Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 27, 2011

THE RIGHT'S SELECTIVE EMBRACE OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.... It's hardly a secret that in modern politics, conservative Christian Republicans tend to think the issue of religion in public and political life is "theirs." It's one of those things that "everyone knows" -- Democrats dominate when it comes to workers, health care, education, and the environment; the GOP dominates on guns and God.

Except, this framework has never really made any sense -- it's just a lazy shorthand -- and the assumptions about the right and faith have always been overly broad. Republicans don't love religious liberty; they love religious liberty for people who think as they do.

ThinkProgress, for example, caught up with GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain yesterday at the Conservative Principles Conference in Iowa. Cain argued this week that all Muslims have "an objective to convert all infidels or kill them," and TP asked a good follow-up question: "Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim, either in your cabinet or as a federal judge?" Cain replied:

"No, I would not. And here's why. There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government. This is what happened in Europe. And little by little, to try and be politically correct, they made this little change, they made this little change. And now they've got a social problem that they don't know what to do with hardly.

The question that was asked that 'raised some questions' and, as my grandfather said, 'I does not care, I feel the way I feel.'"

To be sure, this is deeply stupid. Refusing to consider qualified Muslim Americans for public posts because one fears a conspiracy to "gradually ease Sharia law ... into our government" is so laughably absurd, one wonders if Herman Cain is a liberal plant, running to make Republicans look ridiculous.

Indeed, in most of American life, deliberately refusing to hire religious minorities, solely because of their faith, isn't just an example of bigotry, it's literally illegal employment discrimination.

For a party that allegedly celebrates religious liberty, the irony is rich.

At a certain level, this seems fairly easy to dismiss because Cain is clearly not a credible candidate for national office, and won't win the Republican presidential nomination. But before we move on, let's not forget one key aspect to this: nearly four years ago, Mitt Romney said something awfully similar.

In the fall of 2007, Romney said he would not consider Muslim Americans for his cabinet. Indeed, he said this more than once, in front of plenty of witnesses.

Cain's bigotry seems remarkable, and it is, but he's an afterthought in Republican politics. Romney, meanwhile, is arguably the frontrunner, and despite his pleas for tolerance of religious diversity when it comes to his own personal faith, Romney is already on record favoring Cain-like discrimination.

Steve Benen 9:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

Herman Cain is running to make Alan Keyes look respectable.

Posted by: martin on March 27, 2011 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Stoning to death is a barbaric religious custom that has NO place in God Fearing America! (even though it is mentioned in the Old Testament, as well as the Koran)

Far more preferable is the Christian tradition of burning at the stake.

Posted by: DAY on March 27, 2011 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Religious liberty means to have the freedom to be bigoted and discriminatory toward other religions.

Posted by: Todd for VT House on March 27, 2011 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

"one wonders if Herman Cain is a liberal plant, running to make Republicans look ridiculous."

Cain puts them in their comfort zone. And, they know that the American masses generally won't believe or care that he's the equivalent to the Taliban in America.

The MSLP doesn't exist to point it out, so why should they worry about such things?

Posted by: Mark-NC on March 27, 2011 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

"Romney said he would not consider Muslim Americans for his cabinet"

Just wondering if Cain would pick a Mormon? You know - like Mitt Romney.

Posted by: Mark-NC on March 27, 2011 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Cain is not a "liberal plant" -- he's a teabaggin' vegetable. And he's a good example of why right-wingers should not be elected or appointed -- they are committed to "gradually ease xenophobia, bigotry, incompetence and theocracy into our government".

Posted by: Bo on March 27, 2011 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

It's interesting to note that these arguments are never really about religion as philosophy, but about religion as the primary symbol of tribal allegiance. Republicans know that stoking tribal divisions is the key to swaying the votes of the vast majority of Americans.

Posted by: DelCapslock on March 27, 2011 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

All these crackpot candidates are creating a sort of Overton window of stupidity. The more moronic the drivel that flows from the mouths of Cain, Bachmann, Palin, etc, the more comparative heft is given to the intellects of Romney, Pawlenty and Gingrich.
What to call this positioning? I'd suggest the Quayle window, since his stupidity has acquired a certain venerability over time.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on March 27, 2011 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Steve! Seriously!? Haven't you read all of those bills Rep. Keith Ellison has introduced that would make sharia the law of the land, and demanding that all non-Muslims be put to death???

You haven't? Must be a plot by those pinko commie libruls!

Posted by: seriously!? on March 27, 2011 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Although northern mainline Protestants began to discard anti-semitism after WWII and bigotry toward Catholic people in the JFK period, Protestantism has long been united by this kind of religious bigotry, which is served by their own doctrines of Grace, Calvinism, etc. The fera of "papists" united everyone from High Church Episcopalians and freethinking Unitarians to snake handles for generations. This is merely the newest manifestation. The "Social Gospel" aside, many of the same arguments enabled the embrace of robber barons, as well. The great paradox of Proetstantism is that it strains of it often have evolved away from this nonsense, but constantly births new versions of it.

Posted by: Rich on March 27, 2011 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

"I does not care"

Kind of shows you the level of education that Rep. Cain is trying to appeal to.

If Dems were smart, they'd find a candidate named "Abel" ... remember, "Cain" was the bad one.

Posted by: zandru on March 27, 2011 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Very much akin to gesinnung - Attitude of group-think "Love thy neighbor, as thyself". As long as that neighbor is of the same ethnic group and political and/or religious belief as thyself. Such attitudes can, seemingly, work for the common good of society, but, as in Germany and Japan, especially, as well as others, they have been co-opted by government, at times in the past, for evil purposes. I notice these bible toting Baptists in Iowa and other locales, fail to remember, when their Baptist forefathers were forced to pay taxes for the Congrgational Church which was state sanctioned.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 27, 2011 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

He thinks that Muslims are trying to do it because that is what he is trying to do. A good follow-up question could have focused on making him explain how that was different that what Xtian conservatives are attempting to accomplish.

Posted by: john on March 27, 2011 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Quayle window...excellent idea! Thanks, hells littlest angel.

Posted by: Athena on March 27, 2011 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Viable candidate or not, this should be a GOP bumpersticker...
'I does not care, I feel the way I feel.'

Posted by: SYSPROG on March 27, 2011 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

"I does not care, I feel the way I feel."

Nice! At long last, the G.O.P. has a slogan. It applies to Birthers, gun freaks, Limbots, opponents of the Affordable Care Act who don't know what it contains, Palin supporters, and all others who vote against their own self interest.

The slogan fits neatly on a T-shirt or bumper sticker. Bonus points for faux populist grammatical error.

Posted by: Charles on March 27, 2011 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

...one wonders if Herman Cain is a liberal plant, running to make Republicans look ridiculous.

Why single out Herman Cain?
~

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya on March 27, 2011 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

You can't shoot down every bit of nonsense the other side tosses into the air. There's an entire sky full of threatening nonsense you'd have to shoot down, and by the time you got 1/100th of the way through, the election is over, and you've lost.

You have to clearly state YOUR message of hope, decency, justice, compassion, and sell that by getting EVERYBODY on board repeating short, memorable little bumper sticker phrases which voters can understand, remember, and repeat to their friends and neighbors.

Posted by: ferd on March 27, 2011 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

If conservatives accuse someone of secretly doing something, it means they are doing it themselves. Fundamentalists hatched a plan years ago to get onto school boards, etc., and (for at least some of them) to hide their more extreme beliefs until they worked their way up to higher office, when they would pass laws to enforce a "Christian nation." There were even documents written about it. This makes it entirely plausible to them that someone else would try to do the same thing.

Posted by: Redshift on March 27, 2011 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

"I does not care, I feel the way I feel."

I'm sure that phrase has been heard before - perhaps at a lynching...

Posted by: Matt on March 27, 2011 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Ouch" !

"Romney said he would not consider Muslim Americans for his cabinet"

Just wondering if Cain would pick a Mormon? You know - like Mitt Romney.
Posted by: Mark-NC

Herman Cain may have been adopting the accent of his grandfather . Perhaps as innocently as the Secretary of State was in applying her skills in adopting the local relevant accents for James Cleveland's hymn "I don't feel noways tired."
Then again maybe another word less social than innocently , for accuracy , like viciously .

In reviling the rock ribbed reactionary revolutionaries whose vision of discipline forms as restrictive a Utopia an airless tomb brings to mind , the seductive limits of such strict speech invites no need to reach for ridicule . It isn't necessary to retch either but an infinitely limited diet of this proven emetic is beyond enough to make what's down come up .

Posted by: FRP on March 27, 2011 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

I wish people running for high office would actually read the Constitution. I read so much about "strict constructionism". Yet religious tests for political office are forbidden in Article VI, Paragraph 3 of the U.S. Constitution. I'm sure if I asked one of these "big brained" politicians they would tell me Art. VI only refers to tests among Christians. That the Founding Fathers didn't mean Muslims, Jews, Hindus or Buddists.

Posted by: Robert Bailey on March 27, 2011 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

That the Founding Fathers didn't mean Muslims, Jews, Hindus or Buddists.

Actually, they probably did not, since none of those religions existed in the new world at the time (well maybe some Jews, I don't know). there is a fair amount of contemporary literature that indicates the main religious questions at the time were between/among Christian sects, and did not really anticipate or consider other religions as part of the mix. It points to your larger question about Constitutional interpretation, though, which is how to interpret language created in one context and apply it in modern times when the situation is dramatically different.

Posted by: DelCapslock on March 27, 2011 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

@DelCapslock

The founding fathers most assuredly intended to mean non-Christian religions -- go read Thomas Jefferson's autobiography -- in earlier threads this week some posters have quoted Jefferson explicitly stating that they did not intend religious freedom to only be for Christians.

Posted by: HokieAnnie on March 27, 2011 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

HokieAnnie,
I'd like to see those references. I have the complete writings of Jefferson in front of me, and I've read what I thought was everything Jefferson ever wrote about religion, and don't recall anything as expansive as you indicate, other than maybe the Treaty of Tripoli. Also my statement was not that they intended religious freedom to be only about Christians, but that the founding fathers were not thinking in terms of the world's religions, but the ones which existed in country at the time, which were all Christianity-based.

Posted by: DelCapslock on March 27, 2011 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

These Fundamentalist "Christians" don't even believe that Catholics are Christian! Don't have a clue how they let Mitt pass since he isn't a Christian either and the Mormons believe all other religions are false.
DelCapslock..have you ever been to Monticello? The staff there will tell you that Jefferson was not a Christian, rewrote his copy of the Bible to take out all the "magic" and had copies of the Koran and Torah.
These so called Christians are so afraid of the Muslims getting converts BUT it is okay for Mormons, Christians etc to go out and get converts. Talk about hypocricy.

Posted by: shanti2 on March 27, 2011 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

There was most certainly more than "Christianity" based religion in 18th Century America. There were Jewish communities as well as Muslims amongst the slave and free blacks in the US and Native American religions. See:

http://www.muslimsinamerica.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=15&Itemid=1

Quote: "In Jefferson's words, there was now "freedom for the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan, the Hindu and infidel of every denomination." The bill guaranteed, in Jefferson's own words, "that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever."

@shanti2 -- early GOP primary voters won't vote for a Mormon or Catholic. I bet the nominee ends up being Haley despite his Boss Hog looks and racist ways. Only other contender IMO is Pawlenty -- if that is he can convince votes that he is not Catholic and is now evangelical.

Posted by: HokieAnnie on March 27, 2011 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

shanti2-
Yes, I've read the Jefferson bible. I AGREE with Jefferson's take on Christianity and religion in general. My point is that none of the founding fathers, including Jefferson and Madison, argued for religious freedom in terms outside of the context of Christianity, namely because there were no Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists lobbying for religious freedom at the time. It's a subtle point, but often liberals try to believe that founding father's worldview aligned perfectly with theirs. I'm just saying they were human beings who were subject to the societal pressures of their time. That's way too much to write on a thread that's three posts down the line.

Posted by: DelCapslock on March 27, 2011 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

What a fucking creep.

Posted by: Peanuts and Cracker Jack on March 27, 2011 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Evangelical Christians are tenacious - absolutely tenacious - in their defense of religious liberty.

Unfortunately it's only for THEIR religion.

This is where all of this anti-Muslim bigotry (and let's call it what it really is, religious bigotry) comes from, from the fact that our liberal President has a Muslim name.

We wouldn't be having this debate if our President's name was John Smith instead of Barack Hussein Obama. (As an aside, I guarantee we'd be having another version of this debate as well if his last name was Sanchez, except he'd be a secret Mexican drug lord intent on making us part of Mexico.)

It's time to put them back in their place, and for liberals to reclaim religion instead of ceding it to Evangelical Fundamentalists, who are even more dangerous as Islamic Fundamentalists.

Posted by: JEA on March 27, 2011 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

> My point is that none of the founding fathers,
> including Jefferson and Madison, argued for
> religious freedom in terms outside of the
> context of Christianity, namely because there
> were no Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists lobbying for
> religious freedom at the time.

At the time of the founding the United States was essentially a seafaring and trading nation supported by a local agricultural and extractive base, with dreams of expanding into the interior. Are you seriously maintaining that cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, etc that were deeply centered around their ports and the ships that traded there were unfamiliar with non-Christian religions? No one was "lobbying for religious freedom" because outside the Puritan zones (and even in their ports) no one was launching pograms against non-Christians.

> It's a subtle point, but often liberals
> try to believe that founding father's
> worldview aligned perfectly with theirs.

Some examples, please? "Perfectly" aligned? When many of them were slaveholders, others saw no need for women to be able to speak nor yet vote, etc, and liberals think they were "perfectly" aligned with modern liberal values?

Or are you speaking of "libruls" in the Rush Limbaugh sense?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 27, 2011 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

> @delCapslock
> That the Founding Fathers didn't mean Muslims,
> Jews, Hindus or Buddists.
>
> Actually, they probably did not, since none of
> those religions existed in the new world at the
> time (well maybe some Jews, I don't know).

Seriously? Have you read any history of the colonial port towns/cities? There were sailors from every corner of the globe coming and going at these economically central and vital ports throughout that entire time period. Are you seriously maintaining that of all the million or so professional sailors of the day the only ones who visited the colonies (later the US) were Christians? What are the odds, eh?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 27, 2011 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

@DelCapsLock: please search for Jefferson's comments on the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. If you're using the term "Muslim," please realize that our Founders more commonly used the term "Mahometan" for that religion. Or see this sample of Jefferson's writing, regarding the overwhelming rejection by a "great majority" of the insertion of "Jesus Christ" in the law, "in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination." Jefferson could hardly be plainer than that: he meant to include all religions.

Posted by: Steve Bates on March 27, 2011 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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