22 September 2006 - Friday

Candidate attacked for religious beliefs

Yesterday, I received the following message in an email from the Republican Party of Texas (the text is also available here):

"...So Help Me God."

Candidate for the Sixth Court of Appeals, Ben Franks, is reported to be a professed atheist and apparently believes the Bible is a "collection of myths."

During debate over a plank in the State Democrat Platform, members of the Platform Committee debated dropping "God" from a sentence on the first page of the document. The plank stated: "we want a Texas where all people can fulfill their dreams and achieve their God-given potential."

According to an article published in the El Paso Times, Ben Franks states: "I'm an atheist..."

All elected or appointed officials in Texas must take the oath prescribed by Art. XVI, Section 1(a) of the Texas Constitution:

"I, _____ , do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of _____ of the State of Texas, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State, so help me God."

Should Franks be elected in November, one would have to conclude that he will hold true to his out of touch "atheist" belief system and ignore the laws and Constitution of Texas. Mr. Franks is a personal injury trial lawyer practicing in Texarkana, Texas and is the Democrat nominee for the 6th Court of Appeals.

I'm not sure where to begin. I don't know what to say about this.

Actually ... yes, I do.

First of all, putting the word atheist in scare quotes is a particularly strange touch. Does the author doubt that atheism is real? Does the author suspect that Franks is only pretending to be an "out of touch" (sic) atheist? Maybe the author simply had never heard of atheism before; he or she was apparently shocked to discover that atheists don't believe that the Bible is God's word.

Next, the second paragraph of the article is irrelevant to the rest. Shoddy work.

Third, article 6 of the United States Constitution strongly suggests that excluding atheists from the bench is unlawful:

[...] all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Given the common conservative insistence that atheism is a religious position just as much as Christianity is, it would be difficult to avoid concluding that the Texas GOP is advocating an illegal "religious test" for office.

Obviously, this email isn't about upholding "the laws and Constitution of Texas." It is instead a display of naked prejudice. It is an attempt to turn the public against a candidate because of his religious convictions, which the Republican Party of Texas feels free to ridicule. And that displeases me.

| Posted by Wilson at 13:26 Central | TrackBack
| Report submitted to the Power Desk