I came across a blog today that mentioned a recent episode of “Hardball” on MSNBC (March 30th). The guests were Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights activist and former Democratic Presidential candidate, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (a conservative religious organization). The topic was “Is Christianity under attack?”
I had posted an earlier entry concerning the myth of Christian persecution in the US and how the right wing of the Republican party is co-opting that scare tactic for the upcoming elections. (see: Still the Biggest Lie: Christians in the US are persecuted)
I also mentioned that a conference was going to held to scare evangelicals some more to get them to vote GOP in 2006. It was called “War on Christians and the Values Voters of 2006” sponsored by a right wing Republican front group called Vision America that included speakers like Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, Sen. John Cornyn, Phyllis Schlafly, Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Tom DeLay. (You are probably thinking “where are the religious people” – me too.)
It seems that Pastor Rick Scarborough, the founder and leader of Vision America, in introducing Rep. Tom DeLay, former majority leader in the US House of Represenatives, told the audience that DeLay was in legal trouble because he stood up for Jesus. The inference being that DeLay’s legal troubles came about because he is a hardcore religious conservative – as if the charges aren’t really true. (See: Tom DeLay corruption investigation)
On “Hardball” Rev Al Sharpton called religious conservatives on the ridiculous notion:
But I would like Tony to tell me how what Tom DeLay is facing has anything to do with his religion or any religion at all. I mean, I think it’s an insult to Christians to act like because of his religion, he’s been charged with what he’s been charged with. It has nothing to do with his religion.
I think everyone said that at this meeting this weekend that was cited when we came on. He was introduced as a man that was being persecuted because he stood up for Jesus. Tell me how Jesus and being accused of embezzling funds is the same thing. What chapter did you get that out of the New Testament?
Is Christianity under attack? (Video is included on the site)
Sharpton was a breath of fresh air, pointing out the myth of Christian persecution. Perkins even had to concede the point:
Well, clearly, it’s not a war on Christianity like we talked about last week with Abdul Rahman and what he was under, but it’s a hostility nonetheless.
I mean, you ask any parent if America today, they’re concerned. Their kids cannot pray in school, graduations, football games, no prayer, even the pledge.
Finally Sharpton but the nail on the issue:
SHARPTON: I think that it is absolutely insulting to the intelligence of Christians. You’re not going to meet anyone that believes in Christ more than me, but I believe in converting people, not forcing people to following my religion. We are living in what we want to be a democracy, not a theocracy, and it is dangerous to try and move in that direction.
PERKINS: And that’s what we’re saying. Let us live as we want to live.
SHARPTON: Well then you don’t put your cross up on public emblems.
I checked out the Vision America site as I wrote this entry and I could not find any video or transcripts from their conference. I assume they will have DVDs or audio tapes for sale – they have to raise money some how.
What I did find out proves the point that such a group is really just a front group for the right wing of the Republican party.
Their BIG issue is called “The ValuesVoters’ Contract with Congress: A Declaration of American Renewal” which is similar to the infamous “Contract for America” that Republicans signed when they won the majority in the US House back in 1994.
Being a religious group there are the usual religious conservative wish items like a ban on abortion, forcing religious expression in government, ban on gay marriage, and a ban on cloning.
The contract also calls for items that are more political than religious such as:
The Parental Consent Act to prohibit the use of federal funds for any universal or mandatory mental health screening (H.R. 181)
Legislation affirming that government may not redefine “public use” to take the private property of one person to give to another.
Legislation to fundamentally reform the national tax system and reduce the tax burden on Americans; and Legislation to make permanent Marriage Penalty Relief and the Child Tax Credit.
True Enforcement and Border Security; and Legislation to prohibit, in cases of constitutional interpretation, the use of foreign law as authority.
As Rev Sharpton pointed out in the interview:
I think there’s a difference when you say that polls say religion is under attack and saying Christianity is under attack and then acting as if Christianity and the right-wing are synonymous. I think that the right wing has got Christianity under attack or Christianity that was the basis of the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-war movement.
Yes, Rev Al there is a difference.