Oregon Republican lawmaker suggests non-Christians are unfit for elected office

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A Republican Oregon lawmaker has suggested that “you don’t want” Muslims, atheists and other non-Christians to serve in elected office.

Rep. E. Werner Reschke, of the small town of Malin near the California border, made the comments in a Jan. 17 appearance on “Save the Nation,” a talk show streamed on Facebook that is affiliated with the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Monday. Reschke is a member of the association.

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The show’s host, former Arkansas lawmaker Jason Rapert, for much of the episode asked Reschke about what he called the “sad reality of the lax treatment of drugs” in Oregon. Reschke said drug decriminalization “makes our state unlivable,” and argued that spirituality and church leaders are part of the solution.

Last week, Oregon Democratic lawmakers introduced a new bill that would undo a key part of the state’s first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization law, a recognition that public opinion has soured on it amid a fentanyl-fueled overdose crisis deadlier than any the U.S. has ever seen.

During the interview, Rapert also asked why Reschke feels it is important that Christians “be involved in government.”

“You go back in history, and you look at men and the struggles that they faced, and the faith that they had,” Reschke said. “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.”

The remarks prompted the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin nonprofit that advocates keeping religion out of governance, to call for Reschke to apologize to people in his legislative district or to resign. The group sent Reschke a letter last week saying his duty is to support the state and federal constitutions and not to promote his personal religious views.

Reschke told Oregon Public Broadcasting in an email that his comments had been “grossly taken out of context.” But when asked for more specifics about what he meant to say, Reschke did not respond.

Muslim state Sen. Kayse Jama, a Portland Democrat, told the public radio station she was “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. 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.”

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