Silverman Concedes U.S. Senate Race

  Courtesy of Herb Silverman Herb Silverman It is with a heavy (10.5-ounce) heart that I tell my millions of … Continued


Courtesy of Herb Silverman

Herb Silverman

It is with a heavy (10.5-ounce) heart that I tell my millions of supporters I am ending my campaign to become the first acknowledged atheist to serve as a U.S. senator from South Carolina. While I didn’t hear from each of the 60 million people in this country without any god beliefs, I’ve heard from enough of them (and even some religious believers) to know how proud and surprised they would have been to see South Carolina take a leadership role in such political diversity. Their support helps justify my eight-year legal challenge that ended with a 1997 South Carolina Supreme Court victory nullifying the anti-atheist clause in our Constitution. This battle forms the centerpiece of my recent book, “Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt.”



U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, left, speaks during a news conference as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Jim DeMint look on at the Statehouse on Dec. 17, 2012.


Special thanks go to the over 3,700 people who voted for me in the straw poll conducted by the Charleston City Paper. That’s a whopping 85 percent of the votes cast, which shows an increasing awareness and political engagement by secular Americans. Charleston native Stephen Colbert, who announced his candidacy on national television, finished second in this poll. As a huge fan of Colbert, I took great pleasure in highlighting his appearance at the College of Charleston and by voting for Herman Cain in the Republican primary because Colbert had endorsed him.

Before Gov. Nikki Haley made her disappointing choice, there was a plan for the top two vote getters in the Charleston City Paper straw poll (Colbert and me) to engage in a senatorial debate on Colbert’s TV show. Regrettably, I was the only one with such a plan. Colbert didn’t come right out and admit it, but he apparently chose to duck the debate because he knew he would have had little chance of winning. Here is how I would have framed my senatorial case on his show:

During my campaign, I was thrilled to receive the endorsement of Richard Dawkins, renowned evolutionary biologist and author of “The God Delusion.” Haley, however, was more impressed by an endorsement from Jim DeMint, so she appointed Tim Scott to the position. DeMint, as senator, wanted public school students to be taught that God created this earth and that He put Christians in charge of America.

Unfortunately, Tim Scott in many ways is a “spiritual” heir to DeMint. This fiscal conservative once insisted on posting a Ten Commandments plaque in the Charleston County Council chambers despite being told he would lose any legal challenge. Scott argued that the display was needed to remind residents of moral absolutes. But when asked to name all Ten Commandments, Scott couldn’t. The court, as expected, declared the display unconstitutional, handing taxpayers a substantial legal bill. Unbowed and no wiser, Scott said, “Whatever it costs in the pursuit of this goal (of displaying the Commandments) is worth it.”

Scott barely edged out Ricardo Montalban, who died in 2009, for third place in the Charleston City Paper straw poll. Had Governor Haley appointed Montalban to the Senate, South Carolina would have made history by having the first officially dead senator in office. I’ll not comment about our late Strom Thurmond, the only senator to reach 100 while in office.

Despite losing by only one vote (Haley’s), I’ll be a good sport and not demand a recount. And I won’t mount a campaign to see either Haley’s or Scott’s birth certificate.

Herb Silverman is founder and president of the Secular Coalition for America, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Charleston.

Herb Silverman
Written by

  • AmyM in Charleston

    Herb Silverman is the best! He may not have won this seat, but he will always be a winner when it comes to humanism in action to me.

  • maggieardiente

    Brilliant, Herb! Indeed, it was a long and hard fought race. You deserve a vacation!

  • freethought

    And guess who said he will run for Scott’s House seat! Mark Sanford! And guess who might run against him! Jenny Sanford! Where would we be without South Carolina to entertain us!

  • eal1

    Herb, as usual, is so ahead of his time. Thank you for showing most the rest of the world the way we could be.

  • veginpost

    The standard benediction that our politicians and other civic leaders seem so inclined to use, “May God Bless You and May God Bless the United States of American flies in the face of the progressive secularist. There must be many ways to end a public speech than invoking a deity. I would suggest something for secularist along these lines, May Reason Guide Us and Reason Help Us Provide Peace and Prosperity for All Our Citizens.

  • pelicanwatchcb1

    It’s a shame you were passed over, Herb. Your wit and wisdom would have been a great addition to that “august” body called the United States Senate.

  • persiflage

    I really think Herb would gather an impressive number of votes in his run for the Senate in 2014, but the machinery of regressive republican politics and the sheer preponderance of hardcore evangelicals in South Carolina would be his undoing and he knows it. Aside from that, Herb’s sense of humor alone woud make him an outlier in in the otherwise somber business of SC politics – if you happen to live here.

    This after all is the state that nominated Newt Gingrich as the republican presidential candidate. Sad to say, Herb’s very vocal honesty about his lack of religious credentials (and other stuff) would be his undoing – even among democrats

    Putiting Tim Scott in the Senate hasn’t changed a single thing as far as keeping entrenched GOP obstructionism, tea party politics, and religion, in high profile – and that was clearly Gov. Haley’s intention in order to please all the right people. Even so, it’s doubtful she will keep her own job in the next election cycle.

    If Herb runs, I’d be obliged to vote in a state election for the first time. You’ve got my vote Herb!

  • persiflage

    ‘Mr. Silverman has a transparency problem: (as does his “nephew) who runs another analogous “non-profit).’

    Only in your overwrought imagination………..

  • h5r2

    I’d love to see Herb debate Colbert on his show. It would undoubtedly be the best debate I’ve ever seen.

  • edwills

    This is one of the funniest pieces I’ve ever read, and it makes excellent points. Silverman wins the debate against Colbert, and Colbert is really good!