Romney and Ryan Court Leaders of Anti-Muslim Hate Fest
Photo Credit: A.M. Stan
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This article has been updated.
If there’s anything we know about evangelical Christians, it’s that they comprise a remarkably effective voting block, and the religious right has been a core part of the Republican coalition for decades.
So it comes as no surprise, perhaps, that the two top members of the Republican ticket, presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running-mate, Paul Ryan, would court the Family Research Council at its recent Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., where, on Friday, Ryan delivered a speech, and Romney appeared via video message. But what is appalling is that the event this duo endorsed quickly devolved into a hate fest directed against an American religious minority.
At the podium in the massive ballroom of the Omni Shoreham Hotel, and in the breakout sessions that followed, the conference’s Saturday line-up seemed contrived to demonize Muslims as liars, infiltrators and worse -- and one speaker, retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, sought to direct U.S. foreign policy in ways that could affect the outcome of the presidential election, by calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to strike Iran before November 6.
Religious Tolerance -- For Whom?
At the Saturday plenary session, FRC promoted itself as being all about religious tolerance. "Our founding fathers considered religious liberty our first freedom," intoned FRC president Tony Perkins. "It was the bedrock on which all our freedoms rest."
Perkins then introduced a panel of right-wing activists who set out to enrage the audience with tales of Christian students in American public schools being prohibited from praying, thanks to secular school boards and “activist” judges. One story that drew audible anger from the crowd was of a student in at Medina (not that Muslim one!) High School in Texas who was unable to invoke a call to prayer during her valedictorian speech.
But the discussion quickly turned from the supposed suppression of the Christian faith in the United States to the ostensible privileging of the Islamic one. Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes condemned the Obama administration's criticism of an anti-Islam film that has sparked protests in the Middle East.
"This is not about a film, this is about free speech!" proclaimed Starnes, to thunderous applause from the audience. Overnight, news had broken of the questioning by law enforcement authorities of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, one of the makers of the anti-Islam video, “Innocence of Muslims,” that has inflamed the Islamic world. Nakoula, an Egyptian-born Christian who is currently serving a sentence for bank fraud, was interviewed to determine whether he had violated the terms of his parole, which prohibits him from going on the internet, through his involvement with video, which was posted on YouTube.
In Starnes’ telling, though, the interrogation of Nakoula was government “intimidation” of a “Christian filmmaker.” He did not mention that Nakoula was a felon on parole.
Ironically, Starnes runs a Web site at Fox News Radio where he routinely condemns what he views as anti-Christian or anti-American behavior.
My God is Bigger Than Yours
But the other speakers at the plenary panel were small fish compared to Jerry Boykin. The retired U.S. Army lieutenant general was perhaps more fitted for being to a case study on religious hostility than to lecture an audience about it.
Boykin, whom FRC hired in July to become its executive vice president, has a controversial history of Muslim-bashing, such as when he claimed that the war on terror was a spiritual war between Muslims and "Christian America" in 2003. (That didn’t stop Romney from meeting with him in August.)