The major Republican candidates seem to be using a new stealth strategy for sneaking their placating of their Religious Right base into mainstream discourse. Mitt Romney’s recent speech - sadly contrasted with JFK’s famous speech on his religion in its implications - was one case in point.
Unfortunately, the corporate media seem to be enabling this strategy, treating extreme statements as mainstream, and illustrating their appalling lack of knowledge about the religion clauses of the Constitution.Yesterday on his show, Chris Matthews took issue with Rachel Maddow’s comment that a call for a “Christian Nation” has become a mainstream Republican position in this election - challenging her to come up with an example from a current candidate. Luckily, the research folks at Think Progress have found this 1998 speech, in which Huckabee calls for taking back the nation for Christ:
“’I didn’t get into politics because I thought government had a better answer. I got into politics because I knew government didn’t have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives. […]
I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ.’”
Perhaps Matthews will apologize to Maddow for his ignorance. His cluelessness on the issue of church-state separation was even more on display when he said that we’ve never had complete separation, because the Civil Rights movement was led by clergy. This is an astoundingly misguided statement. First, of course, the clergy who petitioned the government in the 1960’s - on an issue (as opposed to a candidate) - were not representatives of the government. As such, their actions had no bearing on government establishment of religion. But the significance of Matthews’ misconception goes much deeper, for it is for just that reason - the important role that religious leaders can play in speaking truth to power - that church-state separation is so crucial. If the Religious Right base of the Republican Party has its way, houses of worship will become arms of the government, handing out government-funded assistance, and thereby losing their independence.The enabling of distortion continued yesterday with Lou Dobbs’ interview of Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. After giving lip service to having no religious tests for public office, Perkins smilingly launches into this rather extreme statement:
“We're not a country that has embraced a secular world view. We are a country that has embraced a Christian world view. That is what our legal system is founded upon.”It would be an understatement to say that Perkins distorts the Constitution. For instance, if our government is based on Christianity, then how does Perkins explain the Treaty of Tripoli, in which the very opposite was declared? If the Founders were trying to base the Constitution on any religion, they had a funny way of showing it, leaving out any such references in the document. Beyond constitutional issues, such statements are sad displays of intolerance. The notion of a Christian Nation obviously creates millions of second-class citizens. In addition, as Maddow pointed out to Matthews, once you open the door to church-state union, such ugly exchanges as the recent disparaging characterization of Mormonism by Huckabee - for which he apologized - become more commonplace.
Disappointingly, Dobbs let Perkins statement go unchallenged, as if it goes without saying.
The corporate media stars need to go back to civics class.