Following Franklin Graham’s unfair attack on the President’s faith last week, Tim King of Sojourners called ’foul’ in a BBC debate with Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio.
While Fischer once more defended Graham’s attack on President Obama, Tim called out Graham’s duplicity:
When Graham was asked about the President’s faith, he said he didn’t know. But when he was asked about Santorum and Gingrich, he could answer with certainty what he thought was in their hearts and whether or not they were Christians. [T]he standard was for Democrats: “well, maybe you’re a Christian, maybe not?” But if you’re a Republican, then “yes, [you’re a Christian.]“
In an article featured Wednesday on CNN’s Belief Blog, Tim further articulated how this partisan hypocrisy by the Religious Right is driving young people away from religion altogether.
When Franklin Graham sets up double standards of faith for Republicans and Democrats, when Pat Robertson intones about a coming “secular atheist dictatorship,” when the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins goes off about the dangers of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and other “anti-family, anti-religious, anti-Christian policies,” when the great test for the next President of our country is who has “real” theology and who has “phony” theology, it might make for good sound bites.
But it’s bad faith [and]…it’s hastening the decline of Christianity for an entire generation.
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Ed Kilgore has a great post today about Rick Santorum’s failure to win Catholic voters in Michigan last night. Here’s Ed:
…based on prior evidence, there’s really no particular reason to think the “Catholic vote” was ever Santorum’s to lose. His voting base has always been conservative evangelical Protestants, who also make up a high percentage of the voters fixated on making abortion illegal, a particularly strong Santorum demographic. I’m sure the JFK slur didn’t help, but this is one “surprise” in Michigan that really shouldn’t have been that surprising.
The exit polls strongly support Ed’s diagnosis. Santorum’s strongest support came from voters who think abortion is the most important issue (77%) and people who think abortion should always be illegal (60%), and he bested Romney by 16 percentage points among evangelicals and 42 percentage points among voters who said the candidates’ religious beliefs matter a great deal.
A couple of other things from the exits jumped out at me:
- Santorum dominated among the hard right, winning 50% of voters who identify as “very conservative,” compared to Romney’s 36% support among this group.
- Romney continued to garner support from wealthy voters and struggle among middle-class and blue-collar voters. Romney won 55% of voters with incomes of $200k or more, but Santorum beat him among
all other income brackets those who make less than $100k.
On the whole, the exits suggest that the contest between Santorum and Romney looks a lot like a face-off between the GOP base and the well-heeled establishment.
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Last week, Franklin Graham set off a media firestorm when, in an interview on MSNBC, he unequivocally vouched for Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich’s faith but falsely insinuated that President Obama’s Christian faith might be insincere. Graham even alleged that the president could be complicit in a secret plot by the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate the government.
The incident drove home to me just how surreal our public dialogue about religion and politics has become. Given his extensive history of bigoted rhetoric and baseless attacks on the President’s faith, it’s a shame that Graham was invited on air in the first place. The media seems all too willing to manufacture political controversy by inflaming religious bigotry.
In the wake of Graham’s offensive comments, I joined more than 100 faith leaders in releasing a letter standing up for the President’s faith and condemning politically motivated attacks against it. Faith leaders also held a press teleconference call to defend the President by pointing to their experiences working with the administration to strengthen their communities. Prominent evangelical pastor Joel Hunter penned an op-ed in The Hill explaining his personal, pastoral relationship with President Obama.
In addition to setting the record straight, our statements helped further the growing narrative that the faith community rejects the Religious Right’s political divisiveness. People of faith have spoken out continually on this matter. More than 20,000 members of Faithful America recently called on MSNBC to stop inviting Tony Perkins (head of Family Research Council, a Religious Right organization designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) onto their network. Earlier this month, more than 1,000 pastors signed a pledge to hold politicians accountable for religious attacks, and a diverse coalition of prominent religious groups released a statement calling on candidates to refrain from religiously divisive campaigning.
There’s plenty of room for reasonable differences of opinion on the appropriate uses of religion in politics. What sounds like authentic witness to some might sound like religious pandering to others. But personal attacks on individuals’ religious beliefs for political gain are clearly beyond the pale, and the vast majority of people of faith reject them. Let’s make sure the media and the Religious Right get the memo.
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Responding to recent attacks on President Obama’s faith and accusations that he’s waging a “war on religion,” evangelical pastor Joel Hunter published an op-ed in The Hill yesterday to call attention to the President’s personal religiosity and his commitment to supporting faith-based institutions.
Hunter references Franklin Graham’s offensive statements suggesting the President isn’t actually a Christian and responds directly to an attack against the Obama administration from a formerhead of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives under President Bush, Jim Towey:
Many persons during an election season judge the faith of leaders simply by their policy stance. And there always will be issues upon which we disagree.
However, demonizing the president, implying a nefarious conspiracy, and ignoring the tremendous advancement that has taken place in faith communities partnering with the government in answering people’s needs is mis-informed and incorrect.
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After watching Franklin Graham continue to refuse to acknowledge the President’s Christian faith and spread anti-Muslim conspiracy theories in an appearance on Morning Joe Tuesday, Chris Matthews spoke out on Hardball against media networks (including his own) continuing to book the offensive pastor:
MATTHEWS: I think we should stop inviting this guy to talk about politics. He should stay out of the — I mean, I love the bookings on Morning Joe. I love the guests. In this case, I think this guy should not be in the public square talking politics,”
As Dan explained yesterday, we agree! People willing to attack faith and spread hate don’t deserve the endorsement and platform that national media appearances provide.
But Matthews’s truth-telling on this issue raises an important question: Why doesn’t he hold his own show to the same standard when it comes to the similarly problematic Tony Perkins?
When Perkins’s organization the Family Research Council was declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in November 2010, Perkins went on Matthews’s show to make the nasty, false accusation that “homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men.” Since then Perkins has been welcomed back to MSNBC 23 times.
And Hardball has been one of his prime destinations; Matthews himself has started calling Perkins his “ol’ pal” because he appears so frequently. (In a particular twist of irony, Matthews earlier this month boasted about how he wouldn’t invite Graham on his show in the middle of a segment with Perkins!)
Given this double standard, it’s clear that either Matthews doesn’t know the extent of Tony Perkins’s record of dishonesty, or he doesn’t think Perkins’s extreme and deceptive rhetoric rises to the same level as Graham’s.
That’s the question Bishop Gene Robinson and 20,000 people of faith with Faithful America have been asking as well. Today, Michael Sherrard, director of the online community of people of faith, released this statement:
Chris Matthews said yesterday that Franklin Graham shouldn’t be ‘in the public square talking politics’ because of his extremist rhetoric. It’s a shame Matthews doesn’t hold his own guests to the same standard. Matthews regularly hosts Tony Perkins despite Perkins’s hateful, dishonest rhetoric against gays and lesbians.
Perkins’s Family Research Council is classified as a hate group for, among other things, accusing gays and lesbians of child molestation and predicting gay military personnel would rape fellow service members. I hope Matthews doesn’t think these views are appropriate for the public square. He needs to stop offering Tony Perkins an opportunity to misrepresent the views of Christian voters on national television.
Learn more about Faithful America’s campaign here.
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