By Sandhya Bathija
Some people in Alabama seem to have their priorities mixed up.
There’s a Republican gubernatorial primary currently underway in the state, and you would think that citizens would be focused on the candidates’ positions on issues such as education, health care and the economy. What has some people reeling, though, is a candidate’s views on the Bible!
Back in November, the Mobile Press-Register quoted candidate Bradley Byrne as saying, “I believe there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not.”
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Since the statement appeared, those who favor Byrne’s opponents in the GOP race have apparently had a field day with it, using the quote to attack the candidate for not believing in the Bible.
It has followed Byrne everywhere, even to a Piggly Wiggly grocery store last Wednesday, where he held a press conference in front of the collard greens. He was there to announce his largest endorsement yet – this one from the 4,000-member Alabama Retail Association (ARA).
Executives of Ragland Brothers Retail Cos., Inc., which owns Piggly Wiggly, and the store’s chief financial officer and immediate past ARA chairman, Darrell Bourne, stood with Byrne while he thanked them for their support.
According to a local news report, Byrne also used the press conference to clear up the misunderstanding over his views on the Bible. He insisted he had been misquoted.
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“I believe the Bible is true,” he said. “Every word of it.”
Some Alabamians, however, aren’t willing to forgive and forget.
After The Huntsville Times ran a story about the news conference, several visitors to the paper’s Web site made it clear they would not support someone with suspect views about the Bible, regardless of the candidate’s positions on other, arguably more pertinent, issues.
“Just got a call from a person at my Church letting me know about this,” one commenter said. “My family will not be shopping at Ragland Piggly Wiggly stores anymore or anything else they own. I don’t shop at places that think it is OK to stand next to people who don’t believe the Bible is all true.”
Of course, it’s all rather ridiculous. A candidate’s personal religious beliefs should rarely be an issue during an election. An office seeker’s views on religion should only matter if he or she plans to base government action on religious doctrine.
Our Founding Fathers made it clear when they wrote the Constitution that there would never be a religious test to hold office. That ban doesn’t apply to voters, of course. They are free to cast a ballot for someone because of religion. But it certainly violates the spirit of the Constitution to vote for or against a candidate solely on the basis of religious belief.
Let’s hope, in the coming weeks, Alabamians come to their senses and realize what should really be important in a gubernatorial election.