The political views and stances in the following article are those of the MI District 9 Libertarian congressional candidate and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of heathenhof.com, which does not endorse political candidates.
Presidential election years tend to flood the media with the major candidates and can sometimes drown out the many other political offices that are also up for a vote. It can be easy to miss things like congressional candidates in your area, particularly when they lack the massive fundraising efforts that promote the Presidential nominees. Congressional District 9 in Michigan is a small but densely populated area just north of Detroit, and it’s there that one of the only Heathens running for a US congressional office is making his case. If elected, Matthew Orlando would not only be the only Heathen in the United States Congress but also the only Libertarian.
Matt Orlando is the Founder of the Northern Mist Kindred, President of the Ancient Faiths Alliance, and an Ambassador for The Asatru Community. Those of you who follow our publication might recognize the Ancient Faiths Alliance from one of our previous posts. This Pagan oriented interfaith organization recently held a charity drive at a festival in Detroit last week, which helped fund a number of education-based initiatives for their local community. Huginn’s Heathen Hof first reached out to Mr. Orlando over a month ago, following his campaign while corresponding with the Dist. 9 Libertarian candidate.
A Heathen in Politics
As the only Heathen candidate currently running for the US Congress, many within our community are understandably curious about what, if any, role our traditions have played in Mr. Orlando’s politics and campaigning. While he’s on record as saying that his religion hasn’t been a major topic amongst his public supporters, Orlando did say that his beliefs have had a profound impact on his personal decisions, saying:
“My kinship with Odin has taught me to consistently seek out knowledge, question everything, listen intently and act wisely. The belief in honoring our ancestors and taking care of our people and our communities is another driving factor. This and the fact that our current representatives are not getting the job done has led me to get involved in politics.”
We here at HHH are firm believers in the Separation of Church and State (a stance which Orlando shares), however, the impact of having a member of our minority faith running for office is undeniable. As we saw with Rep. Daniel J. Halloran III, even in an entirely secular office that kind of representation can have a major impact on our community. While the Libertarian Party hasn’t asked too many questions, Orlando hasn’t hidden his beliefs in any way. When asked how he identified religiously, Orlando had this to say:
“I’m not a fan of using labels […], but it has become commonplace. When someone asks what I believe I generally use the term Asatru, though I find that only those within what we refer to as the Heathen and Pagan communities understand that term, so I end up having to say Ancient Germanic/Norse religion and then most understand what that is.”
A History of Activism
Even before running for office, Orlando says he was still active in his local community. One issue that was and is particularly important to the up and coming candidate is advocacy for religious freedom and tolerance. While he understands that many people’s politics will, of course, be informed by their religious beliefs, he says the trouble comes when “[Some] believe that they must not only focus on themselves but they must also focus on how others think and act. They take action by lobbying for, introducing, and passing legislation that hinders people’s religious rights as well as other rights as we have seen. This is where I have issues, as my philosophy is: do as you will as long as it does no harm to others.” A statement he certainly seems devoted to backing with action, as the president of an interfaith charity organization. While many within the Heathen community have drifted away from the more generalized ‘Pagan Umbrella’ in recent years, Orlando’s organization works to not only promote multiple Pagan religions within the public eye but also as a way of creating a better understanding between the various polytheist communities in their area.
A Libertarian Platform
While the Libertarian Party has been steadily gaining in popularity among Heathens in the USA, third party politics are still mostly ignored by the majority of media outlets, leaving many voters unsure what any of the parties beyond the dominant two are even about. This can be further complicated when one takes into account the great diversity of thought present in the Libertarian Party. Politically speaking, Mattew Orlando’s platform doesn’t really fit within the standard American landscape of ‘Liberal’ or ‘Conservative’. Describing himself as a ‘staunch supporter of the 2nd amendment’, wanting to cut federal spending on ‘inefficient’ programs, and advocating for a reducing the taxes on corporations (both at home and abroad), one might easily mistake him for a Republican. On the other hand, his stances regarding religious tolerance, marijuana legalization, and LGBT issues are far enough to the political left that he has gained a fair amount of support from more Liberal voters.
When one potential voter asked him about his stance on LGBT non-discrimination laws like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), given the general Libertarian objections to over-legislation; Orlando responded: “I find it appalling that we have to put additional laws into place to ensure everyone is treated equally, whether if it is in regard to employment, housing, marriage, benefits or other areas. However, since there are still some that can’t see past race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity we have to put laws into place that protect citizens from discriminatory practices.”
Given the range of views expressed, it’s safe to say that Matthew Orlando’s politics fall well outside of the standard American Binary. It’s this trait that simultaneously seems to attract so many Heathen Libertarians to the party while also putting off the majority of voters. The LP platform isn’t as easy to summarize, and thus often gets ignored in favor a more ‘known quantities’.
What Michigan Voters Need To Know
While it’s good to have a sense of the person you’re voting for, it’s also important to know exactly what issues a candidate stands for before you go into that voting booth on election day. To that end, we here at Huginn’s Heathen Hof have assembled a quick reference card (pictured right) with information relevant to many voters on a handful of common political issues. It is important to note, however, that this is just a brief summary, and those seeking to learn more about Matthew Orlando’s platform can read a more detailed explanation HERE.
Advice for Aspiring Heathens
In an increasingly complex political climate where partisan conflicts so often obscure real data, it’s become more important than ever for individuals to try and be an active participant in their local politics. As many have commented in the past, the relationship between the Heathen community and politics has often been strained at best, which can make staying up to date even more problematic. Given some of the difficulties that confront members of religious minorities in politics, we asked Mr. Orlando what advice he would offer to other members of our community that would like to get into their local political arenas and start making a difference.
“Don’t sit on the sidelines, become well informed and get involved. You will run into people that will try to discourage you, and you will run into those that will dislike you for your beliefs and stances, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up, it means you should fight harder.”