Monday, April 14, 2008

Re-Saddening the Clown: A Rethinking

I have done some more thinking on my previously-stated view of the incident in which Illinois state representative Monique Davis made disparaging remarks about atheism and atheists. This thinking has been informed by reading more of the commentary on the topic and listening to the most recent Point of Inquiry podcast, which touched on the subject. My new assessment relates closely to a comment on my original post offered by Lynet of Elliptica fame:

She owes an apology to the atheists in her state, too -- or if not an apology, an explanation that she does in fact stand by her statements ... At present, we really don't know where Rep. Davis stands.
It is both important and fair to notice that we don't actually know what Rep. Davis apologized for, apart from what we might deduce from the fact that Rob Sherman, the party directly involved, accepted the apology. But with due respect, this is not really about Rob Sherman, nor about Rob Sherman's emotional states. If Rep. Davis and Rob Sherman have reached a personal peace on this matter, then that's well and good for those two, but there's a deeper wrong here that has not, to my knowledge, been addressed.

Here are her full remarks:
"I don't know what you have against God, but some of us don't have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings... I'm trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois... This is the land of Lincoln where people believe in God... What you have to sprew and spread is extremely dangerous... It's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists... Get out of that seat! You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon."
Her statement claims that atheists have no legitimate say in the affairs of government. Whatever damage she may be doing to anyone's feelings, she is drawing a line between an in-group of worthy citizens and an out-group of atheists: Monique Davis, "the people," "the children," and no less than Abraham Lincoln belong to the in-group, while Rob Sherman and all atheists belong to the out-group.

This is unacceptable. Under the Constitution, all citizens, regardless of religion, have a right to be there -- to speak their minds and be heard (not necessarily to be liked or agreed with), to seek redress of their grievances (not necessarily to get their way politically), to petition their government officials and enjoin their fellow citizens.

If Rep. Davis' apology does not encompass a full about-face on this fundamental matter of law and civics, then she should not bother with apologies but should tender her resignation from the Illinois state assembly, every bit as much as we would rightly expect the resignation of a state representative who scolded Jews or Catholics by saying "you have no right to be here!"

Politicians who can't or won't abide this standard are well out of bounds. Whatever private peace Rep. Davis might have made with Rob Sherman, she needs to make a public peace with the Constitution. Or leave office.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I'm in complete agreement with you, Dale, that either a profound apology to all her constituents, or her resignation, is decently required of her at this point. I say "all of her constituents" for the same reason that had she stated Hispanics had no place in government, she would owe an apology not just to Hispanics, but to everyone who values representative government, the Constitution, and the values of a liberal society. Anyway, just my two cents.