Torgerson for Congress
100 S. Fifth Street, 19th Floor
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Dear Ms. Torgerson,
As a Baptist minister and as a patriotic American, I have been deeply disturbed by the disproportionate role religion has played during recent election cycles. However, only in connection to your campaign have I seen a plea for voters to reject a candidate because of the candidate’s religion. Such a statement contradicts the mandate of the Constitution and repudiates the application of the freedom of religion in our democracy. Such entanglement between religion and politics threatens both the integrity of religion and the vitality of politics. I would hope that your call for electoral support (and that of your supporters) would not rest on a foundation of the denouncement of another’s religion and ask that going forward you look for opportunities to be part of the solution rather than the problem.
Religion should never be used as a political tool. Campaigns should be about policies, issues that will affect how a candidate would govern and shape the lives of his or her constituents, not about a candidate’s personal religious faith. I am deeply disturbed—even frightened—by the message that has recently been employed by Tea Party Nation in support of your candidacy– I hope that you will repudiate their claims and make clear that you do not stand by their message inappropriately criticizing opponent, Rep. Keith Ellison. Noting that “he is the only Muslim member of [C]ongress” (which is also factually incorrect) and then alleging that “he has sent millions of tax dollars to terrorists in Gaza” only promotes the bigotry and stereotypes about Islam running rampant this election season.
Our nation was built upon the freedom for all people, all faiths, to be equal with none favored over the other. By not repudiating such tactics, it will appear that you as the candidate, not merely your supporters, are seeking to benefit from the often divisive role religion can have during elections, rather than focusing on legitimate policy issues. Attacking an elected official’s religious faith does little to help constituents make an educated decision about who will best represent them politically.
Voters have the right to know whether candidates will respect the boundaries between institutions of religion and government, as well as the role a candidate’s faith will play in creating public policy, and how a candidate will balance the principles of his or her faith with the pledge to defend the Constitution, particularly if the two conflict. Furthermore, the Constitution clearly prohibits using religious convictions as a qualification for public office. As Article Six states, “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” You are attacking the very constitutional protection that assures people that no public servant’s religion will be advanced through public office.
Political campaigns are about presenting real solutions to real problems, not engaging in a “holier than thou” competition that does nothing to illuminate those solutions. The sort of campaigning Tea Party Nation has recently employed defies the responsibility of elected officials and those seeking elected office to promote reason, truth and civility in the public forum.
I hope that, if elected, you would uphold the religious freedom of all residents of your district to believe in or to reject any religious faith, as they choose. This freedom is an integral part of American democracy and promised by the First Amendment to our Constitution. I urge you to ensure that the remainder of your campaign is focused on the policy issues which distinguish you as a candidate and to speak out against any groups who try to support your candidacy by attacking your opponent’s religion.
Winning an election is not worth destroying the private integrity of your personal beliefs or compromising our nation’s historic commitment to religious freedom.
C. Welton Gaddy
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.