Augustus Sol Invictus should be disqualified from holding public office, but not because he sacrificed a goat

We did it, guys. We finally did it. We found a minority religious belief that disqualifies a candidate from public office.

Florida man and Libertarian candidate for Senate Augustus Sol Invictus (name legally changed) became the laughingstock of the Internet today when reports surfaced that, in 2013, he freely exercised an odd religion. According to the Associated Press:

Two years ago, Augustus Sol Invictus walked from central Florida to the Mojave Desert and spent a week fasting and praying, at times thinking he wouldn’t survive. In a pagan ritual to give thanks when he returned home, he killed a goat and drank its blood.

And the crowd went wild:

The story was described as a “scandal,” as if this was going to be the thing that kept a third party candidate from winning elected office. It shouldn’t have been — at least, not if the people saying so are serious about religious tolerance.

To be clear, if you have a sincerely-held religious belief that you need to take a pedestrian vision quest from Florida to California with what seems to be little to no food or water, then I have a sincerely-held secular belief that you are nuts. And if you have a sincerely-held religious belief that killing a goat shows your dedication to your god or gods, then I have a sincerely held secular belief that your religion is silly and cruel, and I’ll be less likely to vote for you if you run for office.

But let’s get a few other things clear.

First, the same people el-oh-elling at this Florida man for running for Senate while believing in animal sacrifice were just last week haranguing Ben Carson for saying (over and over again) that Muslim beliefs were incompatible with the US Constitution. And guess which Muslim holiday just passed? Yup! The one involving large-scale animal sacrifice. As the BBC reported last month, “Eid al-Abha is one of the two most important Islamic festivals, and is known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, as it recalls Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to Allah. To mark this, Muslims all over the world sacrifice an animal on that day.”

That Eid is a Muslim holiday and not a Jewish or Christian holiday is a matter of culture more than it is of religion, as the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac at God’s behest is central to all three of the world’s major monotheisms (Genesis 22:2). This might have something to do with why George W. Bush had no problem issuing a statement celebrating the holiday in 2008, saying:

Although Abraham was set to faithfully obey, God provided an alternate sacrifice that spared his son. During this holiday, Muslims around the world honor Abraham’s trust in God and celebrate God’s love through acts of charity and joyous feasts with family, friends, and others in their community.

Augustus Sol Invictus, screenshot via YouTube

Augustus Sol Invictus, screenshot via YouTube

It was only a few weeks ago that progressives were rushing to defend Muslim traditions from the aversions of yee-hawing North Texans, who just didn’t get it when it came to animal sacrifice and religious tolerance. And that’s great! Religious tolerance is a good thing! Maybe or maybe not a better thing than not-dead sheep, but that’s the subject of a different debate! Either way, let’s just be consistent: If animal sacrifice is a religious tradition we’re willing to tolerate, the religion shouldn’t matter. Especially when it’s a practice that can claim its roots in the religions practiced by nearly all religious Americans.

So maybe we should think twice before glibly dismissing the idea that ritual sacrifice and mainstream American politics are all that incompatible. One of the only reasons we find Augustus Sol Invictus’s ritual particularly weird is that he doesn’t have the backing of a major world religion. If there were more pagans like him, his actions probably wouldn’t make headlines, and we might find it incredibly offensive to suggest that that his religious beliefs made seeking office ridiculous.

Second, perhaps by extension, Augustus Sol Invictus does have some seriously problematic views independent from his religious beliefs that should disqualify him from public office. The chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida resigned his post over Invictus’s run, calling him a “self-proclaimed fascist” who is “promoting a second civil war.” When the Associated Press asked him about these views, he didn’t exactly deny them, saying that while he isn’t actively promoting a second civil war, the government is already at war with its citizens:

“The only question is when are the citizens going to start fighting back?” he said in a phone interview Friday. “I don’t think I’m the only person who sees a cataclysm coming, but I think I’m the only person saying it, and I think that scares people.”

Furthermore, after watching his announcement video, it seems like he was spurred to run for office after his family’s pharmacy ran afoul of the Drug Enforcement Agency, which he is on a mission to vengefully eliminate, rendering its employees and their families homeless. Literally:

Here’s him making a not-too-veiled call for armed rebellion:

In 2013, he renounced his citizenship, closing by warning that if a second civil war didn’t break out, he’d go ahead and start it (prompting those aforementioned questions from the AP):

I have prophesied for years that I was born for a Great War; that if I did not witness the coming of the Second American Civil War I would begin it myself. Mark well: That day is fast coming upon you. On the New Moon of May, I shall disappear into the Wilderness. I will return bearing Revolution, or I will not return at all.

And, finally, his campaign website features a post entitled “A Declaration of the Failings of the Federal Government,” which calls present-day immigrants “parasites,” rails against “the degradation of our ancestral Holy Days in the name of Tolerance, demeaning Christian Rites for fear of the Jews” and considers it a major issue that the American government has “abandoned its eugenics programs & elitist mindset in favor of a decadent ideology that rejects the beauty of strength and demands the exponential growth of the weakest, the least intelligent, and the most diseased.”

So sure, if you want to write a post about how Augustus Sol Invictus shouldn’t hold public office, go ahead and write that post. The guy’s got plenty of source material to work with, and probably couldn’t take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America in good faith. But it’s his political beliefs, not his religious beliefs, that would prevent him from doing so. For self-described liberals concerned with religious tolerance, I’d like to think that’s our higher priority.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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16 Responses to “Augustus Sol Invictus should be disqualified from holding public office, but not because he sacrificed a goat”

  1. Chi-maiingan says:

    That’s nothing… there’s a cult out there called the “Roman Catholic Church” whose believers regularly ritually sacrifice, then eat the body and drink the blood of a man who died two thousand years ago.

  2. zorbear says:

    Thank you for sharing that. I laughed so hard that tears ran down my leg…

  3. nicho says:

    If only he had said “slaughtered” instead of “sacrificed.” Americans love slaughtering things — like a hospital full of doctors and nurses. “Oopsie.”

  4. slavdude says:

    So wait, if he renounced his U.S. citizenship, how is he even eligible to run for office? Unless, of course, he didn’t actually go through with the renunciation, or he did and neither he nor his fans care about the citizenship requirement specified in the Constitution. As for his religious beliefs, meh. By themselves they cannot and should not disqualify him from holding elected office.

  5. trinu says:

    As a relatively minor correction, I’d like to point out that in Islam, the son Abraham took up the mountain to be sacrificed was Ishmael, not Isaac.

  6. Kyle Donahue says:

    I like him. I also find pagan religions rich and interesting, and don’t think they should be dismissed (as though some supernatural stories are more verifiable than others). I think his message is essentially that we are not as free as we think we are, and that American society is degenerate and vapid. I don’t disagree. He’s like a 21st century Walt Whitman, or a Paul Cezanne. It’s pretty cool.

  7. Lordwhorfin says:

    I’d be calling in the care team to assess his gun locker, frankly.

  8. 2karmanot says:

    If the goat was a virgin…it’s cool.

  9. emjayay says:

    How did this nut job get anywhere? He’s like Ben Carson’s delusions and Trump’s ego rolled into one times 100.

  10. MoonDragon says:

    The guy’s definitely cooking on another planet. Even the vilest of his personal beliefs don’t eliminate him from seeking office. The overt calls for violent revolution are problematic. That being said, how can any of the 100M or so Christians in this country who partake of ritual cannibalism (and, at least for Catholics, it isn’t symbolic because the wine and bread undergo transubstantiation) can quibble with killing a goat?

  11. goulo says:

    He’s got an unusually blatant case of bizarre extreme megalomania, e.g. around 10:00 in the 2nd youtube film. I almost think he makes Trump look modest…

  12. nicho says:

    Hey, lay off Ben Carson.

  13. The_Fixer says:

    This whole thing can be explained by those two famous words:

    Florida Man.

  14. BeccaM says:

    The man is a stark raving mad lunatic who shouldn’t be allowed out in public, never mind hold elected office.

    ^^^ There’s my post.

  15. judybrowni says:

    I love steak tartare, so maybe I’m not entitled to a revulsion impulse.

    But the guy is otherwise obviously cray cray.

  16. Knottwhole says:

    Oops. I fucked up.

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