Thursday, March 27, 2008

Crazy white preachers and their Republican friends

In November 2007, when the Deep Thinkers in the mainstream media had, by then, anointed Rudy Giuliani the Republican presidential front-runner and perhaps, because of his social liberalism (he thinks gays are people and women should decide for themselves whether to bear a child) and his no-nonsense, bomb-the-fuck-out-of-everyone approach to foreign policy, our next president in waiting, Rev. Pat Robertson formally endorsed him for all the world to see. According to Pat, only Rudy, Mr. 9.11 himself, could save the world from the "bloodlust" of Islamic terrorism. Six years before, Robertson had heartily seconded Rev. Jerry Falwell's assessment that the World Trade Center attacks were God's revenge for American society's permissive attitudes towards gays, lesbians and abortion rights. Rudy wasn't fortunate enough, though, to get the support of Bob Jones III, the president of Bob Jones University. Another former Republican presidential contender, Mitt Romney, won that prized endorsement. Here's what Bob Jones III had to say about his decision to endorse a man who, as governor of Massachusetts, once supported abortion rights and legal equality for gays.

"As a Christian I am completely opposed to the doctrines of Mormonism. But I'm not voting for a preacher. I'm voting for a president. It boils down to who can best represent conservative American beliefs, not religious beliefs."

"If it turns out to be Guiliani and Hillary we've got two pro-choice candidates, and
that would be a disaster."

A quick primer on Bob Jones: Founded as a whites-only Bible college, Bob Jones didn't admit African-Americans until 1971. From 1971-1975, it denied admission to unmarried blacks to prevent inter-racial dating. After a 1975 court order compelled Bob Jones to admit blacks without regard to marital status, the university established rules prohibiting inter-racial dating between unmarried students and punished by expulsion any student who belonged to a group advocating inter-racial dating. That same year, the IRS revoked its tax-exempt status, a decision the university challenged, and one that resulted in a Supreme Court ruling upholding the IRS's decision. Incidentally, the Reagan administration sided with Bob Jones in that case, concluding that the bigger issue of religious freedom was at stake. The Solicitor General's office refused to defend the IRS in the Supreme Court. The Court ultimately assigned William T. Coleman, a former Transportation Secretary in the Gerald Ford administration, to represent the IRS. The Court, 8-1, sided with the IRS, with only Justice William Rehnquist dissenting.

Since 1980, Bob Jones has been a regular stop for Republicans on the presidential campaign trail. Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, Dan Quayle, Pat Buchanan and Phil Gramm all paid their respects. In the 2000 Republican presidential primary, George W. Bush made an appearance there, although he later "apologized" for not using that appearance to take the university to task for its views on race and religion.

You would think that a business-minded conservative like Mitt Romney, who has experienced his fair share of religious discrimination for adherence to his Mormon faith, would have rejected Bob Jones III's endorsement. Not so:

"We're proud to have the support of Dr. Jones and look forward to his help in delivering Gov. Romney's conservative message to the voters."

In 2000, John McCain rightly branded Jerry Falwell, the granddaddy of modern televangelists and founder of the Moral Majority, as an "agent of intolerance." In 2006, McCain gave the commencement speech at Falwell's Liberty University, and the two men set aside their differences, including Falwell's comments that the 9.11 attacks were the result of "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians."

And then there's John Hagee, the Texas preacher who appears determined to give the departed Falwell and the reigning kook of political preachers, Pat Robertson, a run for their money as the nation's most prominent religious nut job. Hagee is a virulent anti-Catholic, anti-Semite, anti-gay, anti-anything and anyone who isn't a down the line Christian fundamentalist to the nth degree. McCain is proud to have the endorsement of Hagee, who has called the Catholic Church the "Great Whore," claimed the anti-Christ is Jewish, and said that Muslims are trained to kill Christians and will be part of the devil's army when Armageddon comes. McCain has also called the Rev. Rod Parsley, a self-professed "Christocrat" who ministers to the mega-World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, his "spiritual guide," even though Parsley shares Hagee's views on Islam ("a false religion"), homosexuality (an "abomination" -- nothing new there), abortion (he's likened Planned Parenthood to Nazi Germany), and calls the separation of church and state a "lie," noting that the United States is a Christian nation.

Thanks for clearing that up, Rev.

McCain welcomed Parsley's support during the Ohio primary, just as Romney welcomed Bob Jones III's support in South Carolina, just as Giuliani embraced Pat Robertson (and had nothing but nice things to say about his parish priest, Monsignor Alan Placa, who was accused of molesting two teenage students and an altar boy when he taught at various Catholic schools in New York during the 1970s and against whom criminal proceedings began in 2002 but were dropped due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Giuliani hired Placa to work at his consulting firm after the church told Placa to stop performing his priestly duties).

And let's give a tip of the cap to former Republican presidential aspirant Rev. Mike Huckabee, whose "aw-shucks" country boy act concealed some woefully nutty views on life in the modern world. Just like his Republican colleagues, Huckabee was never really asked to explain his views on evolution (doesn't believe in it), abortion rights and the usual menu of crazy religious causes, pet peeves and so on. Doesn't matter when running for the presidency, he said. Apparently, the mainstream media didn't think so either, because they never really pressed him on it. C'mon, now . . . the guy lost a lot of weight, plays guitar and bass, and is funny in a sort of Reader's Digest way . . . why should his views on science, economics, religion and world politics matter?

The Republicans get a pass. Barack Obama, on the other hand, gets it from all sides, including the nation's Interrogator-in-Chief, Tim Russert, who demanded that Obama renounce and reject and cast off and stone and throw in the lake and blast into outer space the Rev. Jerimiah Wright, then cut his brake lines, blow up his front yard and kick his ass one-on-one on the basketball court, before declaring him an enemy combatant and shipping him off to Guantanamo Bay. Put Hillary in Russert's corner on that one, although she still hasn't had to explain, nor has her husband, why Wright was invited to the White House for a "prayer breakfast" in 1998 as part of the "spiritual team" to help Clinton find his way back from the Monica Lewinsky saga, an event Hillary attended.

Perhaps Geraldine Ferraro was right after all: Barack Obama's racial background does confer on him a special sort of treatment. White politicians can have all the crazy preacher friends they want. But blacks? Mmmm . . . not so much.

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