As a Republican state representative, I am in a unique position in Montana politics since I am one of the few elected officials who openly admit that I am not affiliated with any religion or would be considered "religious." I am a Republican because I believe in limited government, free market principles and civil liberties, ideals that both people of faith and those of no particular faith can rally around.

Because I believe strongly in these principles, I am enthusiastic about a potential gubernatorial candidacy for Greg Gianforte. Now, imagine my surprise when I opened The Gazette last Sunday only to see Darrell Ehrlick's column in which he inappropriately demanded that Gianforte be more open about his religious beliefs.

Article VI of the Constitution states: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Ehrlick's piece sets up a false dichotomy where people of deep religious faith cannot possibly support ideas of religious tolerance simply because they have strong faith convictions. I see this as flying in the face of the very important, and very American, belief that we can all be true to our deeply held beliefs, while still treating others with mutual respect.

Gianforte is running for governor because of his track-record of creating high-wage jobs in a state that currently sits 49th in the nation in wages. He understands what it takes to create a robust economy in Montana, where people my age and younger don't have to move out-of-state to find a good career. These are ideas that all Montanans, including those who are non-religious, can rally around.

Daniel Zolnikov

House District 45

Billings

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