Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels Bashes Atheists

December 30, 2009

In an interview with a Fort Wayne, IN television station posted on December 24, 2009, Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana, stated:

Our country was founded--this is just an historic fact; some people today may resist this notion but it is absolutely true--it was founded by people of faith. It was founded on principles of faith. The whole idea of equality of men and women [and] of the races all springs from the notion that we're all children of a just God. It is very important to at least my notion of what America's about and should be about and I hope it's reflected most of the time in the choices that we make personally.

. . . People who reject the idea of a God -who think that we're just accidental protoplasm- have always been with us. What bothers me is the implications -which not all such folks have thought through- because really, if we are just accidental, if this life is all there is, if there is no eternal standard of right and wrong, then all that matters is power. And atheism leads to brutality. All the horrific crimes of the last century were committed by atheists -Stalin and Hitler and Mao and so forth- because it flows very naturally from an idea that there is no judgment and there is nothing other than the brief time we spend on this Earth.

Everyone's certainly entitled in our country to equal treatment regardless of their opinion. But yes, I think that folks who believe they've come to that opinion ought to think very carefully, first of all, about how different it is from the American tradition; how it leads to a very different set of outcomes in the real world.

These remarks came from the person who received the Man of Achievement Award from the Anti Defamation League on November 23, 2009.    So are atheists the only group left the governor can bash and still get such an award?

I heard Governor Daniels make similar remarks at a luncheon I attended on November 10, 2005.  This was a luncheon held at Primo Banquet Hall where 1000 "faith leaders" were fed at the expense of Indiana taxpayers to the tune of at least $15,000.

So how did I happen to be there?  (I felt like a spy.)  Well, because of going with the group from Indy CARD (Coalition Against Religious Discrimination) to talk with Ms Parker-Sawyers one day, I was on the email list for the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives .  So, I got an email invitation to this event.  When I accepted the invitation, I got another email which said that the invitation was not suppose to go to their whole mailing list but just to those who lived in the state.  I replied that I did live in the state. 

The next email said that it was only for “faith leaders” in the state of Indiana.  So I emailed back “so am I to understand that we secular people are not included.”  The next email came from a person further up the chain, David Liebel, which said, “Rhonda Dalton shared your email correspondence with me, and asked if I would respond to your question.  The 2005 Governor’s Luncheon for Faith Leaders is geared towards the clergy, staff, and lay leaders of faith-based organizations in Indiana.  For the luncheon, the definitions of leader and faith-based organization are up the individual.  My view is that if someone is interested enough to attend, they are more than welcome.”  So I responded that I would be there. 

There was no question from the beginning that this was a religious affair from the personal testimony of Paula Parker-Sawyers , the director and emcee for the affair, to the prayer, to the songs by the choir, to Governor Daniel’s speech, to the introduction of the board members.

The choir from an Indianapolis Charter school (chartered by the Mayor--one teacher told me) sang religious songs.  The governor extolled his personal faith, praised the leaders of faith, etc.  He said that every president had been a person of faith and that faith was built into all of our founding documents, and that all governments that had not been based on faith in a higher power have been very bad, that faith was necessary for democracy, etc.  He made no allowances for people without “faith.” He made some kind of remark to the effect that people who did not have faith were ????.  (I didn’t get the exact word and don’t want to misquote him.) Then, he listed Separation of Church and State as one of our basic liberties. ???? 

Then came the introduction of board members (quite a crowd)--all were “faith leaders.”  The community part of this seemed to have gotten lost somewhere in the translation of the name of the office.  I heard one Jewish leader and one Muslim but all the rest appeared to be Christian of some kind.  It appeared to me to be skewed toward Catholic and Conservative Christian.  I heard at least one Methodist and one Presbyterian. 

I wrote about my experience and sent it to our CFI Community of Indiana mailing list.  However, I finally just chalked it up to political pandering to an audience he assumed were all religious and agreed with him.  If they have held such an affair since 2005, I have not been invited.

PZ Myers, in his blog titled, " I'm So Sorry for you, Indiana," says, "But then, you elected this profoundly stupid man to be your governor, so it's all you own fault."   and, "I hope you do better in your next election, Indiana. Try to find someone who doesn't confuse faith with justice next time, OK?"

Well, I will have to admit that I voted for him for reelection in 2008 and have defended him to other people.  Why?   I certainly did not like what I saw and heard at the luncheon in 2005 but marked that off (as I said above) to pandering to the audience he thought he was speaking to.  Not an admirable thing to do--but what politician has not done this?  Aside from that, he has not seemed so right-wing to me. 

When the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Indiana [We already have a law forbidding it.] was debated in the legislature, he did not speak out in favor of it nor openly encourage its passage.  It was even rumored that he worked behind the scenes against it because he thought it would hamper his efforts to attract high tech businesses to Indiana. 

Working to attract bio tech industry to Indiana has been one of his strengths which seems to be proscience.  From a fiscal standpoint, Indiana was in better shape than most states when the recession hit.  The same could not be said about job losses, however. 

Another indication to me that he was not at the right-wing extreme, was that he did not campaign for the 2008 GOP Presidential ticket and when Sarah Palin visited Indiana on more than one occasion, he did not even go to the rally.  Another deciding factor for me was that, in my opinion, the Democrats did not run a candidate against him who had strong leadership skills. 

So, why now this public discussion of religion and atheist bashing?  A person who posted on my facebook page said, "Now that Daniels has his eyes on a presidential run, we should expect his quick decent into conservative party lunacy. I'm sure he'll be lashing out at gay marriage, the homosexual agenda, womens right's, and yes--why don't we teach the "controversy."

A post on The Atlantic Politics Channel, June 5, 2009 titled "2012: Is Mitch Daniels The Future Of the GOP?" states:

In today's Washington Examiner, Byron York prods into Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' potential future as GOP savior and flag-bearer in 2012. As York notes, Daniels is immensely popular in his home state--in fact, his 69 percent approval rating is 16 points higher than Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's, and his 68 percent favorable rating is six points higher than President Obama's. On top of that, he won reelection by a hefty margin of 18 points in 2008 even as Obama carried the state.

Mitch says he won't run but where have we heard that before?   A run for the presidency would be hard for any ambitious politician to turn  down and it is rare that anyone has. 

Matt Tully, columnist for the Indianapolis Star , on December 27, 2009, posed the "Top Ten List of Political Questions, Races, Moves, and More to Watch in 2010:"

1. The Battle Royale in Indiana will be the race to win control of the Indiana House. Gov. Mitch Daniels would love to have Republicans back in control in the legislature during the final two years of his term and his GOP has been working hard to recruit candidates.

6.  Daniels is not on the ballot next year, but 2010 looks to be a big year for him.  The Statehouse races will help determine the fate of his agenda in 2011 and 2012.  Moreover, political observers will watch obsessively for any hints at a national run.  

Here is a partial summary of an interview on Point of Inquiry , November 6, 2009 with Frank Shaeffer , author of, Crazy for God and  son of Francis Schaeffer , a leading founder of the Religious Right:

He details how his relationships were affected by his leaving the movement. He explains exactly how fundamentalist Christianity took over the Republican Party. He describes the anti-democratic and anti-American elements within Evangelical Christianity. He draws a direct line from the worldview promoted by the Religious Right to the Tea Party movement, the rise of Glen Beck and Sarah Palin, the recent murder or Dr. George Tiller, and the use of biblical passages calling for the assassination of President Obama.

He shows how the Religious Right actively wants America to fail, in order to prove that it has taken the wrong path in adopting secular, democratic and humanist values. He explores how evangelical "foot soldiers" are often used by secular neoconservatives to advance political aims seemingly unrelated to Christianity, such as energy deregulation and public policies in support of the insurance lobby.

So, has Mitch Daniels been a not-so-closeted right-winger all along?  Or is it the reality that if he wants to be a candidate for higher office on the GOP ticket that has pulled him more to the right?  Way to go, Mitch! Start bashing those terrible atheists! That should endear you to those RRRs (Religious Right Republicans).  And, after all, we may be the only group you can bash and still get an award from the Anti Defamation League.

Other blogs on this topic include:

Freethought Fort Wayne

Blog Hag Blog