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SDGOP Launches Religious Attack to Save Novstrup

Evidently sensing doom in District 3, the South Dakota Republican Party has decided to attack my religion… or lack thereof.

In a postcard sent to the day before church, the SDGOP tries to save Republican Rep. Al Novstrup by pointing out that his Democratic opponent in the District 3 Senate race, yours truly, “is an avowed atheist.”

South Dakota Republican Party, District 3 postcard, received 2016.10.29.
South Dakota Republican Party, District 3 postcard, received 2016.10.29.

Now, unlike several other statements in this postcard, that sentence is factually correct. I am an atheist. (Word note: I don’t need to say “avowed,” since by saying it, I am avowing it.) I do not believe in supernatural powers. But in the context (and that’s always what Novstrup and the SDGOP hide, context) of a postcard calling me a bad legislator, the South Dakota Republican Party is using that sentence to call my religious choice a negative that should inform citizens’ votes.

Fully informed voters will recall Article 6 of the United States Constitution:

…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

I don’t know what church Al Novstrup goes to, or how often or whether he goes to church. I don’t need to know, and neither do voters. Voters don’t need to know Al’s religious beliefs to see that he supports some bad public policies. Voters don’t need to know our religious beliefs to see that I can offer them better policy, better openness, and better representation in Pierre… regardless of what church they attend.

Related: Meanwhile, amidst the now four-card negative attacks from the SDGOP, the state Democratic Party backs its man in District 3 with this simple, positive postcard:

SDDP postcard for CAH, District 3, late October 2016 SDDP postcard for CAH, District 3, late October 2016


None of these folks seem worried that I’m going to interrupt their acts of worship. They all seem less worried about where I spend my Sunday mornings and how I’ll spend my weekdays when I’m in the Capitol working for all of the people of South Dakota.


  1. Rorschach 2016-10-30

    I’m a little surprised they spelled atheist correctly. It’s the only thing that surprises me about this postcard.

  2. Donald Pay 2016-10-30

    Jesus, or course, was not a Christian. He seemed to vigorously question, if not outright oppose, much of what the accepted religious practice of his time. He was also attacked by bitter and cowardly people. You’re in good company, Cory.

  3. Mrs. Nelson 2016-10-30

    I think people get so caught up in the word “atheist” because it’s usually (I have found around here especially) tied incorrectly to Satanism. People get seriously offended when one chooses to be good without god(s). The real question about Mr. Novstrup is that, being a Christian, is he ok with other religions? I find some Christians to be the most vehemently intolerant against any religion that is not Christian based.

  4. Spike 2016-10-30

    One of the greatest people I personally know is an “atheist” a wonderful man that helps so many people, is kind and patient, sacrifices time and money. Does it in the name of the greatest god we have. Humankind.

    He taught me the energy and beauty of humans and our ultimate connection to each other…that being we are made of the same substances that the universe is made of.

    When people post here about the good things they and their”church” do in the name of god, it’s easy to see its good things done by humans. Why not stand on that?

    I need the GOP card makers to explain how God made the 4 trillion (and counting) galaxies consisting of of a billion to a trillion stars in each galaxy.

    But Einstein said he couldn’t rule out there is a God. Because the statistical odds and miracle of life on earth are also overwhelming.

    There is not a political group anywhere that has an iota of right to claim they know whom God is. AND judge others on that. The butchery of the world has and continues to be behind this falacy. Is the “good” done in God’s name out doing that? I don’t know, he must have a pretty darn filled up and complicated scorecard.

    Go Cory


  5. mike from iowa 2016-10-30

    Atheism gets tied to Communism which is tied to wingnuts through the use of the color red and the simple facts that wingnuts don’t bother to practice what they preach.

  6. jerry 2016-10-30

    Spike, you have pretty much nailed it.

    Obviously the South Dakota right wing GOP wants to have state religion as is expressly forbidden in Article I in our Constitution. Al fits right into the crowd that feels the Constitution is just a piece of paper without any real meaning. The SDGOP proves once again that it is lawless and as corrupt as it has always been since even before the days of the EB%. Corruption is the holy church they prefer to attend. Me, I will take honesty over travesty any day and so should we all.

  7. jerry 2016-10-30

    Sorry Amendment I regarding freedom of religion or not.

  8. W R Old Guy 2016-10-30

    I’ve also heard some Christians voice their belief that only Republicans are Christians. Democrats are all atheists. I’m not surprised at anything that comes out in these postcards anymore.

    Haven Stuck who is a Democrat running for Senate in District 33 against Phil Jensen put out a card comparing his background and agenda to Jensen’s. Gerrymandered District 33 will re-elect Jensen because he is a dedicated Christian and has an A+ rating from the NRA.

  9. mike from iowa 2016-10-30

    If you read the “right” interpretation of the bible you will find Jeebus had an A+ rating from the NRA as well.

  10. jerry 2016-10-30

    I wonder how Christians can reconcile the fact that their religion has supported all of the corruption in the state of South Dakota? I guess to them, there are really just some Commandments that they know of. Those pesky last ones, six, seven, eight, nine and ten are just there to round the tablet off. To most, they are merely suggestions and not to be taken literally.

  11. David Newquist 2016-10-30

    I am saving the Novstrup postcards as part of a study some colleagues are doing on the deterioration of rhetoric. Those cards have the verbal fingerprints of a presuming voice of the South Dakota GOP, but the fact that the party and Novstrup would allow him to speak for them says volumes about their character and their values. Not the least of his characteristics is his touting himself as an expert on political communication, although he has not made it through the first chapter of a book on graphic communication . To the literate portion of our society, the only message he broadcasts is a degenerate mentality.

    Before we entered this era of personal destruction as the main of focus of political discourse, the presence of malice as evidenced by the disrespect for individuality and the distorted and false portrayals of character would reflect primarily the defects of character and intelligence of their authors. The “conservative” influences on education have greatly reduced the ability among our citizens to respond with that level of literacy. But there is still a large core of people who see the likes of Trump and Novstrup and the segment they represent as what has made the EB-5 and Gear UP episodes as defining the politics of the State of South Dakota.

  12. Leo 2016-10-30

    Republicans need to stop burning churches in North Dakota. Republicans need to stop plowing through cemeteries in North Dakota. Such freaking hypocrites!

  13. Roger Cornelius 2016-10-30

    When Powers at the Dump Site issues postcards such as this, it is a reflection of their lack of comprehension and ignorance of the U.S. Constitution. The very constitution that republican and Democratic office holders are sworn to honor.
    In my 60 plus years of following election campaigns I have found that in each election cycle there is one candidate that is a rising star. Sometimes they win their election, sometimes they lose.
    A couple years ago that rising star was Rick Weiland, Rick lost the senate race but continues his passion for democracy by promoting Amendment V.
    This election cycle that rising star is Cory. Cory not only comprehends the U.S. Constitution he knows how to apply it to almost every situation. In this day of politics that is rare as David Newquist has laid out.
    Atheism and non-believers are growing in numbers, religion is losing its luster and followers. Politicians, both republican and Democrats, have an sworn obligation to respect and honor all of their constituents regardless of their beliefs. Cory will do that.

  14. bearcreekbat 2016-10-30

    According to Thor Benson approximately 25% of our population no longer identifies with a religion. This was about the same percentage of Catholics in the country when Kennedy ran for President. Thus, Benson argues that while it is a travesty that we have no atheists or agnostics out of the closet in Congress, that may change in the not too distant future.

    Maybe Cory will be the man to do it after he finishes work at the state level. Go Cory!

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-10-30

    WR, Haven and I need to change some thinking. Haven may also need to change some legislative boundaries (which we can do with Amendment T!).

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-10-30

    David, I’ll be very curious to read the results of that study and learn how my rhetoric stands in comparison.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-10-30

    Roger, thank you. I intend to keep rising right through Tuesday, November 8. You are absolutely right that we public servants have an overriding commitment to protect all citizens’ religious liberty and never single out any one set of believers (or non-believers) as un-American or untrustworthy.

    Bear, I will never run out of work to do at the state level. :-)

  18. Joe Nelson 2016-10-30

    Cory, you say the other statements are not factual, but the card references your statements and actions (or inaction). Even if they are not in context, are they not actually true?

  19. grudznick 2016-10-30

    Mr. H, I am with you on this one. I don’t think Mr. Novstrup, the elder, is much of an overgodder but by golly there is no god. Or boogeyman.

  20. grudznick 2016-10-30

    Mr. H, I am slightly confused by this piece of postcard. It says that you are against the practice of free religion, when I have always thought you were the opposite. You, and I, both agree I thought that people could practice whatever they want as long as they don’t jam their gods down our maws.

    I, for one, have zero tolerance of people who try and jam their gods down my maw, but I don’t tell them they can’t play in their own fantasylands if they leave me alone. BAH!

  21. David Newquist 2016-10-30


    I am not a part of this study, but am helping the scholars to retrieve a body of materials collected after the 2004 election. I think your rhetoric will stand up because the critical analysis is of rhetoric which departs from dealing with issues and is ad hominem, which is what the primary focus of GOP campaigns of late. And the defining point further distinguishes between addressing something a candidate has said and addressing the personhood of candidate. Novstrup’s postcards leap out because of their stunning reliance on rhetorical fallacies.

  22. grudznick 2016-10-30

    Mr. Newquist, let me make sure I am clear, here. Was this post card issued by Mr. Novstrup, or was it issued by some other party for what they think is in Mr. Novstrup’s good? I gather by the verbal signatures on some posts that people think this might be the handiwork of Mr. PP. We will have to see how much the reports show Mr. Novstrup is paying PP for all this work.

  23. Rorschach 2016-10-30

    Well I’ll be danged! That’s Judge Bill Srstka (retired) on Cory’s postcard.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-10-30

    Joe, let’s be clear. I said “several other,” not “the other.” SDGOP attack card #4 makes several false statements. I am focusing here on the attack on a candidate’s religion.

    Grudz, Newquist, the card says the SDGOP paid for it. If Al comes out and disavows this sort of personal religious attack, we can cut him some slack.

    Al’s campaign finance report shows no itemized expenses by vendor, so we can’t determine how much or whether he paid Pat Powers to extend his tired blog attacks to District 3.

    Ror, nope! No judge!

  25. Joe Nelson 2016-10-30

    Cory, there are only three other statements; which are you indicating are not factual?

    Did you attack (or call) an expression of faith disgusting?

    Did you refuse to answer the NRA PVF survey about you stance on the 2nd amendment?

    Did you refer to unborn babies as organisms?

    Are you in favor of all those new taxes?

    I understand that you view this as an attack on your faith choices, but it seems like they are using all four of these statements as premises in support of the conclusion that Al is the better candidate. I am just asking if what they said is factual (because you vaguely said some are not).

  26. grudznick 2016-10-30

    Mr. Nelson, I cannot speak for Mr. H as I really don’t know most of his positions today and can’t compare them to several years ago. But I did read him being in favor of some or one of a variety of new taxes. He’s a big new tax guy, I think. But not all of those new taxes. That would be insaner than most and impossible to do. You can’t have all the new taxes, you might only get one. I think I read Mr. H say he wants to shift taxes from what we have today to a more libbie version of making different people pay but keep the same vig from the nut.

  27. Rorschach 2016-10-30

    The man in the cowboy hat is a dead ringer for Bill Srstka.

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-10-30

    Well, Joe, if you’d like the itemization of false statements under this post…

    1. “supports all forms of abortion”—false. Whether or not I support any particular abortion, I do not support making that decision for all women by the force of law.
    2. Bonus deception: the “On Life” graphic showing a crawling infant rather than a fetus or a uterus. The issue is abortion and women’s rights over their own bodies.
    3. “refused to answer”—deceptive. I have made my position on the Second Amendment and guns in our culture many times on this blog, in public statements available to anyone. I did not take time to fill out surveys for out-of-state PACs.
    4. “Al Novstrup believes tax increases should only be used in emergencies”—false. Rep. Novstrup never said that our roads were in an emergency situation in 2015 when he voted to raise our road taxes $85 million. He never said our schools were in an emergency this year when he voted to raise our sales taxes $107 million. Al Novstrup votes for new taxes when the Governor tells him to. I can guarantee that will never be the reason I vote for a tax increase.
    5. “Al Novstrup supports the free exercise of religion”—false: Rep. Novstrup has supported legislation that would allow business owners to impose their religious beliefs on employees and customers who do not share those same beliefs.
    6. “Novstrup… supports both public and parochial schools”—arguably true, but problematic for a legislator whose only sworn constitutional duty is to support public schools. Transferring public money to private schools (which Rep. Novstrup did with the stealth vouchers bill) requires me to support religious schools, another violation of free exercise of religion.
    7. “attacked an expression of faith”—false. I did not attack an expression of faith. I attacked Kristi Noem’s use of her faith as a way to dodge responsibility for not getting the Farm Bill and other important legislation done. I criticized Noem for saying that God had put her in Congress and that he expected her to consider ministering to people a bigger part of her job than working on policy. Noem’s statement is wrong and wrong: South Dakota voters put her on Congress, not a supernatural being, and we put her in that position to represent all South Dakotans and work on policy, not use her state position to promote her specific religion.

    Believe it or not, Grudz somewhat accurately represents my position on tax reform. I’m not interested in taking a whole bunch more money out of everyone’s pockets. My priority is collecting the revenue we need in with a fairer, more progressive system. Consider the sales tax we’re using to pay our teachers. I preferred the Democratic plan to raise the sales tax to 5% but set the tax on food to zero. That would raised more money for teachers (avg salary possibly $50K instead of Governor’s $48.5K, which is turning out to be more like $46-$47K), more teachers funded, and tax burden lower than the Governor’s plan for the bottom 20%, about the same for the middle 75%, and higher only for the richest 5%. Even our regressive sales tax could be made fairer.

  29. grudznick 2016-10-30

    I think the fellow in the hat looks like Wilfred Brimley.

  30. grudznick 2016-10-30

    To be fair and accurate, Mr. H, on your #4 above you have to admit that when Mr. Novstrup voted Yes on the law bills for the road taxes and the teacher pay tax increase both of those law bills said “an emergency exists.” So he was saying there was an emergency by voting yes.

  31. grudznick 2016-10-30

    The Speakers of the House asked: “On the question of bill 1, do you believe we should raise taxes to fix roads, and do you believe an emergency exists?”

    Rising from his seat, Mr. Novstrup replied, in a booming baritone voice: “Yes.”

    The Speakers of the House then said: “In the question of bill 1182, do you believe we should raise taxes and give the money to just teachers and do you believe an emergency exists?”

    Rising from his seat, Mr. Novstrup turned to face the assembled galleries of people, and decisively said: “Yes”

  32. Joe Nelson 2016-10-30

    I read your blog post in question about Kristi Noem (and watched the youtube video. I am also confused why you called it a deflection, the reporter did not ask her a question about the Farm Bill, so she did not pivot from any question with her comment. It very much looks like, as she is being interviewed by a Christian news/media outlet, she expressed a view that many evangelical Christians claim; that God directs there lives, guides them, and places them where He wants them to be, and that God calls them to witness and minister to those around them. Those two concepts are actually core to the expression of evangelical Christianity. And you called it disgusting.

  33. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-10-30

    Grudz! Oh! The emergency clause! Good point!

    But then I would turn to a far more important argument: what sort of mismanagement leads us to two consecutive budget emergencies in huge and basic state budget areas? How do we sit around and let our roads and schools fall into such emergencies?

    Joe, ministering to individuals is not at the core of the job description for members of Congress. That is a deflection from discussing the biggest part of this public job, which is serving the people with good policy making. We do not elect ministers.

  34. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-10-30

    Oh! And a sharp neighbor points out another visual fallacy in the card… or maybe a Freudian slip: the GOP chooses to symbolize Al’s support for free exercise of religion with the symbol of just one religion, rather than offering an array of world religious symbols that would show inclusivity. What, no Star of David or crescent in the clip art?

  35. Roger Cornelius 2016-10-30

    Last week the Rapid City Journal had an article about the state having a serious shortfall in this years budget.

    Will this republican caused shortfall cause another republican crisis that will lead to yet another republican tax increase?

  36. Joe Nelson 2016-10-30

    Cory, she was in an interview with a Christian network, talking about her Christianity. This was not CNN or Fox News. She was expressing her religious beliefs. And you called it disgusting. Why is it disgusting for a public servamt to tal about how their faith affects their public service?

  37. Adam 2016-10-30

    The only way to protect religious freedom in this country is to make sure that government treats no one religion any better or worse than any other. I am pretty darn sure that an atheist has the ability to uphold that principle in any state legislature.

  38. jerry 2016-10-31

    Joe Nelson, how does her faith affect her public service? What faith based service has she done? What has she done to improve the lives of folks here, vote 60 plus times to eliminate the ACA as an example? Naw, she is kind of being reckless with the truth. I will take truth over hypocrisy any time, any day.

  39. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-10-31

    Joe, she referred to ministering to individuals as her biggest job in Washington. It does not matter to whom she says that; her statement is incorrect and offensive to those of us citizens who expect our Congresswoman to make crafting good legislation her biggest job. Ministering to individuals, spreading her religion, is not the public service for which South Dakota voters elected Kristi Noem or which her oath binds her to do.

    Imagine if I gave an interview to the National Forensic League while I’m a State Senator, and imagine I told the NFL that my biggest job is to make great speeches on TV. I’d be incorrect as well, especially if I’m saying that while spending my term getting no substantive legislation passed. No matter what media outlet I’m on, my biggest job as an elected official will be to enact good policy.

  40. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-10-31

    To put the point in even stronger relief, suppose I’m sitting for an interview with Bearcreekbat’s International Journal of Secular Humanism. He asks me a question about my secular humanism. I still don’t say to him that my biggest job is to convert people away from God or even to work to elect more atheists or agnostics. That statement would be false, and it would get my oath of office and constitutional duties wrong.

  41. mike from iowa 2016-10-31

    How did you raise Wilford Brimley from the grave and get him to have his pic taken with you on a postcard?

    Man,Cory, that is effective persuasion. Now get your rear end to Pierre and throw out the trash.

  42. Joe Nelson 2016-10-31

    She, like most Christians, places God as her number one priority. Therefore, in any job she would have, doing God’s will would be her “biggest” job. This is how many Christians express their belief. Is this really that surprising/disgusting/offensive? In college, I used to go to a Christian group called the Navigators, comprised primarily by college students. Even though we were all in college to study, many of us truly believed that being a witness to Christ and evangelizing was very important, and if asked, would have said it was more important that getting our degree. With an eternal perspective, Christians care more about helping other people get to Heaven than any other earthly goal or accomplishment. Maybe you can ask another person (maybe someone else who went to the Navigators at SDSU) about the balancing of earthly priorities with heavenly priorities.
    Since you do not believe in Heaven, let me offer a different example. If you are elected, you would have priorities and obligations to the people of South Dakota. At the same time, you would have priorities and obligations to your family. Now, let us pretend that in your world view, you would believe and say “My biggest job in Pierre is making a better state for my daughter to live in.” Would you think that incorrect, disgusting or offensive?

    South Dakota is made up of a lot of Christians, many of whom want to express their faith in the public sphere and see doing God’s will as the biggest part of their lives. Noem shared this, and you attacked her for it. You literally attacked her expression of faith. That is what the postcard is saying you did, they are not attacking you for being an atheist, they are calling you out for attacking an expression of faith. Own your actions. I ‘m not asking you to apologize, just admit what you did.

  43. Craig 2016-10-31

    Mike…. Wilford Brimley is very much alive. He still has diabetes though… but he uses Liberty Medical to ensure he always has his testing supplies on hand so I’m sure it is well managed.

  44. mike from iowa 2016-10-31

    When you’re right, you’re right, Craig. He has been reported to have died several times and someone has him as an actor on the Waltons-which I am sure he is being confused with Will Geer who I am able to confirm is dead I think. (yup-almost 40 years gone)

  45. mike from iowa 2016-10-31

    Joe Nelson-what part of separation of church and state don’t you understand?

    Remember when kristians went nuts claiming Obama was going to install Sharia law since they were convinced he was a Muslim? Your religion and anyone else’s religion belongs in your heart, your church or your closet- just as your lord and saviour told you.

  46. jerry 2016-10-31

    IMO, Joe Nelson, Isn’t God’s Will to defend those that cannot defend themselves? How can you state that her position as a Christian is any different than that of any other religion or non religion? Is it not the job of an elected official to do no harm to those with whom you represent?

    The postcard clearly is an attack on religion in that it is an attack on any religion other than Christianity. Yes, that would include atheism as they clearly are showing.

    BTW, You and Al are both being disingenuous when the card says that Al is for freedom of religion and then condemns Muslims, with his interview, and condemns those that have their personal views of a higher power in what is around them. Is that why some dislike the very idea of Indian beliefs as well? Where are you on this?

  47. John W. 2016-10-31

    I am a Christian, partisan independent, believer in god, the salvation of Christ, the plain meaning of Constitutional construction, the reality of the Bill of Rights and in the US we are a government of law rather than of men. (Or at least we are suppose to be) I also believe that there is a preponderance of people who act out Christianity based upon denominational dogma and religious doctrine which are completely foreign to New Testament biblical principle or it’s honest, spiritual interpretation. Pure and simple, they hold themselves out to be something they are not. Noem appears to be one of those. Conservatives do not have a market on Christianity and in fact, a lot of them prostitute religion for political gain and that is completely antithetical to anything in scripture. These folks twist religion in the same manner as they twist fact and reality.
    Even the bible recognizes, many times, the practice of hypocrisy and we continue down that road, even after 2000 years of reading, preaching and intentionally misrepresenting the wisdom of deity.

    To say that someone understands gods will for their lives is a religious policy declaration not anything biblical. To say that gods will is to “go forth and preach the gospel” is also a biblical falacy. For each of us have been given particular gifts. Noem’s gifts have yet to be revealed in my estimation. Her new found “mission” in life suddenly appears to appeal to a religious voting block, not as a reason to strengthen the ranks of Christian believers. To say such a thing places oneself on the same level as god and that is, as the bible calls it, an abomination. Its a delusional false existence. If Noem were to actually practice a devotion to Christianity, she would use her social and cultural time to carry the gospel message to those who ask for it rather than try to force it down everybody’s throat through the use of political position. That is what the Sanhedrin did and Christ called that group not only a bunch of hypocrites but a “brood of vipers.” Nothing Christian or honest is achieved by using government position to parlay political power………..

  48. Bobby Kolbe 2016-10-31

    Guess I’d sooner have an informed Athiest than an uninformed Christian.
    The U S Constitution allows people to be and act like uninformed Jerks. The only problem there are no pills that cure or alieviate being a jerk.
    Speaking as a Republican. We are, in the last 10 years, as republicans suffering from a pandemic of aswholitious stupidious !

  49. mike from iowa 2016-10-31

    Religion shouldn’t ne a deal in politics and wouldn’t be if wingnuts weren’t trying to out-kristian their opponents.

    You have a religion-Bully! Just act like you’ve been there before . There is no need for anyone to know your faith and it should not be a criteria for a person to get elected.

  50. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-10-31

    Joe, I think you’re missing a big point. I’ve heard Obama talk about his faith and how it influences his decisions. That’s fine. But I’ve never heard the President say that the biggest part of his job as a public servant is to minister to people. I’d be deeply bothered if he did say that.

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding the word minister, but it seems there’s a big difference between saying you apply your Christian faith to your policymaking (sometimes problematic in a First Amendment nation, but largely acceptable) and saying God made you a Congressperson primarily so you could minister to other people. If God wants you to minister to people, he gives you your call, sends you to seminary, and whammies some church into hiring you. At least that’s how it worked in my house… or so I’m told by believers. ;-)

  51. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-10-31

    Navigators: interesting example. Sure, students can say their witnessing and faith-building is more important than getting a degree. But if I’m paying your tuition, you’d better get to class and graduate. When you walk into my classroom, your #1 priority from 11:30 to 12:20 cannot be witnessing to your cute seatmate; it needs to be participating in and passing the class.

    I understand that faith can suffuse one’s life, but sometimes everyone has to focus on getting secular work done (or just cooking dinner so the kids don’t starve).

Comments are closed.