Today the Portland Oregonian, our state's largest newspaper, had two stories side-by-side about Republican lawmakers acting like the Christian dogmatists that they are.
It's amazing, speaking as an atheist, how religious believers can be so hateful and prejudiced toward people who aren't like them.
I'd never say that Christians shouldn't serve in an elected office. I'd also never say that an entire group -- in this case the LGBTQ community -- supported child abuse and pedophilia. But that's exactly what the Republican lawmakers said.
That's shameful. Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that enough of their conservative constituencies will like what they said, rather than viewing it as what it is: abhorrent.
I've boldfaced the parts of the stories that outraged me the most.
A Republican Oregon lawmaker has suggested “you don’t want” Muslims, atheists and other non-Christians to serve in elected office.
Rep. E. Werner Reschke, of the small town of Malin near the California border, made the comments in a Jan. 17 appearance on “Save the Nation,” a talk show streamed on Facebook that is affiliated with the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Monday. Reschke is a member of the association.
The show’s host, former Arkansas lawmaker Jason Rapert, for much of the episode asked Reschke about what he called the “sad reality of the lax treatment of drugs” in Oregon. Reschke said drug decriminalization “makes our state unlivable,” and argued that spirituality and church leaders are part of the solution.
Last week, Oregon Democratic lawmakers introduced a new bill that would undo a key part of the state’s first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization law, a recognition that public opinion has soured on it amid a fentanyl-fueled overdose crisis deadlier than any the U.S. has ever seen.
During the interview, Rapert also asked why Reschke feels it is important that Christians “be involved in government.”
“You go back in history, and you look at men and the struggles that they faced, and the faith that they had,” Reschke said. “Those are the types of people you want in government making tough decisions at tough times. You don’t want a materialist. You don’t want an atheist. You don’t want a Muslim. … You want somebody who understands what truth is, and understands the nature of man, the nature of government and the nature of God.”
The remarks prompted the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin nonprofit organization that advocates keeping religion out of governance, to call for Reschke to apologize to people in his legislative district or to resign. The group sent Reschke a letter last week saying his duty is to support the state and federal constitutions and not to promote his personal religious views.
Reschke told Oregon Public Broadcasting in an email that his comments had been “grossly taken out of context.” But when asked for more specifics about what he meant to say, Reschke did not respond.
Muslim state Sen. Kayse Jama, a Portland Democrat, told the public radio station that he was “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.”
Here's the other story.
The newest member of the Oregon House of Representatives claimed supporting LGBTQ+ people was akin to supporting child abuse and accused drag queens of pedophilia in months-old posts on his campaign website.
Dwayne Yunker, a real estate broker and city councilor from Grants Pass, was appointed in December to finish the term of former Rep. Lily Morgan, who resigned to become the city manager of Gold Hill. Yunker was already planning to challenge Morgan in the Republican primary, arguing she wasn’t conservative enough for the southern Oregon district.
Yunker’s campaign website includes a post from last August titled “No to Gay Pride Month,” explaining his decision to skip the beginning of a Grants Pass City Council meeting to protest a proclamation about June as Pride Month. He was a member of the council at the time.
Yunker’s campaign post included claims that drag queens are pedophiles and events including family friendly drag shows or drag queen story hours are attempts to make pedophilia seem acceptable. He further declared that supporting Pride Month was akin to supporting child abuse. “It is shocking that any adult would endorse this child abuse,” he wrote.
Yunker expounded on his objections in a subsequent post, titled “Shouldn’t Christians avoid politics?” In it, Yunker wrote that he considered a statement in the resolution that LGBTQ+ people face persecution to be spurious. And he claimed LGBTQ+ people, who he referred to as “the ever-expanding alphabet movement,” discriminated against Christians.
“We cannot sit out afraid someone might call us right wing, homophonic (sic), or even Christian Nationalists,” he wrote.
Kyndall Mason, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, called Yunker’s promotion of false ideas dangerous.
“The uninformed, hateful and false ideas written in Rep. Yunker’s blog posts are deeply dangerous, and will direct more hate to these constituents and all trans and queer Oregonians,” Mason said.
Yunker didn’t respond to a call or email from the Capital Chronicle on Tuesday.
House Minority Leader Jeff Helfrich, R-Hood River, defended Yunker’s right to express himself.
“While it may be hard for some leftists in Portland to understand this, many Oregonians — including members of the LGBTQ community — do not want children exposed to hyper-sexualized material that they are not developmentally able to understand,” Helfrich said in a statement. “Elected officials have every right to voice those concerns on behalf of the districts that they represent.”
Mason said in a statement that Yunker’s job requires him to serve all his constituents, including the LGBTQ+ Oregonians in his district.