A judicial candidate in Florida who has written on social media that gay people are going to hell and that "Muslims are deranged" claims he can be fair to these groups and everyone else if elected to a judgeship.
Donald McBath, a family law attorney in the Tampa Bay area, is running for a judgeship in Florida's Sixth Circuit, covering Pinellas and Pasco counties, on the Gulf Coast, the Tampa Bay Times reports. In February, he wrote on Facebook, "If the homosexual continues committing that sin of sodomy, his soul faces ETERNAL damnation. Abstain, if you really have that mental illness. It's not love." Last year, he had written on Twitter, "Muslims are deranged!!!!" and "Never trust a Muslim."
He told the Times, however, that his "personal beliefs" won't affect his work as a judge. "I absolutely can still be fair no matter what kind of beliefs that I may have," he said. "We all have our own personal beliefs based on what's happened in our lives, and as long as it doesn't interfere with how we treat a person, that's the goal."
He declined to elaborate on the messages and said voters should focus on the fact that he's been a lawyer for 25 years and is also an Army veteran, having served in Operation Desert Shield. "There's so many things that I'm proud of in regards to things that I've done in regards to my legal experience, in my military experience, education, the awards, the social and professional activities that I participate in," he told the Times. "Those far outnumber anything that somebody could construe as negative."
Activists and legal experts aren't buying that he'll be impartial. "Don McBath has revealed himself to be incapable of treating the LGBT community with dignity and respect," Equality Florida executive director Nadine Smith told the paper. "He lacks the temperament required of a judge to deal impartially with the facts."
Thania Diaz Clevenger, civil rights director for the Council on American Islamic Relations' Florida affiliate, said McBath's comments are "certainly going to raise a lot of red flags for those who appear before him." Stetson University College of Law professor Louis Virelli III added that it's "terribly bad form to elect a judge who has committed to strong negative feelings about an entire segment of the population that he or she is going to be responsible to administer justice to" and that many people appearing before McBath would likely ask him to recuse himself from their cases.
McBath and Pinellas-Pasco prosecutor Doneene Loar are vying to replace Circuit Judge Frank Quesada, who is retiring. The nonpartisan primary election is August 28. In judicial races with more than two candidates, the top two vote recipients advance to the November 6 general election, but since there are only two candidates for this position, the winner of the primary will hold the judgeship.
After his interview with the Times, McBath sent a text message to the reporter to reiterate his position on homosexuality, even though he'd said voters should focus on other issues. "Let me make it more clear. Jesus condemned sodomy!!!!" Actually, many biblical scholars have pointed out that the Bible includes no comments from Jesus about sodomy or homosexuality in general.