Separation of church and state
FL Representative Katherine Harris
advocates Christian-only politicians
On 2006-AUG-26, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper in Florida discussed
an interview of U.S. Representative Katherine Harris (R-FL). 1 She had been quoted in the AUG-24 issue of the Florida Baptist
Witness -- the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State
Convention -- 2 as part of her campaign for a
Senate seat in Congress. She allegedly said
that her religious beliefs "animate" everything that she does, including
how she votes in Congress. She is quoted as saying:
"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. 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 [sic]. ..."
She also said the principle of separation of
church and state is a "lie we have been told" to discourage
religious people from running for office. She is quoted as saying that it is
God's will that:
"we have to have the faithful in government" [Separating religion and politics is] "so wrong
because God is the one who chooses our rulers. And if we are the ones
not actively involved in electing those godly men and women [then] we're
going to have a nation of secular laws. That's not what our founding
fathers intended and that's [sic] certainly isn't what God intended."
The article generated a firestorm of opposition:
||U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, (D-Weston), who is Jewish, said
she was "disgusted" ... "and deeply disappointed in Rep.
Harris personally. [Harris] "clearly shows that she does not
deserve to be a representative..."|
||State Rep. Irv Slosberg, (D-Boca Raton), also Jewish, asked for
apology. He said that her statements were "outrageous, even by her
standards ... What is going through this woman's mind? We do not
live in a theocracy."|
||Ruby Brooks, a Republican activist, said that the remarks "were
offensive to me as a Christian and a Republican.... To me, it's
the height of hubris. ...This notion that you've been chosen or
anointed, it's offensive. We hurt our cause with that more than we help it."|
||Jillian Hasner, executive director of the Republican Jewish
Coalition, said: "I don't think it's representative of the
Republican Party at all. Our party is much bigger and better than
Katherine Harris is trying to make it."
||Will McBride, an Orlando lawyer and Peter Monroe, a developer are competing
with Harris for the Senate seat.|
||McBride said that Harris, deliberately or not, excluded people. He said: "I'm
a Christian, and I'm a Republican and I don't share her views. There are people
of other faiths and backgrounds of outstanding integrity who know how to tell
||Monroe suggested that Harris abandon the Senate race and resign from
Congress. He described her comments as "warped, twisted and disgraceful."
He said that her statements that non-Christians "don't know better" was "contemptible,
arrogant and wicked. ...[Harris] is no longer fit to serve."
Statement from her campaign personnel:
Jennifer Marks, Harris' campaign spokesman, refused to say what Harris
would support as an alternative
to "a nation of secular laws." She released a brief statement which apparently negated everything that Harris had said
in the Baptist interview:
"Congresswoman Harris encourages Americans from all walks of life and faith
to participate in our government, She continues to be an
unwavering advocate of religious rights and freedoms." 1
Fighting the resultant brushfire:
Speaking at a gun show in Orlando, FL, Harris said that she did not mean to
offend non-Christians. She said that during the interview with the journal of
the Florida Baptist State Convention that her:
"... comments were specifically directed toward a Christian group ... My
rallying cry has always been [that] people of all faiths should be
Supporting this position was a second statement released by her campaign
personnel which described her strong support for Israel and clarifying a
statement she said about separation of church and state. When she called this a
"lie" the statement said that she was referring to "a common
misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government."
Reaction by the public:
||Rabbi Rick Sherwin, president of the Greater Orlando Board of Rabbis
"Anybody who claims to have a monopoly on God doesn't understand
the strength of America. ... She's talking about a theocracy, and that's
exactly opposite of what this country is based on."
||Ahmed Bedier, the Central Florida director of the Council on American
Islamic Relations (CAIR), said he was "appalled that a person who's
been in politics this long would hold such extreme views." He suggested
that most Christians would find such comments "shameful."
||Larry Sabato, a political analyst at the University of Virginia
said that Harris' comments would appeal to Fundamentalist Christians, but
could alienate non-Christians and more moderate Republicans. He is quoted as
saying: "It's insane, but it's not out of character for Katherine Harris."
||Brad Schader of BlogCritics.org commented on a number of her statements,
including equal rights for gays and lesbians. He wrote:
"How does she feel about gay marriage or cvil [sic] rights for gay
people? [She said] 'Civil rights have to do with individual rights
and I don’t think they apply to the gay issues.' Gay people are not
individuals? [She said] 'I have not supported gay marriage and I do
not support any civil rights actions with regard to homosexuality.'
Now that is just cold hearted evil, even beyond the typical GOP
standards. I can understand opposing gay marriage. I do not agree with
that position, but I can understand it, but what is up with 'I
do not support any civil rights actions with regard to homosexuality'?
Even the Republican position allows for civil rights. That is too
extreme a viewpoint to give her a six-year job. 4
||Postings to the Salon.com letters to the
editor were not kind:|
"Who does this harpy think she is? The
Senate? Please, everybody knows that women aren't supposed to teach or
hold positions of power over men. She should stay at home baking and
being submissive. She doesn't even cover her hair! And all that whorish
||"Yellow Dog" wrote:
"Bush and DeLay sincerely believe that everything they do is
perfectly fine with God. They have 'accepted christ [sic] as my savior'
and been immersed baptized and therefore are forgiven everything. It's
an easy step from 'always forgiven' to 'always right,' and one most
born-agains can't resist.
Its most direct and damaging result is an
utter dearth of personal responsibility and accountability. Everything -
EVERYTHING - is 'God told me to do it.' That not only makes everything
they do beyond criticism, but also never their fault.
It is utterly impossible to persuade these people that they can be
wrong about anything, and absolutely disastrous to put them in charge of
anything more important than watching grass grow.
"Harris represents all that's wrong with modern politics! Katherine Harris: what a delusional, cynical nutcase! I still recall her
stopping the Florida recount in 2000...and the rest is...a very, very sad chapter in U.S. history. A nightmare we're still
struggling with 6 years later. No matter how bad this wingnut Harris is in the polls, she refuses adamantly to face reality and
throw in the towel. Her cynical pandering to the religious right is so nauseating."
"Christianist Details: Poster Bryan Hurst asked, 'does this mean that
Katherine Harris would support a law barring non-Christians from holding elected
office?' Answer: Yes. No separation between church and state is one of the
widely-accepted 'moderate' Christianist positions. An example of their sweeping,
detailed silliness: They would outlaw Yoga. They see Yoga as demon worship. And
these are not even the truly far-out fundamentalists. An example of how
dangerous they are: They do not allow women to be pastors in their churches.
They would not let women hold any positions of authority over men. But, there
probably are not enough of them actually to take over the USA. Let us work to
expose them. The truth will set us free." 5
||Posters to the CarpetBagger Report were also critical:|
"This is the person that reduced me to a 2nd class citizen."
||Ed Stephan wrote:
"Harris wrote: 'If you're not electing Christians,...
then in essence you are going to legislate sin…' Typical of those who, like
most Americans, have learned to believe in black-white, win-lose, us-them,
red-blue, good-evil categories as the foundation of all thought. True,
Socratic/Platonic logic is built up out of a series of dichotomies (like the
taxonomic systems used in Biology), but even those ancient worthies realized,
with Hamlet, that 'There is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your
philosophy' — not to grant redneck bigotry the status of being anything like a
well-thought system of philosophy.
"I simply cannot understand the notion that if you're not Christian you can't
be moral, let alone that you must be immoral. It's such a juvenile concept you
wonder how the speaker could even form the words." 6
||However, two of Orlando
Sentinel readers supported Harris:|
"She's right ya know."
"I wonder why people make it a big deal if a Christian canadate [sic] wants
to get the Christian vote and have more Christians in plotical [sic] office.
All types of canadates [sic] devlope [sic] a base of support. Some go after the
senior vote, some go after the Black vote, some go after the growth vote, some
go after the Union vote, so after the gun control rights, yet if you go after
the christian [sic] vote and are a christian [sic] you are called a right wing
nutball [sic] or crazy.
P.S. I voted this morning early voting and casted [sic] my vote for Catherine
Harris she has more courage that all the other canadates [sic] put together.
No-one else was voting at the polling site when I voted, so my vote counts!"
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Jim Stratton, "Harris' comments draw fierce reaction.
Political and religious officials criticize the candidate's comments on electing
Christians," Orlando Sentinel, 2006-AUG-26, at:
Jim Stratton, "Harris tries to douse furor over remarks to
Baptists," Orlando Sentinel, 2006-AUG-27, at:
"Katherine Harris (R)" Florida Baptist Witness, Vol 123, #29, 2006-AUG-24,
Brad Schader, "Katherine Harris or the End of the World,"
Blog Critics, 2006-AUG-25, at:
"Letters to the Editor about 'Katherine Harris in heaven?
It's more likely than the U.S. Senate'," Salon, 2006-AUG, at:
"Katherine Harris slips a little further from reality,"
The Carpetbagger Report, at:
Essay copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-AUG-27
Author: B.A. Robinson