March 2024 Church & State Magazine - March 2024

Oregon legislator says Christians best for public office


A state legislator in Oregon suggested in January that Christians are best for public office, asserting that atheists and Muslims aren’t fit.

State Rep. E. Werner Reschke (R-Malin) made the comments Jan. 17 during a radio show hosted by Jason Rapert, a former member of the Arkansas legislature. The show, “Save The Nation,” is affiliated with a group called the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, of which Reschke serves as Oregon chair.

Oregon Public Radio reported that during the interview, Rapert asked Reschke why it’s important that Christians “be involved in government.” To this Reschke replied, “You go back in history, and you look at men and the struggles that they faced, and the faith that they had. 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. If you don’t understand those things, you’re gonna get things wrong. In Oregon … we have a lot of people who are godless, unfortunately, leading the way, and it’s the blind leading the blind.”

Contacted by Oregon Public Radio, Reschke claimed his comments had been “grossly taken out of context.” But when asked to elaborate on how they were taken out of context, Reschke didn’t reply.

State Sen. Kayse Jama, a Portland Democrat who was born in Somalia, criticized Reschke’s comments.

“I am 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,” Jama said in a statement. “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.”

Oregon Rep. Farrah Chaichi (D-Aloha) told Hemant Mehta of the “Friendly Atheist” blog, “I’m concerned for the people in my district and across Oregon who identify as members of the communities targeted by those remarks. We serve in the people’s House, and the people need to feel welcome to come to their house to advocate for the needs of their communities. A statement like this sets back trust and goodwill that’s been built with communities who have been historically marginalized.”

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