The New York Times yesterday posted a blog about a number of politicians reaffirming their belief in a higher being during bids for office. Some conservatives apparently choose to distinguish themselves from other candidates of questionable conservative status when races are tight or their own conservative status may be subjected to scrutiny from voters on the right.
I like knowing where candidates are coming from and the more we know about their ideologies the better we can gauge their motivations on policy making and crafting laws. It should especially put on notice those with no religious affiliations or go one step further by expressing their non-belief in the existence of any higher power or deities.
By so publicly expressing their belief in a deity, politicians run the risk of crafting and defending laws that are desired by constituents that may have no discipline when it comes to exercising tolerance of those who are either non-Christian or atheist. Sure lip service may be given to the belief that America is a nation of tolerance, a melting put of various creeds and races, but when the president-elect places his or her hand on a Bible swearing to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States or when a number of state constitutions deny non-believers the right to hold public office or even testify in court because the veracity of their testimony is checked by the unfounded belief that it cannot be trusted due to a non-belief in a deity, these politicians, willingly or not, put themselves in a position to create bottlenecks to access of rights guaranteed to everyone else.
Todd Stiefel, president and founder of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, has described discrimination against non-believers as a civil rights issue. “Discrimination comes from ignorance, and in this case it is ignorance about our beliefs,” says Mr. Stiefel. “We are told freethinkers believe in nothing, but that’s a misunderstanding. We believe in a lot of things; we don’t all believe the same things.”
I would prefer that these politicians exhibit an inclusive tone in their campaign rhetoric, but I’ve been around the block enough to know it will not happen. Given the belief system of these lawmakers, non-believers, free thinkers, and atheists will themselves have to be very diligent in remaining aware of their rights and the political and legal environments that impact them.