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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/13/12

Are Nonbelievers the Last Minority to face Discrimination?

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Are nonbelievers the last so called "minority" against which the majority still discriminates?   If one wants to run for political office, one better not even hint that she or he is a nonbeliever.   The larger and more federal the office, the smaller the chance that a professed nonbeliever can be successful in getting a nomination, let alone running as a corporate party's candidate.  

One may as well not run for office if, when asked if one believes in a supreme being, one doesn't lie and say, "Yes."   There are non-Christians who hold political office, but there aren't many, if any, professed nonbelievers.   Not only do politicians have to lie if they are nonbelievers, but they better have occasional photos taken of them walking into and/or out of St. Mario's Church of the Sacred Money Basket.

Don't get me wrong.   If Mitt Romney or John Kennedy pushed for policies because they were specifically what Mormons, in Romney's case, or Catholics, in Kennedy's case, believed, that would have been and would still be seen as inappropriate, probably by the majority of voters in The FUSA (The Formerly United States of America), believers and nonbelievers alike.

Back in Kennedy's day, we hardly heard any kind of reference to religion by main stream politicians.   Of course, even though Romney didn't throw Mormonism in our faces, he couldn't say anything without ultimately referencing god.   I never heard him reference Jesus or even Joseph Smith.

Our federal Constitution says that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States". Nonetheless, there are seven state constitutions which actually require candidates to be believers.

I admit that states that recently passed referenda which legalized marijuana have, basically, done the same thing.   They've thumbed their noses at federal law and made laws which contradict federal laws.   There are significant differences, however.

1. Legalizing marijuana and deflating the whole "war on drugs" is a positive step -- it's progress and will, ultimately, save lives.
2. Legalizing marijuana is in keeping with what constitutions are supposed to do; protect the rights of people, not take them away.
3. Prohibition and most amendments or proposed amendments to the federal Constitution that actually took rights away or proposed taking rights away from people failed because of the nature of their proposals.

I'm sure that there are atheists in Congress who profess to being Christians mainly so that they can still participate in our political process at their level.

Ultimately, however, why should nonbelievers be treated any differently than believers in being able to participate in our political process at any level?   Those who claim to be "strict constitutionalists" should not be satisfied to let the status quo, prejudice against nonbelievers, stand for one more minute, let alone one more day, week, month or year.   Our Constitution makes it un-American and, ultimately, illegal to stop someone from running for office merely because that someone is a nonbeliever.

If we remember, poll taxes and tests that had to be taken in order to vote in the South enabled racists to claim to be non-racists while carrying out racist procedures.   The implicit religious test that one has to pass in order to run for office isn't much different than a poll tax or pre-voting test.   The actual tests that some state constitutions still want public servants to pass are unduly prejudicial in a secular society and against the law of the land.

My wife and I have two TV series box sets.   One is The Sopranos and the other is The West Wing.

Maybe we have The Sopranos because I'm of Sicilian descent and I can identify with the familial interactions in that show.   I cannot identify with the crime, especially the violent crime.

We have The West Wing because it may be the most intellectual show ever aired by a major network.   If you've ever watched The West Wing, you know that Martin Sheen played an American president named Jeb Bartlett.   He was Catholic; that much became clear as time went on.   However, he did not, I repeat, he did not end each and every one of his speeches with, "God bless all of you and god bless The United States of America."

The series ended with a presidential campaign in which Jimmy Smitts played the Democratic Party candidate and Alan Alda played the Republican Party candidate.   Smitts ended up winning and, although the whole thing was obviously fictional, I can't help but think it reflected real life.   Alda played a US senator who stopped going to church after his wife died.   He had to say that he believed in god and his wife was the person who pushed him to go to church.   It was revealed, however, ever so cryptically, that Alda's character actually did have doubts about the existence of a supreme being.

Alda's character lost the election and lost it for a number of reasons.   One reason he lost was the fact that he didn't practice his religion and came as close as he did to admitting that he was a nonbeliever.   It certainly was an issue in the campaign.

At present, this would happen to anyone who ran for president.

Obama can't be let off the hook in this regard.

Ending every single speech with "God bless all of you and god bless The United States of America" may have started with Clinton, who may have used it to make up for getting a BJ in the oval office or it may have started with W, who assures us that it was god who told him to kill over 100,000 Iraqis; I'm not sure.   Nonetheless, it's fairly new.   This is not to imply that previous presidents didn't use similar phrases on occasion, but Obama ends each and every one of his speeches that way, as did W.   Ending every speech that way, as well as saying things like "and with god's grace", as Obama did in his victory speech, is inappropriate in The FUSA and mocks all of us nonbelievers.

We may or may not be the last minority against which Americans discriminate, but I think that, after Black people, Latino people, gay people and women, our place in line has finally hit the "first" stage.   It's our turn to come out of the closet.

Being a nonbeliever doesn't just adversely affect those seeking political office.

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Michael Bonanno is an associate editor for OpEdNews.

He is also a published poet, essayist and musician who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Bonanno is a political progressive, not a Democratic Party apologist. He believes it's (more...)

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