You remember the “atheist” mailer sent out by Albuquerque City Councilor Don Harris when he was trying to smear his opponent David Barbour by outing him as a capital-A atheist and criticizing his donation for a science scholarship?
In case you missed it, Harris issued an apology for his actions on this site. He had some issues with how I approached the issue, but he did acknowledge doing something he shouldn’t have and I sincerely believe he feels remorseful about it.
The New Mexico Independent has a follow-up article on the whole debacle.
In e-mails to readers of a popular Atheist blog, City Councilor Don Harris recently apologized for attempting to use his opponent’s religion against him, saying he had “learned a great deal,” from the experience.
In an interview with the Independent, Harris said that once NMI’s stories about his mailer were picked up by FriendlyAtheist, he got “a fair bit of e-mail.”
“Although the safest course would be to leave it alone, I felt compelled to at least write the people back who took the time to write to me, and to post something on their site, which several of them asked me to do,” Harris told the Independent.
“I was reminded that the decisions that one makes when running for office and being in office are not simple ones, and they can have unexpected consequences. Being true to one’s own principles, while respecting the principles of others’, as a public official is a delicate balance. Political campaigns are by definition divisive; then after the election some healing and mending fences may be in order. That was the case here,” he wrote, adding, “I’m just doing the best I can.”
The article also says I “did not reply to an e-mail from the Independent requesting an interview.” Not sure what happened there, since I would’ve replied to that. I didn’t get their email, though. (I sent them a message letting them know that.)
I’ve learned a few lessons from this whole back-and-forth with Harris:
- It’s not yet a taboo to use the word “atheist” as slander. We haven’t reached the level of respectability within public opinion that we deserve.
- Politicians don’t always know why we get upset when they use “atheist” in a derogatory way. We need to let them know that’s bigotry.
- Some politicians actually listen to what we atheists have to say — and respond in kind.
- The way to fix this sort of problem is to write letters, contact the politicians, spread the message, and NOT let these stories slip under the radar.
Many thanks to all of you who didn’t let this story die and who carried on email conversations with Mr. Harris during this process.
(Thanks to Brian for the link!)