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There are two candidates vying for a seat in the North Carolina House from District 23. The Democrat, Shelly Willingham, is the incumbent and he said at a recent forum he was all in on gun safety measures:

Willingham said some common-sense measures could prevent shootings and should be pursued: Universal background checks for all gun purchases; restoring cuts to funding for school counselors and school nurses; and investing in the state’s mental health treatment efforts.

He opposes arming teachers, too. Smart man. Let’s hope he wins another term.

His opponent is Republican Claiborne Holtzman, who thinks more guns is the solution to gun violence. But I was more interested in his views about school prayer:

Holtzman said new school policies need to be enacted that carry a greater penalty for disruptive behavior and bullying and allow teachers the ability to teach uninterrupted the students who truly want to learn instead of having to deal with unwanted behaviors from children who do not want to learn.

“Secondly, I believe that we need to allow prayer back in school for those that wish to pray without enduring criticism,” Holtzman said. “Thirdly, I believe that if we once again have order and a no-nonsense policy in reference to behaviors, we could cut down on the potential for this type of action.”

Let’s put aside, for a moment, the comment that will make every teacher’s eyes roll about how disruptive students should just be penalized more. (As if that would ever work.)

I want to know who told this guy that prayer is banned in school. That’s a right-wing talking point that’s an absolute lie and ridiculously easy to debunk.

Students can pray whenever they want. So can teachers. So can administrators. No one has ever stopped people from praying on their own in private. What’s not allowed is coercive prayer, whether it’s a coach praying with athletes, or a Bible verse read over the loudspeakers in the morning, or a teacher preaching in the classroom. This isn’t complicated.

The fact that Holtzman doesn’t understand something this simple tells you why he’s unqualified to hold any seat in elected office.

If that’s not convincing enough, you should also know he’s a “doctor of naturopathy” (a.k.a. a quack), lost a NC House race in 2010, and — oh dear god — this was his campaign website at the time.

What’s sad is that this guy thinks he’s the best man for the job… but people who actually know what they’re doing often possess humility and self-doubt and choose not to run. It’s scary that someone like him could theoretically win a seat.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.

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