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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As the presidential race progresses, attacks on the President Obama’s faith have reemerged in the media. Most prominently, Franklin Graham went on MSNBC to perpetuate tired conspiracy theories about the sincerity of the President’s religious beliefs.
In response, Christian leaders from all denominations (including FPL’s own executive director Rev. Jennifer Butler) have come together to speak out against the misuse of faith as a tool for political gain.
leaders have signed a letter that calls for the media, public officials and other Christians to dispel misrepresentations of the President’s faith, along with the false notion that the President is waging “war on religion.” It says in part:
This gift of grace should remind Christians to enter the public square with a spirit of humility and respond to all we’ve been given (and forgiven) by serving our neighbor and protecting the vulnerable. That’s how we strengthen our witness. Using faith as a partisan tool weakens it.
See the full text and list of signers here.
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You’ve probably heard by now that Franklin Graham was yet again impugning President Obama’s faith on a cable news show yesterday. In addition to the usual dog-whistle rhetoric (“He has said he’s a Christian, so I just have to assume that he is,”), Graham overtly dabbled in conspiracy theory. Asked by the host if the president is “categorically not a Muslim,” Graham said “I can’t say categorically because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama and we see the Arab Spring and coming out of the Arab Spring the Islamists are taking control of the Middle East.”
Franklin Graham casting doubt on the president’s faith is a dog-bites-man story at this point, and Graham doesn’t need my help to make himself look like a demagogue — but it’s worth mentioning just how deeply wrong these attacks are. Not only does he dishonestly impugn the President’s Christian faith, he also advances anti-Muslim bigotry and puts forth a discrediting image of Christian leadership.
A pastor should not go on national television to speculate about the sincerity of other people’s Christian faith – especially to score political points. Franklin Graham should apologize to the President, and cable news shows should stop giving his religious bigotry and dishonesty a public platform. He has demonstrated a clear lack of credibility as a commentator on faith and politics.
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Faithful America has been running a campaign asking MSNBC to stop booking hate-group leader Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, on their shows. Perkins appears as a frequent contributor without being balanced by a progressive Christian leader or challenged for his organization’s hateful lies about the LGBT community.
While MSNBC is far and away the most frequent offender, other networks give Perkins a platform too. But on CNN earlier this month, anchor Don Lemon finally provided an example of how to do this right, challenging Perkins for his organization’s silence on violence against gays and lesbians.
Equality Matters adds context:
Though Perkins denies condoning violence against gays and lesbians, he’s made a living out of peddling homophobic myths that depict LGBT people as threats, predators, and enemies of the state.
Perkins’ FRC also has also long opposed efforts to protect gays and lesbians from violence. The organization has been a vocal opponent of efforts to include sexual orientation in anti-bullying and hate crime legislation. FRC Senior Fellow Peter Sprigg has openly advocated for the criminalization of homosexuality and even suggested that gay people should be exported out of the country.
Good on Lemon for speaking up. Hopefully other anchors and networks will take notice and stop giving this hate group credibility and a free pass.
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