The Center For Inquiry is calling for the resignation of Democratic National Committee CFO Brad Marshall after a leaked email from him suggested “someone” should ask Bernie Sanders at a public event if he believed in God, hoping his reluctance to give an enthusiastic “Yes!” would hurt him in the primaries.
We found it appalling that anyone within the Democratic National Committee would casually suggest attacking a candidate for their alleged atheism. Entertaining such a cynical and bigoted line of attack violates any number of basic American principles: It presumes a religious test for holding office, something expressly prohibited in the Constitution. It pits the majority against a marginalized minority group, intensifying the country’s already escalating divisions. It exacerbates the gross stereotype of atheists as second-class citizens or somehow less moral than believers, a stereotype atheists have been tirelessly battling for generations. Perhaps most importantly, it sends the unmistakable signal to atheist Americans that despite all of our hard-won progress for equal treatment, atheists are still not welcome, not “one of us,” not American.
Let us be clear: Atheists are Americans. Atheists are Democrats, as well as Republicans and independents. We are as integral a part of the fabric of this country as any other group. Atheists have fought, struggled, and died for this country and its values alongside friends, family, and neighbors of all beliefs. At every turning point for social progress, atheists, humanists, and other nonbelievers have been on the front lines, helping to lead the charge for civil rights, women’s equality, and LGBTQ rights.
The religiously unaffiliated, which includes atheists and other nonreligious Americans, are the largest voting bloc in the United States. And despite whatever “points” DNC staffer Brad Marshall thought could be gained among his “Southern Baptist peeps,” the religiously unaffiliated are now the largest belief group among Democrats. Aside from the intolerance and narrow-mindedness expressed in Mr. Marshall’s suggestion, it would also be a very effective way for the Democratic Party to alienate one of its largest constituencies.
Need we even point out that had the suggestion been made to attack a candidate for being Jewish, Mormon, or of any other minority faith, the resulting scandal would have been an all-consuming conflagration?
Mr. Marshall has reportedly apologized for embarrassing the DNC, but there has been no apology, no admission of wrongdoing, to the people he sought to defame. We believe he should resign his position with the DNC. The Democratic National Committee must make immediately clear that it finds Marshall’s line of thinking unacceptable, and that it will not countenance party operatives proffering attack strategies based on this kind of anti-atheist bigotry. It would do well for the Clinton campaign to do the same.
Atheists, humanists, “nones,” and all others who have rejected traditional religious belief will no longer be silent when institutions of power attempt to reinforce pernicious stereotypes about the nonreligious. We matter, we have a powerful voice — and a vote — and we will use it.
That is a fantastic summary of what’s at stake here. It’s not just about the DNC’s preference for Hillary Clinton. It’s about the underlying issue of how someone in the upper echelons of leadership at the DNC felt “atheist” could be a valid smear to use against a candidate.
Marshall has indeed apologized — but only for causing “embarrassment to the DNC, the Chairwoman, and all of the staffers.”
He has not apologized to atheists for throwing us under the bus.