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Commentary: Harris Shows Effects of Religiosity on Politics
By: Mark Kernes (Courtesy of
Posted: 9/1/2006

Miami – AVN has recently been accused of having an anti-religious bias, and specifically a bias against Christians, but the simple fact is, as America’s Founding Fathers knew, religion and politics are a bad mix. Nowhere is that more evident than in recent statements by Katharine Harris, the Republican who now represents that state’s 13th congressional district and is fighting desperately to retain that seat.

Recall that this is the same Katharine Harris who, as Secretary of State during the 2000 presidential election (having been named Bush’s Florida campaign co-chair the year before), certified that Bush had defeated his opponent, then-Vice-President Al Gore, in an election that was marred by both fraud and incredible incompetence on the part of various officials and boards of election.

For example, over 96,000 registered voters were removed from the list of eligible voters allegedly because they were felons – nearly 1% of the Florida electorate and, perhaps more importantly, nearly 3% of the state’s black electorate. Later analysis showed that 96% of those deprived of the right to vote in the 2000 election were wrongly classified as felons. Also, due to the design of the ballot in Palm Beach County (each county in Florida gets to design its own ballot) which became widely known as the "Butterfly Ballot" because its information was spread across two ballot pages, with the spaces to be marked for the candidates running down the middle, conservative Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, whose name was almost directly across from Gore’s on the opposite page, received 3,407 votes in a largely Democratic county where members of Buchanan’s own election team agreed that Buchanan’s support in the county was, at most, 400-500 voters. It’s clear, as was charged immediately after the election, that voters were confused as to which space to mark for the candidate of their choice.  

Either of those factors alone likely would have swung the election to Gore, who lost by just 537 votes – this without the necessity of any reference to the turmoil over vote recounting, some of which is chronicled in the Wikipedia entry, "United States presidential election, 2000," and which made the term "pregnant chad" part of the American election lexicon.

The point is, Harris’ decision to declare the election for Bush despite widespread reports of voter fraud and similarly widespread demands for recounting has been viewed by many as sheer partisanship on her part, and her 2002 election to the U.S. House as the pay-off for that partisanship – but was it more than that?  

With that background, and considering the Bush administration’s blatant favoritism toward religion – and in particular, fundamentalist Christian doctrine as espoused by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) – it is significant that Harris has made her views on religion and government the centerpiece of her 2006 re-election run.

Harris was a featured speaker at (Rev.) Dr. D. James Kennedy’s "Reclaiming America for Christ" conference last March in Ft. Lauderdale, at which Harris reportedly urged attendees to "win back America for God." In case that admonition wasn’t clear enough, on Aug. 24, Harris gave an interview to the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly "newsletter" of the Florida Baptist State Convention, wherein she stated, "If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure — if you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin. They can legislate sin. They can say that abortion is all right. They can vote to sustain gay marriage. And that will take western civilization, indeed other nations — because people look to our country as one nation as under God and whenever we legislate sin and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don’t know better, we are leading them astray and it’s wrong."

In that same interview, Harris described Thomas Jefferson’s idea of the "wall of separation between church and state" as "a lie we have been told," adding that separating religion and politics is "wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers."  

Of course, it’s always valid to question whether a political candidate’s protestations of faith are something he/she truly believes, or are simply a ploy to garner votes … but on the off-chance that Harris is sincere in her belief that only Christians (and perhaps devout Jews, as she later clarified her printed statements) can legislate morally, can consign pregnant women and girls to the back-alley abortionists of the early and mid-20th century, and can decide which sexual orientations are free to marry and which aren’t, one thing seems clear: It wasn’t "God" who chose George W. Bush to be president; it was Katharine Harris – and that’s the problem with mixing religion and politics.




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