Tara Culp-Ressler, Faith in Public Life’s Executive and Development Assistant, came to FPL after graduating from American University and interning with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and Interfaith Voices. She blogs about immigration and economic issues.
Earlier this month, we reported on emerging signs of tension between the GOP and the Religious Right, including the suggestion that using life issues as a litmus test for social conservatives may divide Republicans and distract the party from their White House goals. This is confirmed by the current controversy around Mitt Romney’s decision not to sign an anti-abortion pledge sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony List.
The pledge requires signers to commit to anti-abortion measures such as defunding Planned Parenthood. Although the majority of the Republican candidates signed on, Romney declined, echoing the same point Eliot Spitzer made to Tony Perkins about the dangerous redefinition of federal funding. In an essay published in the National Review Online, Romney clarifies his position:
“As much as I share the goals of the Susan B. Anthony List, its well-meaning pledge is overly broad and would have unintended consequences. That is why I could not sign it. It is one thing to end federal funding for an organization like Planned Parenthood; it is entirely another to end all federal funding for thousands of hospitals across America. That is precisely what the pledge would demand and require of a president who signed it.”
Romney’s decision is already affecting his standing with the Religious Right. In a statement released yesterday, the president of the SBA List expresses doubts about Romney’s commitment to active anti-abortion leadership: “Our next president must recognize the urgency of addressing over a million abortions per year…Governor Romney refused to take the pledge and his explanation raises more questions than answers. In good conscience, we cannot let this rest.” And Deal Hudson, the president of Catholic Advocate, wonders whether anti-abortion advocates will see this as a simple disagreement or as a deal breaker. As he points out, some conservatives may look at Romney’s failure to sign the SBA pledge as an “example of why the former governor of Massachusetts cannot be trusted as the 2012 GOP nominee.”
Although Romney is currently leading in the polls, can he maintain his popularity if the Religious Right continues to criticize him for being too weak on abortion issues? And if he wins the nomination, will these organizations continue to oppose him or suddenly change their mind for “party unity”?
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Over the past year, increased anti-Muslim sentiment has led to a rash of bills to address some state legislators’ unfounded fears about the potential encroachment of sharia law. Despite the unconstitutionality and unintended consequences of many of these laws, they have been introduced in more than a dozen states across the country.
A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union, “Nothing to Fear: Debunking the Mythical ‘Sharia Threat’ to Our Judicial System,” dismantles this “anti-sharia” rhetoric through an analysis of the recent court cases that have been cited as “evidence” of this supposed threat. Unsurprisingly, the study found no grounds to support the misguided claims that sharia law poses any kind of threat to the U.S. courts.
“There is no evidence that Islamic law is encroaching on our courts. On the contrary, the court cases cited by anti-Muslim groups as purportedly illustrative of this problem actually show the opposite: Courts treat lawsuits that are brought by Muslims or that address the Islamic faith in the same way that they deal with similar claims brought by people of other faiths or that involve no religion at all. These cases also show that sufficient protections already exist in our legal system to ensure that courts do not become impermissibly entangled with religion or improperly consider, defer to, or apply religious law where it would violate basic principles of U.S. or state public policy.
…It does not take a lawyer or expert to see that the cases are routine legal matters and do not stand for the principles that proponents of anti-Sharia measures contend. Rather, these cases are red herrings, meant to distract from the true aim of the recently proposed Sharia bans – to denigrate an entire faith system and to deny its followers the same access to the judicial system enjoyed by citizens of other creeds.”
As the report concludes, our legal system has built-in protections to prevent the improper use of foreign, international, or religious law – just the type of situation the “anti-sharia” proponents seem to fear. Perhaps our politicians ought to put more trust in our legal system to do its job instead of making up silly excuses to pass discriminatory bills that stoke fear and hatred of Muslims.
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