Albuquerque City Councilperson Don Harris Responds About Attack on Atheism October 9, 2009

Albuquerque City Councilperson Don Harris Responds About Attack on Atheism

After attacking opponent Dan Barbour about his ties to atheism during the campaign, newly re-elected Albuquerque city councilperson Don Harris must have had enough of your emails.

Instead of a canned response, he finally issued a real response to reader Gareth.

It’s the response Harris should really have delivered days ago:

Thank you for taking to time to write to me.

I appreciate your very thoughtful comments.

I will not bring up Atheism in any future endeavor, as I have learned a great deal from this experience.

Best regards.

Don Harris

Good for him.

I don’t know what exactly he has learned… Does he also regret the rest of his attack ad? Maybe he just wants to get all of us off his back.

In any case, this is a good step forward in acknowledging his mistake. He did the right thing by issuing a private apology. A public one would be even better.

This also shows that with enough persistence from atheists, we can get politicians to listen to us. Yes, Harris is just a local politician, but this is how we have to coordinate for the bigger battles in the U.S. House and Senate as well: Lots of well-written, heartfelt letters (Siamang has a great example) sent from all over the place and constant exposure of their offense.

We didn’t have enough time to do it here, but we have the power to change elections.

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Mark Lenahan

    I don’t see the apology. I can’t see any acknowledgment that he made a mistake. All he says here is that he won’t do it again.

  • TXatheist

    Maybe he’s got this in the back of his mind cause it’s pretty recent…

  • TXatheist

    Good letter Siamang.

  • H

    Maybe he just wants to get all of us off his back.


    This was just as empty as the form letter he sent to people earlier.

  • schism

    Yeah, that looks like a “leave me alone already” bullshit response to me.

  • I agree with Mark — this is just a promise not to keep that particular attack up. Not even that, really, he just won’t mention “atheism.” He could sure talk about godlessness or secularism in a pejorative way. I wish he had elaborated on what he says he’s learned.

  • Siamang

    Thanks for the shout out, folks.

    I haven’t received any response, canned or not, from Harris.

    I don’t see the apology.

    Nor do I, nor do I think we’re likely to.

    Politics is about power, and we really don’t have the power in the election to cause real contrition here.

    But we do have a voice, and it got heard, and that’s going to be all we get in this circumstance.

    Personally, I’d like to take Harris out and buy him a beer and chat with him. I think that would be a better way of making progress than just emails.

  • muggle

    I doubt we’ll ever get an apology. We will have to — at this point — accept this half-hearted concession, I’m afraid.

    But, hey, it’s more than we usually get and this is at least one politician gonna think twice next time.

    I think he’s sincere about not bringing it up again. For all the wrong reasons, but sincere. And I doubt he’ll use a term like godless, etc. for the same bad reason — he can’t stand the heat and doesn’t want to get out of the kitchen so he’s not even turning on the burners.

    It’s not much but it’s something.

  • Vas

    Re: Don Harris,
    I have continued to be in touch with Mr. Harris and we have exchanged several emails. He in fact has heard our voice and has truly taken time to reflect on what he did. He has in fact been to this website and did a bit of reading at my suggestion, not just the articles about his leaflet but browsing topics. He even began to write a lengthy response to post here but got cold feet when it came time to post. To put it bluntly he’s kind of afraid of us, he knows he will be attacked if he show his face around these parts, and I think he knows he deserves the attack. He also seems to fear those who monitor the group, he thinks anything he might say will be used against him, now or in the future I can see the headline now, “Councilmember’s Sympathy for the Devil”. From what I can tell he seems motivated in many of his actions by fear, fear of atheists, fear of god/hell, fear of guilt by association, fear of admitting his own misdeeds. I’m not trying to excuse this guy, just understand him, it seems he is a better target for pity than vitriol, imagine an entire life controlled by fear, it sad really. I believe he has been changed for the better by his bigoted action, and the public reaction to it. He seems to have the beginning of understandings about atheists. He has read some articles and statistics I have sent him about atheists and is beginning to understand we are not boogie men but instead regular folks, (okay maybe there are a few boogie men but mostly not). Please understand that I’m not trying to defend his actions, I’m reaching out and he is responsive, he is softening a bit privately but does not seem to have the moral fortitude to show this publicly, at least in this forum. He has even thanked me for reaching out and claims to have learned significantly from this experience. True he can’t seem to bring himself to say what he learned but is seems it’s more than just that he pulled a bonehead move that had backlash. I really think he has a new perspective on atheists. Personally I’m a bit disappointed with his guarded responses, but I believe that our collective efforts have made a real difference in his attitudes, and what he believes about atheists in general. He may never come clean, but I feel sure he has reassessed his beliefs about those who have different beliefs than his own and has found room for tolerance. In any event I just wanted to update you all and let you know that he actually can be responsive when he feels safe, (I have not posted his emails, in the hope that we could continue our dialogue, and so far that has empowered him to continue for a bit). Perhaps with a bit more time and reflection he will overcome his cowardice and make a public statement on the matter, in his own chosen forum. In the mean time he has said he will work towards enhancing communication and understanding in his own local community. I know this sounds like Politian speak but I choose to cut him some slack and continue to encourage his much needed attitude adjustment. Thanks to all who took the time to write to him, while we may not have gotten the reaction we hoped for we have forced him to look within himself and it seems he didn’t like some of the things he saw there. and lastly thanks to Hemant for bringing this to our attention.

  • Vas

    Just for the record I don’t think he would be attacked if he posted here, (at least not by us) but he seems gripped by fear. There has been a lot of second guessing his motives, mostly because he did not make them clear. It may be his own doings but it reinforces his deeply held fears none the less. Just wanted to clear that up.
    Thanks, Vas

  • It still peeves me that he capitalizes the a in atheism. Like it’s a religion.

  • JulietEcho

    The important thing here, IMO, is that US politicians learn that there are real, actual Americans with opinions and feelings and votes and money who will be quite upset about being unfairly maligned in the public square, as if being an atheist is something dirty or immoral.

    When politicians learn that there will be backlashes to attacks based on atheism, they’ll stop making them. And that’s one more step towards mainstream acceptance and being treated like normal human beings.

  • That isn’t an apology. We are going from a demonized group back to an ignored one. He shouldn’t “not bring up Atheism” (why is it capitalized?) he should only bring it up when people are discussing atheism and bring it up fairly.

    You are allowed to talk about the Jewish vote, and the black vote. You just don’t demonize them at the same time. Apparently if he can’t use atheists as a scare tactic, then they aren’t worth mentioning.

    That, my friends, is NOT an apology.

  • That’s what I like about you and your work, Hemant — when you encourage people to write letters to officials, you actually encourage them to write their own words. Most Christian “leaders” just have a pre-written letter posted on their blog/website/etc., which they then direct followers to copy, print out and then mail to their officials as though they had written it themselves.

    It’s times like this that the impression of individuality is most important; if I were a congressman, I can tell you that I would respond a lot more to 500 angry letters than I would to 1000 copies of the same angry letter.

    Then again, maybe that’s why I’m not one….

  • Brian Westley

    I hope he saw the blog entry about the atheist/agnostic etc Kiva group hitting $1,000,000

  • Siamang

    Buy him a beer for me, Vas, if you can.

    I appreciate your building a bridge of communication with him.

  • Vas

    well if he got a bunch of angry letters including mine at least he responded to at lease one of us in a personal way. I don’t really think I’d like to have a beer with the guy but at least I’m getting some scene of regret from him, I’m not anymore sure than anyone else here exactly why but I know he is at least reading the stuff I’ve sent him links to. I think it may have dawned on him the we are regular people, so there is some small progress. Again it is in large part due to Hement and the rest of the folks here. Tim makes a good point and I think this is a case that Illustrates the effect just a few personal emails can make. I mean really how many emails could he have gotten? not all that many, and he did respond, not how I would have liked but he did respond. a few emails = a small response, a lot of emails warrants a larger response. This guy actually read the emails and he came here to read more, I’d say Hement’s article was successful in initiating change. a few day, a few people and a small change. not bad if you ask me.

  • muggle

    Oh, please, I capitalize the A in Atheist, for Pete’s sake. Let’s not over-react to that one.

    Sounds like someone’s had their mind broadened at least a tiny bit and that’s a good thing. And also commendable that he thought about it at least that much. It’s a small step but an important one, especially if he is sincere about working on relations between believers and nonbelievers in his neck of the woods. Again, a good thing.

    Thanks for sharing and updating us, Vas.

  • muggle

    Oh, and I’ll kick anyone’s butt that says simply capitalizing the A makes Atheism a religion. They ever officially call it one, I become a Nontheist.

  • Real Atheist

    Atheists are some of the most close minded people. Many do not respect the views of other people. When an atheist writes, believing in G-d is like believing in the tooth fairy, they are not respecting their fellow man. I am sure he does not fear you because he has already won his race. This will all be forgotten when he has to run again.

    The author of this blog is not even willing to allow people to freely express themselves. Moderate is another word for censorship. What do you fear?

  • Y halo thar, troll. How are weather?

  • thilina

    believing in G-d is like believing in the tooth fairy, they are not respecting their fellow man.

    And you Sir have no respect for those who believe in the tooth fairy.

    The author of this blog is not even willing to allow people to freely express themselves. Moderate is another word for censorship. What do you fear?

    A spam filter is also a form of censorship, but i doubt you have a problem with that. Censorship is good or bad depending on the relevance of the content being censored. If you are posting relevant information that is being censored by Hermant, I and many others here will gladly defend your right to rant.

    Now. back under the bridge you go.

error: Content is protected !!