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Anti-Muslim Rep. Bachmann Joins Catholic Law Center Board

August 3, 2012, 1:52 pm | Posted by

Thomas-More-Law-CenterThe Catholic Thomas More Law Center has already revealed itself to be more committed to promoting right-wing politics than protecting real religious rights, but they took an even more extreme step yesterday appointing anti-Muslim conspiracy theory champion Michele Bachmann to their board.

The appointment comes just as Rep. Bachmann is finding herself chastised from all sides for her sloppy, offensive attack on Muslim Americans in government. Relying on unsubstantiated conspiratorial ramblings from anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney, Bachmann publicly alleged that State Department employee Huma Abedin and fellow Minnesota Congressperson Keith Ellison have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and have “infiltrated” the government.

Despite condemnation even from conservatives such as John Boehner, John McCain, and her own former campaign advisor Ed Rollins, Bachmann has doubled down, painting herself as a valiant gladiator against political correctness.

Ultimately, Bachmann’s appointment to the TMLC board isn’t a surprise. The group’s anti-Islam bigotry is well-documented and has earned condemnation from the Becket Fund, a similar conservative religious liberty legal organization.

People of faith, and particularly Catholic leaders, should stay away from working with TMLC and any other group whose defense of religious rights stops short of our Islamic neighbors.

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Who’s Speaking at Rep. Peter King’s Hearings on Hearings Today?

June 20, 2012, 9:26 am | Posted by

Zuhdi Jasser

Today, Rep. Peter King is holding yet another round of his infamous hearings on “Muslim radicalization,” this time on the American Muslim response to his earlier hearings.

The problem, as usual, is that the central premise of King’s hearings remains untrue: Muslim Americans are neither particularly radicalized, nor are they uncooperative with law enforcement. Expert witnesses have even made a point of telling King this at the hearings themselves.

Faced with this problem, King has taken to ignoring the experts in favor of witnesses who will tell him what he already wants to hear, and this most recent round is no different. Testifying today are three people whose primary qualifications appear to be their willingness to confirm King’s conspiracy theories and falsely implicate their fellow Muslim Americans as contributing to radicalism.

Here’s a quick background on the three witnesses:

Zuhdi Jasser

Jasser, who testified at a previous round of King’s hearings, is a physician and former Navy medical officer who has become the go-to spokesman of anti-Muslim extremists looking for Muslim allies to baptize their views. Media Matters has compiled information on Jasser here, and he was prominently featured in the Center for American Progress’s Fear Inc. report as one of the Muslim “validators” for Islamaphobic activists.

Jasser most recently came under scrutiny for serving as the narrator for the documentary The Third Jihad, an anti-Islamic movie produced by the right-wing Clarion Fund (whose board Jasser also sits on). The film prompted a major scandal earlier this year after NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly admitted to voluntarily appearing in it and showing it in training sessions for officers.

Asra Nomani

Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal writer most notable for her support of the misleading and dangerous tactic of profiling people who appear to be Muslims at airports, her defense of NYPD’s illegal spying and religious profiling program, and, of course, her support for King’s original hearings.

Writing in The Guardian today, Nomani previews her testimony at today’s hearing, reiterating these extreme views and attacking critics of the hearings.

Qanta Ahmed

A British doctor who grew up in London, Ahmed wrote mostly about international issues and her experience practicing medicine in Saudi Arabia before penning two op-eds in support of King’s initial hearings and another one the following year defending NYPD.

Ahmed’s invitation to speak appears to be the result of a chance meeting with King at her hospital. She also seems to have connected with the Clarion Fund, which published an interview with her earlier this month in which she attacks Muslim-American organizations despite admitting she has no contact with them.

Faiza Patel

The minority witness is an actual expert on human rights and the legal issues related to counterterrorism, serving as Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center. She has specifically written about King’s previous hearings and the deficiencies of his and his witnesses arguments.

Photo source: Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

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Catholic Bishop Repeats Right-Wing Smear About Islam in Health Care Law, Ctd.

June 18, 2012, 1:51 pm | Posted by

Bishop William LoriLast week we highlighted a question from Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz at the Catholic Bishops’ General Assembly in Atlanta repeating a right-wing smear that the Affordable Care Act contains a broad exemption for Muslims.

But just as shocking as the question itself was the response — or rather, non-response — he got from the session speakers, Baltimore Bishop William Lori and Catholic University of America President John Garvey. Lori joked that Bruskewitz “must have got a lot further in that act than I did” and Garvey said they should consult the lawyers.

Greg Metzger draws out the real trouble with these responses:

Here are the two men at the forefront of the bishops’ efforts to convey competence and compassion to the Catholic community and the broader public. They regularly trumpet the notion that the bishops’ efforts are for the common good of all Americans. And yet in the face of a question advancing the supposition that an entire religious group is receiving the exemptions the Catholic community is supposedly being denied, they have nothing more to say than “we don’t know”? This is beyond absurd, it is scandalous. Bishop Lori–you really don’t know if the document you have spent the better part of the last 18 months criticizing does or does not allow for an entire religious group to exempt itself from its reach? Then why should we trust your judgments about the President’s actions on religious freedom? Why should we trust your stated commitment to represent religious freedom for all, when you are ignorant of even the most basic facts related to a major religious group and its standing before the very law that you have made your reputation upon criticizing?

Thankfully, as Mollie Wilson O’Reilly notes at dotCommonweal, Bishop Pates set the record straight with the answer to the question before his remarks in the next session.

As O’Reilly also notes, however, there’s a further question that needs to be asked. Given that the Bishops’ professed standard is that any entity that objects to federal mandates on moral grounds should be exempt, why would a Muslim exemption be objectionable?:

A straightforward answer to Bruskewitz’s question might force the bishops into an uncomfortable position. After all, based on their reasoning about the HHS contraception mandate, if Muslims did object on moral and religious grounds to buying health insurance, shouldn’t they be allowed to refuse? Wouldn’t that make this an unjust law, and therefore no law at all, where they are concerned?

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Catholic Bishop Repeats Right-Wing Smear About Islam in Health Care Law

June 14, 2012, 12:01 pm | Posted by

Yesterday, the U.S. Catholic Bishops began their summer general assembly which prominently featured a long afternoon session on religious liberty. Following presentations from Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty Chair Bishop William Lori and Catholic University of America President John Garvey, the floor was opened for questions and comments from fellow bishops.

One of the bishops who took the mic was Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska. Prefacing his question with the caveat that he hasn’t actually read the Affordable Care Act, he asked about a rumor he had heard:

I haven’t had a chance to read the Obamacare Protection Act, but somebody told me that there’s a total exemption for Muslims in the back of that act, that all Muslims are exempt because insurance for Muslims is a type of gambling which is contrary to the Koran and therefore Muslims are not obliged in any way to observe the insurance mandate which derives from the act. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, I just want to know if any of you know anything about it.

The allegation that the Obama administration is giving broad exemptions to Muslim Americans is a self-evidently ridiculous right-wing myth meant to further shameful smears of the President as un-Christian and un-American.

It’s shocking to think that Bishop Bruskewitz not only believed there was a chance this smear was true, but also that he was willing to repeat it in a publicly-broadcast forum. When concerned Catholics warn of the dangerous influence of Republican politics among Church leadership lately, this kind of revelation only bolsters their point.

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Robert George Condemns Anti-Muslim Bigotry While Funding It

June 7, 2012, 2:47 pm | Posted by

A long-simmering conflict between two conservative religious liberty organizations has come to a head, with board members of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty recently releasing a statement publicly condemning a staff member of the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) for a tweet disparaging the Muslim faith as a threat to “destroy the US” and not a religion.

The release comes after a private letter to TMLC President Richard Thompson in March went unanswered. It’s authored by board members Bill Mumma, Mary Ann Glendon and Robert George. Said George:

If the Thomas More Law Center professes itself to be a defender of religious liberty, let it follow the lead of the Becket Fund in standing up for the rights of all. Religious freedom organizations should be leading the fight against religious bigotry; they should not be practicing it against our Muslim fellow citizens or anyone else.

While the other authors deserve credit for speaking out against this hateful bigotry, it raises larger questions about Dr. George in particular. Namely, if he opposes these kinds of views so strongly, why does he continue to associate with a group that funnels millions of dollars to extremists that hold them?

As I’ve highlighted before, Professor George sits on the board of the conservative Bradley Foundation, which has given some of the worst anti-Islam organizations in the country over $4 million in the last few years. Their grantees are the very people responsible for the kind of rhetoric and anti-Muslim activism George condemns the TMLC for spreading.

When confronted about this apparent disparity, Dr. George was unwilling to talk about it and expressed no indication that he sees any problem with his involvement in a foundation that incubates the hatred he purports to condemn.

Speaking out for the religious rights of Muslims is admirable, but a true ally would lead with his actions.

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