FFRF Action Fund is giving its “Secularists of the Week” award to two colleagues of an Oregon legislator for rebuking his un-American claim that atheists and Muslims are not fit to hold public office. Texas state Sen. Mayes Middleton receives its “Theocrat of the Week” after admitting his godly motive in authoring the new Texas law allowing uncredentialed chaplains to replace bona fide school counselors and social workers.
In late January, Oregon state Rep. E. Werner Reschke appeared on a Christian nationalist show in which he described his idea of laudable leaders and added: “You don’t want an atheist. You don’t want a Muslim. You want someone who understands what truth is and understands the nature of man, the nature of government and the nature of God.” Reschke concluded, “If you don’t understand those things, you’re going to get things wrong. In Oregon … we have a lot of people who are godless, unfortunately, leading the way — and it’s the blind leading the blind.”
FFRF Action Fund quickly sent out a letter that urged Reschke to apologize to all non-Christian and the nonreligious in his district or to resign. The show he appeared on, “Save the Nation,” is affiliated with the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, of which Reschke serves as the Oregon state chair. The association works to elect “godly leaders in our nation at every level” to further its “biblical worldview.”
In a statement to Oregon Public Broadcasting, state Sen. Kayse Jama, responded to Reschke’s comments, saying, “I am disheartened to see one of my legislative colleagues express views contrary to American values, the U.S. Constitution, and our collective aspiration of building a more perfect union. Our ability to live and work with our fellow Oregonians who speak different languages, pray or vote different ways, celebrate different cultures is our strength.” Before running for office, Jama, a Somalian refugee, founded Unite Oregon, an organization working to “build a unified intercultural movement for justice.”
Similarly, in a statement to Friendly Atheist, Oregon state Rep. Farrah Chaichi said, “I’m concerned for the people in my district, and across Oregon, who identify as members of the communities targeted by those remarks. We serve in the People’s House, and the People need to feel welcome to come to their house to advocate for the needs of their communities. A statement like this sets back trust and goodwill that’s been built with communities who have been historically marginalized.”
We’re grateful to these Oregon legislators for how their worldview stands in contrast to Reschke’s — and that of a lawmaker in a state quite south of Oregon who is FFRF Action Fund’s “Theocrat of the Week.”
Texas state Sen. Mayes Middleton authored Senate Bill 763, which has become law, allowing chaplains with no bona fides to replace public school counselors and social workers, who are required to have extensive degrees, certifications and experience. (The bad law, unfortunately, has sparked similar bills in Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri.)
Middleton candidly admitted during a recent appearance on Christian nationalist David Barton’s podcast the true (and unconstitutional) motivation behind his bill: “What happened is our Supreme Court, thanks to President Trump’s appointments, made it possible for us to go win some of these fights and put God back in government so people can freely exercise their religious beliefs in government and in schools … chaplains represent God in government. That’s what they do and that’s what we need more of in this county.”
The National School Chaplain Association is behind the push to install chaplains in our secular public schools as a tool to proselytize schoolchildren. FFRF Action Fund will fight these blatant attacks to missionize public school students and upon the vaunted constitutional principle barring religious tests for public office.
FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.