America’s Top Heathen

Odin himself might have had a hard time predicting Dan Halloran’s strange career on New York’s City Council

Halloran is then challenged on the idea that heathenism would have only one point of view or that a person’s authenticity as a heathen would depend on sharing his pro-choice views. Halloran responded:

If moral paradigms and consistency with tradition are not earmarks and defining characteristics of our religion, then how can we evaluate let alone define ourselves. Are we to become the same inconsistent rabble that the monotheisms are? Do our values and beliefs change to suit agendas and "feelings"? Or do we stand up for our ancestral ways and define ourselves by living in that manner and accepting that code of behavior because it is Recht and Seemly?

A heathen helped us with a translation: In the “old times, a child was born. And if it was sickly, they’d put it out on a rock. If it survived the night, it was strong enough to live, and if it didn’t, it didn’t. It wasn’t a big thing.”

That, the heathen says, was basically Halloran’s viewpoint on abortion: If the soul didn’t even come until days after birth, there was no problem with abortion. And since abortion was medically known “by herbal and mechanical methods” to ancient heathens, it was never a moral problem to them—nor should it be to modern heathens.

Halloran wasn’t just a casual practitioner. “He was our spiritual leader,” Kristoffersen says. “We were sworn to him.”

Now, some of his former followers admit, it’s OK for Halloran not to let his religious beliefs affect his political beliefs on abortion. But being heathen, Halloran could be the first elected official in the United States whose religion says abortion should be legal while his political compass says it shouldn’t. For him to “go from advocating infanticide to sponsoring a pro-life pregnancy center,” as one former follower put it, was beyond them.

And if he wasn’t willing to acknowledge his own religion publicly, “cloaking himself in monotheism” as another put it, the Muslims wouldn’t fare much better when Halloran took on their right to build a swimming pool with some meeting rooms attached in Lower Manhattan.

Halloran turned out to be quite a social conservative, but did he at least fulfill his promise to be a fiscal conservative?

Hardly, if you look at either his political or personal life.

In that interview he did with Pagan+Politics, Halloran boasted that of the two things he was most proud of during his first year of office, first was “raising the funding provided in my district to the highest levels in 10 years for both discretionary spending (community programs) and capital allotments (infrastructure, schools and parks).”

Halloran talked like a Tea Party candidate when it came to spending in other districts. In his own, the pork was turning out to be plentiful. Although he was bringing home the bacon to his constituents, he was proud of his efforts to “stop the Paid Sick Leave and Living Wage bills, which would have crippled small business, attack property tax increases, and push legislation to reform government transparency and funding policy.” If his political efforts were a bit inconsistent, his personal spending became an issue of its own.

According to a January 25, 2011, article in The New York Times, in the previous month, Halloran “requested a building permit for a $60,000 project to add a second floor onto his Cape Cod–style home. On Jan. 3, the Buildings Department denied the request, saying it would make the house too big for the area’s zoning.”

This was odd, the Times pointed out, given that “in January 2010, Wells Fargo began foreclosure proceedings on [Halloran and his wife’s] home. In November, Ms. Halloran, a registered nurse, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, seeking to wipe away $116,521 in credit card debt, while retaining a 2005 Jaguar and their home. Her debts include $14,777 owed to Home Depot, $29,000 on three Chase credit cards and $58,000 on two American Express cards. The couple has an annual salary of $166,660, according to bankruptcy records and Council salary rules.”

Halloran was, to quote a Tea Party talking point, the guy who had bought too much house and ended up in foreclosure. The Times noted Halloran’s spokesman said that the couple “was in the process of a divorce, though no public court records have been filed, and that they planned to sell their house.” (When the Voice called Cynthia M. Halloran, she declined to speak and referred to Halloran as “my husband.”)

Halloran might want the country to go on a spending diet, but he doesn’t seem to be taking that lesson home at night.

Halloran came into office saying that one’s religion shouldn’t be a factor in politics. On the stump, he even referenced the 1657 Dutch, or Flushing, Remonstrance, America’s first document of religious liberty, a petition asking New Netherlands Director-General Peter Stuyvesant to lift his ban on Quaker worship in the colony that would become New York City.

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