Halloran Opens the Religion “Black Box”

Halloran Opens the Religion “Black Box” May 21, 2012

Ever since his religious affiliation was outed to the general public back in 2009, Republican Dan Halloran has tried to keep the subject off his adherence to Theodish Heathenism, and on day-to-day political matters. After his Heathen faith became an issue in the successful 2009 campaign for a seat on the New York City Council, he finally released a public statement entitled “I believe in God,” which downplayed his Pagan identity, and stressed Halloran’s Catholic heritage.

Dan Halloran (left) receiving the endorsement of the Queens County GOP. (Photo courtesy Queens County Republicans)

I took comfort in my family’s history and our heritage, yet through all of this pain and hardship, I never lost faith in God. Last week, I was attacked for my faith in the Queens Tribune.These attacks happened on the eve of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holiest time of the year for the Jewish people. Having been raised in a Catholic household that shares its religious roots with the Jewish faith, I was deeply offended that religion would be used for political gain. […] I am a man of faith – and now my faith is under attack by a newspaper working for my opponent. I call on my opponent to disavow the Queens Tribune’s attack on religion. I am running a campaign on the issues.”

Not once in the statement does Halloran mention the terms “Heathen,” “Theodish,” or “Pagan.”  A fact that soured many in the Heathen community to Halloran, believing that they were “thrown under the bus” so he could win the election. From that point, Halloran has steered clear of talking explicitly about his faith, even when journalists dug up former co-religionists who made allegations relating to his leadership role within Theodism. In a 2010 interview with the Pagan Newswire Collective, Halloran reiterated that his faith is private, and “irrelevant” to any policy decision he might make.

“My service in the Council and advocacy for our neighborhoods has proven beyond a shadow of doubt that my religious faith is not only irrelevant to my public policy… but also a source of great personal strength for me which only inures to the benefit of my Community. I do occasionally hear that being a “Druid” explains why I am such an eco-conscious Republican.”

However, it now seems like Halloran may be willingly (if unwittingly) opening the “black box” of his religion by attacking one of his potential Democratic opponents in the upcoming congressional race. In an interview with the Jewish political blog Gestetner Updates, Halloran praises Assemblyman Rory Lancman as his toughest potential opponent, but also claims his voting record doesn’t reflect his personal faith.

“Unfortunately his voting record does not match his personal commitment to his faith,” he said. “He was on the opposite side of gay marriage; opposite side of abortion; and the opposite side on the issues of school vouchers, and tax credits and incentives for those who use private schools to educate our young children.”

In short, Halloran kinda implied that Lancman may be a bad Jew when it comes to these issues, echoing the criticisms of conservative New York Jews. That may seem like good politics when you’re trying to win over moderate and conservative Jews, but it also opens the “black box” of his own religion, making him fair game for similar questions and statements. Considering the fact that the Village Voice has already attacked Halloran for being a hypocrite, specifically on the question of abortion, it doesn’t seem wise to run on abortion and same-sex marriage.

“In early 2011, a legislative fight emerged in New York City over anti-abortion “pregnancy centers” advertising abortion counseling when they don’t actually offer abortions. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn introduced a bill that would force such organizations to advertise that they don’t perform abortions and to disclose if they have any medical staff on hand.  […] Quinn’s bill would eventually pass overwhelmingly in the council without Halloran’s vote. According to Little Neck Patch, Halloran “did not see the issue . . . as a part of the decades-old debate over abortion rights.” (Still, through a spokesman, he also noted “the Council member is pro-life.”) […] The episode infuriated some of Halloran’s former followers, who not only had known him to be pro-choice, but also to be “pro-abortion to nearly the point of endorsing infanticide,” as one put it.

The Voice piece quotes Halloran at length defending abortion within the context of his faith, and while I publicly criticized the piece for crossing the line, this new interview now partially undercuts my argument that “too much is made of his faith, and in improper contexts.”

I can only think of three possibilities for why Halloran has decided to bring up same-sex marriage and abortion in the context of a potential opponent’s religion: that it was a mistake, that he felt it was a calculated risk worth the potential blowback, or he’s hoping to preemptively make the religion question moot by muddying the waters now, instead of during the general election. Whatever the reason, it just seems risky to open yourself up for attack after you’ve spent years saying your religion isn’t an issue for public debate or commentary.

In the coming weeks I’ll be highlighting a two-part guest commentary from our resident Theodism expert Nick Ritter on what Theodism is and isn’t, and the political career and congressional candidacy of Dan Halloran from a Theodish perspective. I feel that as this campaign heats up, it will be important to talk to voices who can bring more light to the issues that will no doubt be raised regarding religion. In the meantime you can listen to my podcast featuring Nick Ritter and PNC-Minnesota reporter Cara Schulz on Halloran’s congressional run. I fear we’re going to be hearing a lot about Halloran’s faith in the mainstream media come November, and we should be prepared for what that might mean for the broader Pagan and Heathen communities.

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36 responses to “Halloran Opens the Religion “Black Box””

  1. A Heathen criticizing a Jew for being pro-gay rights and pro-choice? WTF? Am I missing something here? Heathens and Pagans should always defend personal liberty and oppose all forms of bigotry and discrimination, and we should applaud anyone, of any faith, who does likewise. What Halloran said, if this is accurate, just doesn’t make any Gods-damned sense.

  2. The only bottom line “religion” politicians have is the core belief that their name should be on the office door and on the fat paycheck and benefits package. It sounds like he’s revealing himself to be no different than the Bible-Beating Religious Right politicians, and I hope they hang him by his own tongue with that issue. 

  3. Although he sometimes calls his God by a different name, the reality is that the only God Dan Halloran believes in is himself.

  4. Let me abstract your three possible reasons for this move, Jason: Stupidity, stupidity and stupidity.

  5. And let me just emphasize that, as far as I am concerned, abortion and same-sex marriage are not Left/Right issues nor are they Liberal/Conservative or even, necessarily, Democrat/Republican. They are both basic “libertarian” issues. I could care less if a Heathen or Pagan is a Republican, conservative, right-wing, whatever. But anyone who wants the government to impose religiously inspired restrictions on women’s rights, or who wants the government to legally enshrine religiously inspired bigotry against gay people, well I do have a problem with that.

  6. “Unfortunately his voting record does not match his personal commitment to his faith.”
    I don’t live in Mr. Halloran’s district and won’t have to choose between him and his opponent.  But I can’t imagine what business it is of any politician to criticize another politician for failing to live up to the tenants of hir religion.  Surely, that’s a matter between the politician, hir God/dess, and hir clergy.  

    Unless someone is attempting to impose hir religious beliefs on others through the political process, it’s just irrelevant.  I get that, for example, if Rick Santorum, who wants to use government to impose his own religion’s tenants on all women, were found to have paid for an abortion for his wife or girlfriend, that would be relevant.  It would be relevant to show, for example, that he’s a hypocrite or that even he can’t live up to the strictures he  wants to impose on everyone else.  Beyond that, the simple fact that a politician votes in a way not condoned by hir religion should be irrelevant.

    I’m really tired of religion being used as a cudgel in American politics and, unless I’m missing something, that’s all that Mr. Halloran is doing here.  “My opponent isn’t a good member of his religion so you shouldn’t vote for him.”  And, obviously, one would think that a Pagan could see the problem with this tactic.

  7. Is this going to open up more hassle for the Heathen community? If it does what sould the other communites do, or not do?

    This may be more importatn then Mr.O’Halloran. We are still small enough that a hassle for any of our communites could grow into a hassle for all of our communites? 

    At the same time there is a question of what would be welcome or not welcome as far as the Heathen community is concerned, if this heats up? They are a proud people, and the last thing any of us would want to do is add tothe hassle.

  8. He’s already ignored by much of the heathen community because of what Jason already mentioned, nothing new will occur. The main image problem still is, and will be, the white supremacy/white heritage issue, and that’s much bigger than Halloran.

  9. I don’t know him, but I do see a lot of people “showing him” for not being theodish enough or something, insulting his religious choices and family priorities while he undergoes brain surgery (previous blog entry)  

    You may not like him but he and his family don’t deserve to be going through all that and this

  10. He’s mostly bringing it upon himself (not the tumor part, of course). For me, the issue isn’t whether he’s “theodish enough” or “pagan enough.” He owes no obligation to carry the flag of the pagan community at large. The issue is really just integrity and whether he has the courage of his convictions, whatever they may be. If he’s pagan, that’s cool. If he used to be pagan and now considers himself Christian, or searching, that’s fine too. If he chooses to say “my relationship with the divine is none of your damn business”, that’s a perfectly legitimate position to stake out, but then you have to live by that, if you want any respect or credibility.

     Like most of the other weasels in office, he wants it both ways. Religion is nobody’s business, unless it’s a convenient liability of my opponent. He’s Theodish, as long as it’s “safe.” He floats a “read between the lines” vague statement implying that he’s just a good red-blooded good old boy Christian at heart. If he’s staunch anti-abortion or any other position I may not hold, I respect that too, whether or not I would vote for him on that basis. If his religion and political positions are whatever happens to be polling well this week, then he just simply doesn’t warrant much respect. 

    I guess it’s fair to say it bothers me if a pagan of such standing stoops to this. I’m not Asatru or Heathen, but I do hold a lot of respect for the traditions, largely because they seem to take their concepts of ethics and oaths and duty very seriously.  Personal honor seems to be a big deal in the trads and the lore, and whether or not I saw eye to eye or even understood the Northern Trad guys I’ve met, I always knew where I stood with them and they never tried to soft-pedal who they were or what they stood for. 

    The last thing the pagan community at large needs is another guy for whom pagan religion is just a cool lifestyle accessory. The last thing the electorate needs in New York or anywhere else is a guy with no bottom line who tells them whatever he thinks they want to hear. 

  11. If he chooses to say “my relationship with the divine is none of your
    damn business”, that’s a perfectly legitimate position to stake out, but
    then you have to live by that, if you want any respect or credibility.

    But he’s a politician, and his being half-private about it is necessary, being that it is a minority religion and he wants a majority vote.  If someone truly has no bottom line when it comes to telling people
    whatever they want to hear to get more votes, it follows they wouldn’t
    be Pagan.  And though in previous times, more of a personal life could stay hidden, that’s not true so much anymore.

    Now if you say you’re something, you’re not something enough to some people, and if you don’t say you’re something (when you are), people will say you weren’t being straightforward or trying to hide it from shame. 

  12. If he wants to be private about his faith to the point where he won’t even take clear ownership of it and makes veiled suggestions that he’s something else and declares the whole subject of personal faith off limit, that’s fine. But then he ought not to render judgement on his opponent for “not being Jewish enough” (as if he even understands what that might entail). I get that being a member of a minority religion puts one in a glass house. That being the case, one ought not to pick a rock fight with one’s neighbors. This fool just threw a cinder block through the load-bearing wall of his own glass house, and one that supported the floor he stood on….

  13. Politics from the words  ‘poly’ meaning many, and ‘ticks’ meaning blood sucking pests… 

    What he’s done reminds me of something an old neighbor used to say
    “Don’t go striking a match to light the bonfire if’n you’re standing in a puddle of kerosine..”

  14.  I started to read the derogatory Village Voice article on his religion, and it was ALL on his religion.  Oh, and how he wasn’t even “good” in his religion, and so and so hates him now. Pretty disgusting rumors going all around.
    Personally I’d hope most people would try to stop others from throwing bricks through the windows of other people based on their minority religions, just say stop it already.

  15.  Like the brick-glass image used above, the lighting folks on fire one isn’t helpful. 

  16. Though technically, if we want to be specific…most “issues” are either Libertarian or Authoritarian, while the positions of Left and Right are generally descriptions of where one falls more often on those issues…with Liberals/Leftists generally being Libertarian on social/cultural issues, while being Authoritarian on fiscal/economic ones…and Conservatives/Right-Wingers being Authoritarian on social/cultural issues, and Libertarian on fiscal/economic ones.

  17. Under Halloran’s absurd “logic” here, he should be applauding the Taliban for their religious convictions, while denouncing Liberal Muslims for…you know…not stoning women and stuff.  If this guy likes the Religious Right so much, why doesn’t he just “gay marry” it?

  18.  BryonMorrigan wrote:

    >Though technically, if we want to be specific…most “issues” are either Libertarian or Authoritarian

    I must respectfully disagree with you there.  For me, the best articulated issues contain both an acknowledgement of personal liberty AND a condition of responsibility that comes with those inalienable rights. 

  19. Actually they ARE Democratic/Republican issues. Romney wants a federal law to enshrine heterosexual marriage as the only legal definition, Obama does not. The Democrats are pro-choice, the Republicans aren’t. I would never vote for someone just because they were a Pagan (or used to be). I weigh the issues no matter what religion a candidate is or was. Their religion matters not a whit, so long as they are pro-choice and support the public welfare (not just the rights of billionaores and corporations).

  20.  Except that it’s not that simple. Not all people identifying as Democrats are pro-choice, and some Republicans are. There are many demographic groups that tend to vote Democrat but who tend to hold socially conservative views. Here in NC there were no lack of voters who voted for Obama in the last election who also voted to amend our constitution to ban same sex marriage this month.

  21. I trust you realize it was Halloran I was referring to as stupid, not Jason.

  22. Bottom line, he is in politics. He will say or do  or be or use whatever it takes to get into the office he wants and the same to stay there. Religon included, his own or others. His views on, well, most anything arn’t his views, they are the views of who ever he is trying to get to vote for him. I’m not bashing the guy personaly, I belive this is true for most in politics.

  23. Re-read the metaphor mate. There is no advocacy of human immolation, quite the opposite.

  24. It sounds to me like you’re suggesting that Paganism is a “glass house” that practically invites stoning, a bigotry Village Voice clearly shared.  As for the “but he’s in politics” excuse, if people in politics get harassed because they’re Pagan – they’re just taking the forefront of what also happens sometimes to those less public. When that’s normalized, then it also becomes okay to do to the less powerful.