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Robert George Refuses to Explain Funding Anti-Muslim Extremists

March 1, 2012, 3:27 pm | By Kristin Ford

Last November, Fear, Inc., an extensive Center for American Progress report, revealed who was funding prominent anti-Islam organizations.  One of the financial sponsors of Islamophobia they unearthed was the Bradley Foundation.

As we noted, prominent Catholic intellectual Robert George sits on the board of this foundation and hasn’t reconciled this position with his ostensible public commitment to defending the religious freedom of Muslims

Nick caught up with Robert George today at an event hosted by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center and asked about this contradiction:

Here’s what Nick asked and George’s response:

FAITH IN PUBLIC LIFE: So you don’t see a conflict between your being on  a board that has funded these things, as public knowledge, and your personal beliefs about this?

GEORGE: My record is very clear. I will not discuss with you confidential matters that go on in the Bradley Board. The Bradley Foundation does fund many, many different  organizations. Some of them are run by Muslims, some of them are trying to advance good relations between Muslims and other American citizens and that’s all I have to say on the matter.

As you can see, George refused to discuss the issue, but didn’t deny the facts. He apparently thinks it’s acceptable to simultaneously stand up for Muslims’ religious freedom in public and participate in the work of an organization that’s trying to dismantle that very right. George might not see an ethical conflict here, but we do, and we’d be interested to see if the Muslim Americans he works with see that contradiction as well.

Here’s a reminder of who the people the Bradley Foundation funds, via the Fear, Inc. report:

David Horowitz

  • Described Muslims in the Middle East as “Islamic Nazis” who “want to kill Jews, that’s their agenda.”
  • Alleges that Muslim Student Associations at American schools “are Wahhabi Islamicists, and they basically support our enemies.”
  • Promulgates the debunked smear that 80% of U.S. mosques are controlled by radicals

Daniel Pipes

  • Describes his Legal Project website as “a source of information on ‘Islamist lawfare’–that is, attempts by supporters of radical Islam to suppress free discourse on Islam and terrorism by (1) exploiting Western legal systems and traditions and (2) recruiting state actors and international organizations such as the United Nations.”
  • Claims President Obama is a former Muslim who “practiced Islam.”

Frank Gaffney

  • Said “It is now public knowledge that nearly every major Muslim organization in the United States is actually controlled by the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] or a derivative organization. Consequently, most of the Muslim American groups of any prominence in America are now known to be, as a matter of fact, hostile to the United States and its Constitution.”
  • Alleged that there is “mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself.”
  • Believes that conservative paragon Grover Norquist is running a “Muslim Brotherhood influence operation” to infiltrate the conservative movement.

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Why the Blunt amendment is so bad

March 1, 2012, 10:39 am | By Kristin Ford

Roy BluntThe Senate is slated to vote today on the controversial Blunt amendment, which several Republican senators either oppose or are undecided on and which Mitt Romney weighed in on yesterday.  The Blunt amendment, which Dan deftly took down earlier this month, would allow employers to deny employees any medical treatment or service they object to for any moral reason.

The concept of putting an employer between an individual and his or her doctor is about much more than contraception– this is about giving employers veto power over the health and well-being of their employees.

Prominent faith groups, including the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, the United Methodist Church and the Union for Reform Judaism among others, have all spoken out to oppose the measure, saying ” the Blunt amendment would eviscerate critical protections in the Affordable Care Act and completely undermine a fundamental principle of the health care law—that everyone in this country deserves a basic standard of health insurance coverage.”

Unfortunately, other religious organizations are weighing in with ad campaigns and public statements endorsing the proposed amendment under the guise of religious liberty.  Catholic Advocate PAC, a conservative Catholic outfit that has financially supported Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (who has sponsored his own similar amendment), has a new video ad out.

The ad focuses solely on the recent accommodation to the HHS ruling on contraception coverage, without mentioning the litany of other medical procedures the Blunt amendment could effect.  It also conveniently neglects to clarify that the HHS exemption is for religiously based employers (churches, dioceses, and with the accommodation, religious hospitals, social service providers, and universities) and the Blunt amendment would allow any employer (from an insurance agent to a Taco Bell franchise owner to an investment banker) to deny medical coverage to their employees for almost any reason.

The Blunt amendment is an extreme attempt to dismantle critical protections under the Affordable Care Act. Well-meaning religious groups convinced to support it as a remedy to their misguided concerns about the religious accommodation are missing the forest for the trees.

It’s heartening to see faith groups and a host of other organizations taking a stand and reminding lawmakers that religious liberty and health care shouldn’t be pitted against one another.

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Still Debunking the Right’s Contraception Misinformation

February 23, 2012, 4:06 pm | By Kristin Ford

birth control pillsIrin Carmon has a great piece at Salon this week debunking the conservative myth (most recently perpetuated by Ross Douthat) that contraception access isn’t linked to lower abortion rates.  As Carmon points out,

…Even if you believe women have no right to terminate pregnancies in any circumstance, it requires serious, willful ignorance to argue that contraceptive access has nothing to with lowering the U.S.’ unusually high number of unwanted pregnancies, which is what we should really be talking about here.

Nick dealt with this same bogus argument when he interviewed Marjorie Dannenfelser of Susan B. Anthony List last year. Playing loose with the concept of causation, anti-birth control advocates attempt to explain that since contraceptive use and availability have increased in the same period abortion rates have, contraception has clearly “failed” to reduce abortions.

Carmon takes a detailed look at actual scientific studies that prove Douthat and Dannefelser wrong. She also points out that the U.S. has the highest rates of unintended pregnancy in the developed world, and that increasing access to contraception and accurate sex education can make significant strides in helping support women and families:

Spacing out and planning pregnancies (or avoiding them altogether) improves the overall health of women and babies; the federal Institute of Medicine’s own research has indicated that unintended pregnancy is linked “to a wide array of health, social and economic consequences, from delayed prenatal care and poor birth outcomes to maternal depression and family violence to a failure to achieve educational and career goals.” The new contraceptive coverage guidelines could be the single most significant pro-active policy tool to combat those consequences…

Unfortunately, too many on the Religious Right would rather use this issue as a culture-war cudgel than acknowledge the positive impact contraception has on the lives of individual women and families and our society.

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Mormonism is not a Political Monolith

February 23, 2012, 8:30 am | By Kristin Ford

mormon tabernacle

Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith has attracted a lot of attention in the presidential campaign and shone a spotlight on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For many Mormon voters, Romney’s run is a complicated matter– some are excited to see someone who shares their faith in a position of such political prominence and some worry about the backlash for other Mormons.

Now, there’s a growing drumbeat of Mormon voters breaking with the GOP (and Romney’s) stance on immigration issues.  An Associated Press article yesterday notes this trend:

As Romney continues to seek the Republican presidential nomination while rarely discussing his faith, a growing number of vocal Hispanic Mormons say they intend to use Mormon teachings as a reason to convince others not to vote for him. They have held firesides (equivalent to a tent revival) on immigration, protested outside of Romney campaign events and have traveled across state lines to help defeat other Mormon politicians with similar harsh immigration stances.

Given the LDS church’s evangelistic efforts internationally and within the U.S., it makes sense that their members would come from a wide range of ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. It also isn’t surprising that Mormons aren’t a political monolith. While they are a more conservative group than the general public, political pundits who assume all Mormons are Republicans are mistaken.

In fact, the church itself is debunking this myth – last week Mormon churches across Utah read an official church letter reminding their congregants to participate in the state’s political caucuses regardless of partisan affiliation. The letter said that “Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of the various political parties. We encourage members to attend their precinct caucus meetings.”

As conservative allegations of President Obama’s “war on religion” grow, commentators should refuse the simplistic narrative of secular liberals vs. religious conservatives. All religious groups, including Mormons, have significant diversity within their ranks about political issues and partisan identification.

Photo credit: Cook Cottage, Flickr

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Religious Right Attacks Fellow Evangelicals for Protecting Children From Mercury Poisoning

February 21, 2012, 12:41 pm | By Kristin Ford

Evangelical Environmental NetworkThe Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) has been an outspoken and prophetic advocate for common-sense environmental regulations, especially measures that would curb toxic mercury emissions which can be extremely harmful to a developing fetus.

They’ve been running a major campaign to urge Members of Congress to support these regulations as a way of protecting both God’s creation and human lives. According to Alexei Laushkin of EEN, “We believe protecting the unborn from mercury poisoning is a consistent pro-life position.”

Unfortunately, some on the Religious Right would rather stand with partisans decrying “big government” than stand up for children and pregnant women when it comes to mercury emissions. According to The Hill, several dozen Religious Right organizations are challenging EEN’s campaign, saying “most environmental causes promoted as pro-life involve little threat to human life itself, and no intent to kill anyone.”

The article goes on to point out that “mercury harms the nervous systems of children exposed in the womb and can impair learning and early development, among other harms associated with emissions of the toxic substance, according to EPA.”

It’s sadly all too predictable to see Religious Right figures clamoring to defend conservative ideology and score partisan points, even at the expense of the lives they claim to defend.  I’m glad to see EEN standing strong in the face of this cynical criticism.

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