked about attending a fundamentalist church where, as a child, he claimed children were terrorized and made to feel they were headed for Hell. He called Bible stories “fairy tales” that he outgrew.

Chambers sounded more like a preacher — albeit an unconventional and blasphemous one — than a senator, but he blamed the Legislature for that, too, noting that the body “invites religion into the chamber every morning” with a prayer. He said preachers who enter the legislative chambers are entering “my territory” to “do their damage.” He accused senators of not heeding those preachers’ calls to “do the right thing,” which he said “brings condemnation on you.”

While on the subject of Christianity, Chambers noted that Jesus “looked more like me than you all.” Despite his claims he doesn’t believe in God (though he sued God once), Chambers demonstrated that he knows the Bible (which he derisively calls the “Holly Bibel”) well, telling his fellow senators that you can judge a society by how it treats its children, elderly and enemies.

Finally, Chambers said the Mafia has higher standards than the Catholic Church hierarchy because if their members were “raping children, they’d off them.”

After three hours of talking on Wednesday, the Legislature closed up shop for the day. But Chambers is expected to continue where he left off this Monday.

(Thanks to @aksarbent for the link!)

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.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Never heard of this man till now but I like him :-)

  • Earl G.

    My new favorite state senator! That mafia comment is priceless.

  • Willy Occam

    Wow, that *is* a unique politician! Can’t wait to hear what he has to say on Monday….

  • abb3w

    He’s a character worth reading about. You have to admire a politician willing to try to sue God in county court.

    (Possibly from a distance, due to the rioting mobs; but that’s a minor detail.)

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Come Sober Sunday I will…

  • Edmond


    Who in the Senate could have said ANYTHING like this ten years ago? Or five? Or LAST year? We are watching the FALL of religion in our day and age, people. It’s going to happen in slow motion, taking decades, so don’t be impatient, but savor it. If we’re very lucky, the top-heavy Catholic church will take the rest of them with it, like mountain climbers tied together.


    The illogic and immorality of religion is going to occur to one person, then another, and another, and then ten more, and then a hundred, and then ten thousand. The internet will help. People like Chambers (and Hemant!) will help. You and I will help. It no longer makes sense to devote valuable work time to rituals. It no longer makes sense, even to the religious, to donate time and cash to institutions that spend it on efforts to legally block love, or to deprive women of their rights to control their bodies, or to protect molesters and rapists.


    There will be holdouts. There will be heel-draggers, and they will have occasional successes. But I think the tipping point has been reached, or is VERY close. The net gains will be in favor of the secular. There will ALWAYS be the freedom to worship, but it will be more like the freedom of speech. The freedom to make others listen will not be part of a package deal. The freedom to question and doubt will become MUCH more valuable.


    Thank YOU, Senator Chambers! I WILL be listening on Monday!

  • LesterBallard

    Talk about setting the bar low.

  • mikespeir

    Love it!

  • Stev84

    Here is another politician daring to call out religious extremists in public:

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Just to be clear: he is a member of the Nebraska State Senate, not the federal US Senate. (i.e. he’s not Nebraska’s Senator in the US Senate)

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I have often said that if I had to choose between leaving one of my kids for a day with a mafia crime boss or with a priest or bishop I would of course leave them with the mafia crime boss.

  • Lurker111

    A little FYI: Nebraska is the country’s only unicameral legislature. There is no Nebraska House of Representatives. However, the members of their one body do refer to themselves as Senators.

  • Claude

    This guy is so implausible Mehta had to have made him up.

  • chicago dyke

    i hope everybody understands: term limits are an evil thing, and this old dood proves it. why should he not be allowed to serve for as long as he can get elected?

    term limits help republicans, and nobody else. i learned this during my time covering a state house. republicans have all the power of evil money behind them. they can afford to serve for a short time, knowing they will be rewarded with posh, lifelong lobbying and wingnut welfare jobs by big money after they’re done.

    democrats in state houses are mostly regular people. it hurts them financially to have to give up their careers for only a few years, and then have to go back to them and try to support their families.

    but yeah, this guy is made of Awesome. thank you, Sir!

  • chicago dyke

    oh, the obviousness difference of that truth is there for all to see, my friend. he was actually using filibustering type technique to stop a bill.

    no US senate democrat would do that, and Harri Reed believes that it’s ‘rude’ to make republicans do it. all they have to do is threaten one, and Harri backs down. fucking mormon.

  • Jerinne

    In 2005 Chambers blocked a wingnut constitutional amendment (later put on the ballot where it passed in 2012) protecting the right to hunt and fish by introducing amendment after amendment to the bill, protecting the right to do things such as create, recreate, converse, procreate, sit on the porch and drink lemonade, laugh, cough, itch, scratch, shear and “hunt for the link between Noah’s Ark, Joan of Arc and Archimedes.”

  • Jerinne

    Here’s Ernie Chambers in a 1966 Oscar-nominated documentary commissioned by the Lutheran Church, called “A Time For Burning.”
    For years Chambers battled “Terrible Terry” Carpenter, his polar opposite, in the Unicameral. Carpenter said: I think Mr. Chambers is one of the most brilliant men I have ever
    associated with. The only problem you got is that he hates white people.” They did, however, respect each other in that strange way that politicians have. Chambers was a pall bearer at Carpenter’s funeral.

  • .

    Heard an interview with State Senator Ernie Chambers a while back and he seems like a principled, impressive man. This just reinforces that impression.

    We thank you!

  • Claude

    Wow! You did not take over this country by singing “We Shall Overcome”. That was great. Thank you.

  • cipher

    How on earth does a man of this caliber keep getting reelected for 38 years – in Nebraska?

  • vitto

    Holy Spirit.

  • SecularMusings

    “And I-i-I-i-I, will aaallways looooove you!”