January 3, 2003February 15, 2003Meeting Report

January 19, 2003

Eddie Tabash
Breaking the Final Taboo:
Electing Atheists to Public Office

Eddie Tabash speaking at the National Press ClubEddie Tabash, who is an attorney, was the only open atheist with a reasonable chance of winning to run for election to any legislative body in America during 2000. He ran in the Democratic primary for an Assembly seat in the Los Angeles area. He was defeated in the primary by a Christian Hispanic woman who went on to win in the general election.

After an introduction by HAGSA member (and new AHA Secretary), Ron Fegley, Eddie Tabash began by quoting poll results that show that the electorate in America is more opposed to electing atheists to public office than persons from any other ethnic or religious group. An openly atheist candidate would be opposed by a majority of the voters for that reason alone, the only non-criminal group for which that is true. Not even openly homosexual candidates fare that badly. Mr. Tabash said that this kind of attitude by the public is no less immoral than is racial bigotry.

He proposed that nonbelievers adopt a strategy to elect some of their own to public office. He used gay candidates and their tactics as a model. He suggested that nonbelievers put aside differences on secondary issues whenever possible and support their own candidates when they do run. He also suggested "stealth" campaigns in which religion would not be mentioned by a non-believing candidate. He claimed that this tactic is justified by unreasonable public prejudices and that there is no point in the self-defeating practice of voluntarily admitting nonbelief, especially before taking office. He mentioned that Barney Frank did not come out of the closet until after he had served in Congress a few years.

Mr. Tabash closed by stressing the importance of denying George W. Bush a second term as president. The reason is that we have at present a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court that still supports the basic constitutional rights of non-believers. Another Bush term will give him a chance to appoint enough justices to change the Court’s orientation and uphold laws that would make us second-class citizens and end the principle of church-state separation. If that happened our only hope would be a rear guard action in the state legislatures to preserve our rights. In that situation, it would help if we had elected some of our own to office.

Report prepared by Wayne Luney, HAGSA Recorder

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