Ernie Chambers (below) is the highest-ranking openly-atheist politician in the country right now. The African-American Nebraska State Senator served for 38 years (beginning in 1970), making him the longest-serving senator in the state’s history, until he was term-limited out in 2008. When he was eligible to run again in 2012, he did so and won easily.
Over the years, he’s had several public battles against religion. In 2007, he famously sued God just to make a statement. In 2013, during a filibuster, he remarked that the Mafia has higher standards than the Catholic Church hierarchy because if their members were “raping children, they’d off them.” That same year, he expertly took down an “ex-gay” man as well as a Christian psychologist making arguments against pro-LGBT legislation. And last year, he introduced a bill that would force churches to pay property taxes.
So when he’s in the news, you know something interesting is going down.
This week, Republican State Sen. Bob Krist was part of a 5-2 majority in the Judiciary Committee that voted to support a ban on employment discrimination. The bill would now go to the full Legislature. Excellent!
But Krist is now threatening to change his vote because of alleged anti-Catholic remarks made by Chambers:
Krist, who’s Catholic and white, said he’s reacting to some remarks made by Sen. Ernie Chambers, a black atheist, following the vote. “He doesn’t like Catholics. He’s never liked Catholics. And the things that were said about my religion, my faith, and my race cued me that maybe we need to expand this, that if it’s anti-discrimination we’re talking about, that we’re covering the bases.”
Krist doesn’t make any sense here. First of all, unless he got other members of the committee to change their votes, it wouldn’t alter the outcome. Furthermore, whatever Chambers said against Catholicism, I promise you it wasn’t discriminatory. He’s a critic of religious ideas, not religious people. Chambers didn’t even know what this was all about:
“There’s no way in the world I can recall with precision what I said on those two subjects,” he said, adding “I’ve said a lot about both of them.”
Chambers said Krist ought to go after him, instead of going after the anti-discrimination bill sponsored by Sen. Adam Morfeld. “If somebody is very offended at something I said, I should be the target, and not somebody else’s legislation. And not somebody else,” he said.
Krist’s threat to reverse his vote would only hurt LGBT citizens and he’s doing it out of spite because his feelings were hurt. He needs to get over it. There’s no reason to let discrimination persist because he can’t handle criticism of his beliefs. Civil rights shouldn’t be subject to a game of political hardball.