Democratic U.S. Representative Keith Ellison has three opponents in his attempt to gain re-election this year. One’s running with the Republican Party. One’s running with the Independence Party of Minnesota. The other’s an independent candidate. However, they all share one thing in common: They’re running against Ellison from a Christian perspective.
Congressman Keith Ellison is a Muslim, you see, and that’s highly disconcerting to some voters in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district. Barb Davis White and Joel Demos, both Christian preachers, decided to take advantage of this discomfort, and competed for the Republican nomination. When it became clear that Demos would win the Republican contest, White maneuvered to become the Independence Party’s nomination.
Much has been made of their religious identities, include the sermons by Demos suggesting that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of struggle against the Anti-Christ. Less attention has been given, however, to the appeal to Christian anxiety about Ellison’s Muslim identity by the race’s independent candidate, Lynne Torgerson.
A quick index of Torgerson’s focus on the issues of her campaign reveals where she places the emphasis in her strategy: She devotes 6 words to environmental issues, 11 words to her experience with gymnastics, 131 words to the issue of health care reform, and 3,470 words to an essay in which she explains her opposition to radical Islam.
Ellison’s opponents may have found religion to be a useful tool for dividing and conquering the electorate, but they would do well to remember the clear standard for political campaigning established in the Constitution: “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”