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Justin Scott


In an April 5 guest column headlined “Keeping Schools Safe” in the Waverly Democrat newspaper, state Rep. Sandy Salmon attempted to inform readers of various ways the Iowa Legislature has worked recently to keep our schools safe and to help prevent a school shooting here.

However, I found it interesting she couldn’t help herself and decided to also include unhelpful and baseless rhetoric that insults atheists and those who are nonreligious, as well as the LGBTQ+ community and those not raised in a “traditional” nuclear family.

She rails about gun-free zones but spirals into tired talking points from the religious right stating “the breakdown of faith, morals and family and the movement of society and culture from those values have sparked an increase in mental instability, insecurity, confusion, depression, anxiety and abuse of all kinds.” This, she declares confidently without providing any supporting evidence, “is the cause of the violence we see in the school shootings that have happened in recent years.”

I was left with far more questions than answers.

It almost sounds like Salmon is saying school shootings and all the bad in the world only happen because Americans are choosing to step away from the religious beliefs they were in many occasions indoctrinated into accepting at a young age. It’s almost as if Salmon is “dog whistling” being an atheist will lead you to becoming the next school shooter or violent criminal. The evidence doesn’t support that notion.

It also sounds like Salmon is blaming school shootings on more families not fitting the mold of the traditional “nuclear family” model. Could it be Salmon is saying school shooters only come from a) single families, b) families headed by gay/lesbian parents, c) families headed by transgender parents? Once again, I certainly hope that is not what is being implied as the evidence doesn’t support that notion either.

I would be interested to see the credentials Salmon holds that give her the ability to assert the “side effects” of atheism, diverse values and modern family structures. Nowhere in the bio on her campaign website does it list mental health professional or as having any formal training in diagnosing patients.

I think it’s best if Salmon and other elected officials in Des Moines stop basing policies on beliefs and start making evidence-based decisions.

Justin Scott of Denver is the Iowa state director of American Atheists.


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