In early 2017, New Hampshire State Rep. Brandon Phinney, a Republican, wrote a letter to a local newspaper talking about the demographic shift away from religion. Phinney didn’t have a problem with it. In fact, he said “it is difficult and to be frank, rather foolish, to hold onto archaic beliefs that deny reality.”
He later told me he was, indeed, an atheist. That made him the highest-ranking openly atheist politician in the Republican Party. A confusing prospect, no doubt, but also a big deal!
It didn’t last that long. Within a few months, Phinney announced that he was leaving the GOP. While he was a fiscal conservative and an advocate for church/state separation, he didn’t feel at home in the party. Made sense. He officially declared himself a Libertarian and moved on with his life. He even began a Secular Caucus within the Libertarian Party.
Last night, however, that third party label may have been his undoing. He was walloped in his bid for re-election.
He also posted these two somber messages on Twitter:
— Hon. Brandon Phinney (@RepBPhinneyNH) November 7, 2018
When I asked him how he felt, he told me he regretted nothing:
I will never regret standing on my principles to promote things I believe in; true personal freedom and a government that protects our rights. I will never regret reaching more people in my city than ever before with a campaign that promoted the liberty I believe in. I have a lot to be proud of from the last two years but this is not the end of the road for me. I’ll be back.
Policy positions aside, it took courage to come out as non-religious — especially as a Republican at the time. It also took courage to walk away from the GOP. With all the problems with the Republican Party these days, it would look a lot better with people like Phinney in it. It’s too bad they had no seat for him at their table.