Recently, Republican Elizabeth Dole maligned her Democratic opponent for a North Carolina Senate seat, Kay Hagan, for planning to attend a fundraiser hosted by atheists. Since then, there has been a lot of feedback from atheists.
They may not have been paying close attention to the race before, but now, they are watching and supporting Hagan.
Reader Amy said this:
I just emailed Elizabeth Dole and cc’d Hagan’s campaign. As a North Carolinian, I had already voted for Hagan in the primaries, but now she will be getting my volunteer time and my donation.
Reader postsimian added:
I’m from IL, and I’ll be donating $50 to her opponent’s campaign. Things like this deserve a tangible retort.
And reader Siamang let us in on the excellent response he sent the Dole campaign:
Elizabeth Dole campaign,
I have no illusions that the Senator or anyone high in the campaign will be the one reading this email. I assume that some volunteer or staffer will quickly skim through this and tally my opinion on a response sheet before deleting it.
So this email is actually addressed to you, the reader. Thank you for taking the time to take part in the political process. Thank you for taking the time and having the consideration to read these words I’m writing to you. Perhaps you’ll mention them to someone else in the Campaign. Perhaps it’ll be something you’ll keep to yourself. Anyway, I just have to say this to someone.
Who am I? I’m a 41-year-old married father, living in California. I work hard, pay taxes, send my daughter to a local public school. I do volunteer work, give to charity, and am very involved in my child’s education. I am a fiercely patriotic American.
Today, I was outraged to learn of a press release from Senator Dole’s campaign condemning her Democratic opponent for meeting with a group representing Americans with no religious affiliation. If you asked me yesterday what I thought about Elizabeth Dole, I’d say she was a strong, resourceful, intelligent, moderate leader. If you asked me yesterday about her opponent, Kay Hagan, I would have said “Who?”
I didn’t know her name.
I do now.
Here’s a passage from the press-release:
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.”
Wow. I guess I should tell my Christian and Jewish family, friends and loved ones that they can’t have me over for dinner because I am a nonbeliever. Is he serious? Are North Carolinians really that divisive on issues of religion that they won’t even break bread with someone with different beliefs?
If Hagan had met with a group of priests, rabbis, Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews or the members of any other belief-set, I think you, campaign-worker, would be outraged if the Dole campaign had spoken ill of that meeting. You rightly would have seen it as the politics of division or worse, naked bigotry.
So now, I’d like to ask a question. As an American, am I not allowed to meet with political candidates merely because of the minority status of my beliefs? Am I not allowed a voice? Is it the Senator’s contention that it is, and rightfully should be, political poison for a candidate to meet with certain Americans just because of their beliefs about God? Is it telling me, an American, that unless I believe in God, that I shouldn’t be part of the political process? That I should sit down and shut up?
The group Hagan met with includes atheists, agnostics, humanists and deists… as well as any number of people who check the box “none of the above”. Great Americans like Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain and Albert Einstein all counted themselves “none of the above.” Together, the “none of the aboves” make up 16% of Americans, according to Pew Research.
We understand we’re a minority. We know we’re misunderstood and that creates mistrust. We know that the only solution to this is to be part of the American dialog.
But we cannot be a part of that dialog if the politically powerful cast us as pariahs in order to win the cheap allegiance of antipluralist bigots. I think it’s no way to act as a United States Senator. It’s wrong to say that certain Americans are lesser, or do not deserve representation or to meet with our candidates merely because of our beliefs. That’s just wrong, and most American Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons and others would agree on that point one-hundred percent.
See, it’s not who Senator Dole prays to that upsets us. It’s that she seems to advocate that political representation be subjected to a religious test. No religion? No meeting with your candidate… that’s the Dole plan.
We can see that we are being singled out as being unworthy of speaking to. So I’ll speak with my money, and so will many others. Today I donated $100 to Kay Hagan’s campaign. Further, I’m sending out a challenge to the millions of “none of the aboves” nationwide to do the same. From all walks of life, people tired of being scapegoated, of being ridiculed– of being silenced and exiled from the political dialog– will have at least one candidate to contribute to who isn’t afraid to talk to us.
Sixteen percent. That’s a lot of Americans. Yesterday, I didn’t know Hagan’s name. Today I do. Tomorrow many more will.
People all over America will now hear Hagan’s name, and what she had the bravery to do… to meet with people who Senator Dole wants to make political untouchables.
People like me.
Anyway, reader, I’ve taken enough of your time. I just want perhaps to let someone there know that nonbelievers are just as 100% American as anyone else. We live and work and love and care for our children and grow old and die just like everyone else. We pay our taxes, serve our country and contribute to the greatest nation in the world. We are your schoolteachers, your firefighters, your doctors and your soldiers.
We are Americans… and you never tell an American to sit down and shut up.
Thanks for listening, dear reader.
On the basis of those who told us what they’ve donated, I count $300+ from readers of this site.
I’m sure we can do better than that.
***UPDATE 1*** (11:15 a.m. ET): The count is an additional $580 just in the past few hours! You all are incredible!
***UPDATE 2*** (5:02 p.m. ET): The count altogether is an additional $1180 since this post went up!