“Basing policy on emotion and hysteria and feelings is stupid and dishonest,” says Republican congressional candidate Earl Sholley, but Sholley himself has demonstrated that he is himself quite eager to exploit emotional panic in order to promote dishonest policies. In order to gain support for his congressional campaign, Sholley has been whipping up right wing Christian anger against those Americans who do not share their religious beliefs.
Yesterday, F.G. Fitzer noted the claim by Massachusetts 3rd district congressional candidate Michael Stopa that Barack Obama is an atheist. Right next door in the 4th congressional district, congressional candidate Sholley has joined in the conspiracy theory, declaring of Obama, “I believe in his heart of hearts he is a true Marxist, and Marxists are atheists.”
Of course, the U.S. Constitution declares such matters to be irrelevant: “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Sholley and Stopa seem all too happy to impose such a test, however, and seek to establish their own Christian status in the minds of voters by questioning Barack Obama’s Christianity. Sholley openly expresses his disdain for the Constitution’s system of democratically-established liberty. “The just laws of man derive from the natural laws of God. Our rights come from God. They do not come from the Government,” he says.
With their tactic of self-promotion through religious division, these politicians are inciting public anger against non-Christians, suggesting that it’s dangerous for non-Christians to be allowed equal participation in U.S. government. It’s not just atheists that are on the receiving end of this attack, of course. This summer has seen a surge in attacks, both verbal and physical, against American Muslims. Many are calling for Muslims to be exempted from the constitutional freedom of religion.
Earl Sholley has hopped on the anti-Muslim bandwagon. He writes of the Cordoba House Muslim community center in New York City, “This mosque, if built, will represent a symbolic victory for Islam over the West. We need to be realistic. Islam and Sharia Law are incompatible with America and our democratic institutions. They’re incompatible with our constitutional and republican form of government as well. This is another battle that we are engaged in, and a battle that the American people must win.”
Sholley’s campaign of scapegoating against Muslims and atheists is a reminder that when the freedom of religion of one cultural minority is threatened, the religious freedom of all minorities is made vulnerable. Atheists and Muslims have quite different beliefs about religion, but politically, they’re in the same boat.