Leaked: DNC official wanted to smear Sanders’ religion (or lack thereof)

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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Santa Barbara, Calif., on May 28, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Santa Barbara, Calif., on May 28, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

(RNS) A major Democratic Party official reportedly tried to throw then-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders onto the third rail of American politics, attempting to paint him as an atheist.

That’s according to a report by the news site The Intercept, co-founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, which first reported the story based on one of 20,000 emails released Friday (July 22) by WikiLeaks.

On May 5, Brad Marshall, the Democratic National Convention’s CFO, sent an internal email to two DNC communications officials asking, “can we get someone to ask his belief.”

“Does he believe in a God,” the email reads. “He had (sic) skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist.”

The email does not name Sanders outright, but Sanders, who has said he is Jewish, was the only other Democratic candidate besides Hillary Clinton, who is a Methodist.

“This could make several points difference with my peeps,” the email continues. “My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”

Reached by The Intercept, Marshall responded: “I do not recall this. I can say it would not have been Sanders. It would probably be about a surrogate.”

Pollsters and sociologists have reported that atheists are among the most reviled groups in America. A 2007 Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans said they would not vote for an atheist candidate, even if he or she were qualified for office, and a 2011 poll reported people trust atheists less than they trust rapists.

Sanders has never publicly proclaimed himself an atheist. During the campaign he said he was “proud to be Jewish” and described himself as having “very strong religious feelings.”

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