Lookout!  It's an atheist!I don’t want to push this too hard – especially since I’m only really a guest here – but the “freedom of religion” issue is a big one for me. I don’t like theocracy, which is one of the earliest reasons I reacted poorly to the Bush administration.

Now, in Texas, the state GOP is attacking a Democratic candidate for judge by calling him an atheist.

The Austin-based Republican Party of Texas played the religion card in a Sept. 21 online newsletter. As alleged in the newsletter, Texarkana solo E. Ben Franks, Democratic nominee for a seat on the 6th Court of Appeals, “is reported to be a professed atheist” and apparently believes the Bible is a “collection of myths.'”

But Franks says he has never professed to be an atheist and is not a member of any atheist organization. Franks says no one with the Republican Party ever asked him whether he professes to be an atheist. However, he says he’s not surprised by the allegation.

“I’m not surprised at anything anybody says in politics anymore,” Franks says.

The Republican Party notes in its recent newsletter that Article 16, ?1(a) of the Texas Constitution prescribes the oath of office for all elected or appointed officials. The officeholder swears to faithfully execute the duties of the office and, to the best of his or her ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state “so help me God.”

“I can take the oath,” Franks says.

However, the state Republican Party questions whether Franks will uphold the law, stating in the newsletter: “Should Franks be elected in November, one would have to conclude that he will hold true to his out of touch ‘atheist’ belief system and ignore the laws and Constitution of Texas.”

“I’m very much an advocate for separation of church and state,” Franks says. “In that context, it offends me when people wear their religion on their sleeves.”

But, Franks adds, “my religious preferences are my private business. That’s not the business of anybody else.”

Atheists: actually unable to uphold the laws and Constitution of the land.

I swear. Sometimes I think when people hear the word “atheist” they see Snidely Whiplash.

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