Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)
August 31, 2004
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
It's really no better than appealing to racism or anti-Semitism, but at least those sorts of appeals have to be made implicitly by bigoted Republicans. Hate mongering can be more open and explicit when the targets are atheists and gays. I have to wonder, though, if Dole gave any explicit thought to her bigotry before doing this or if it just happened automatically and naturally.
I also wonder why she hates atheists so much that she would not only attack us, but attack the very idea of our wanting equal civil rights in the first place. That's not casual hate; this is a strong and deep hate motivating her to attack atheists very ability to live in the community as equals.
The specific context of Elizabeth Dole's hate mongering is Kay Hagan's fund-raising trip to Boston, Massachusetts and the home of Wendy Kaminer and her husband Woody Kaplan, both of whom are involved with the "Godless Americans Political Action Committee."
Kaminer is also an advisory board member (Woody is the chairman) of The Secular Coalition for America which is "the national lobby for atheists, humanists, freethinkers and other nontheistic Americans with the unique mission of protecting their civil rights.” (Secular Coalition For America, Press Release, 1/16/08) Kaminer's husband, Woody Kaplan, is also an advisor to the Godless Americans Political Action Committee which sees itself as a counter-force to religious groups in public policy debates.
"Kay Hagan is trying to run a campaign in North Carolina that casts her as a moderate but the money that's paying for it is coming from the left-wing fringe of political thought," said Dole Campaign Communications Director Dan McLagan. "You can tell a lot about a person by their friends and these are friends most North Carolinians would not be comfortable having over for dinner." ...
"Kay Hagan does not represent the values of this state; she is a Trojan Horse for a long list of wacky left-wing outside groups bent on policies that would horrify most North Carolinians if they knew about it," McLagan said. "This latest revelation of support from anti-religion activists will not sit well with the 90% of state residents who identify with a specific religious faith."
Source: Elizabeth Dole Web Site
Let's review the implicit claims being made by Elizabeth Dole's campaign here:
- Protecting the civil rights of nontheists is on the "left-wing fringe of political thought." Presumably, attacking and infringing on the civil rights of nontheists is seen by Dole as "moderate" or "mainstream."
- People who want to protect the rights of nontheists would not be welcome for dinner in the homes of most North Carolinians. Presumably, people who attack the civil rights of nontheists would be welcome.
- Protecting the civil rights of nontheists "does not sit well" with North Carolinians who identify with a specific religious faith. Presumably, attacking the civil rights of nontheists does sit well with them.
Let's replace "nontheists" with other minorities to see how all that reads, shall we?
- Protecting the rights of gays is on the "left-wing fringe of political thought."
- People who want to protect the rights of blacks would not be welcome for dinner in the homes of North Carolinians.
- Protecting the civil rights of Jews "does no sit well" with Christians in North Carolina.
Notice that none of these hypotheticals mention any of the policies or the beliefs of the groups being targeted. The same is true of Elizabeth Dole's press release. Nothing is cited about atheists generally or the Secular Coalition For America that is or can be presented as the least be objectionable — except for the fact that they work to secure equality for atheists. If Dole were raising a philosophical or political objection to the policies and agenda of people her opponent is working with, that is a potentially legitimate argument to make. It wouldn't necessarily be bigoted (depending on how it is phrased).
Instead, her entire press release is about nothing more or less than "my opponent can be found associating with atheists and people who want atheists to have equal civil rights" then treating that as self-evidently odious, objectionable, and indicative that a person is unfit for public office in North Carolina. This judgement is effectively made about every person who doesn't believe in any gods, even though Elizabeth Dole can't possibly know even most of them, never mind all of them.
Judging people simply because they don't believe in any gods is on the same moral level as judging people for their skin color or their sexual orientation. This places Elizabeth Dole and her Communications Director Dan McLagan on the same level as racists — and worse, racist politicians who exploit the racism of voters in order to turn them against more liberal politicians who dare to associate with racial minorities and/or those who support equal rights of racial minorities.
As I said above, attitudes and beliefs like this are not motivated by mere "casual" hate. People who say and think like this have developed a very deep and strong hatred towards their scapegoats. Elizabeth Dole may not quite be at the stage of burning crosses in atheists' yards, but frankly her press release doesn't make her sound all that far off, either. No matter how bigoted and discriminatory the Democratic Party can be towards atheists, I guess it's always possible for Republicans to be far worse. Amazing, isn't it?
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