Hard To Argue

Sometimes, snark hits the nail on the head.

A couple of days ago, over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Ed Brayton made a snarky and audacious claim: After noting those aspects of Sharia Law that are most frequently criticized as being inconsistent with American values, he pointed out that today’s GOP holds those same beliefs:

  • Government is to be based upon religious doctrine
  • Women should have fewer rights than men
  • Homosexuality is to be outlawed
  • Religious doctrine trumps science
  • There is no separation of church and state
  • Religion is taught in government schools
  • Abortion should be illegal

All of these positions are proudly held both by extremist Muslims and the extremists who control  today’s Republican party.

Brayton’s conclusion: if you don’t want Sharia law, don’t vote Republican.

I hadn’t planned to share this–it seemed unnecessarily partisan–but Sunday evening I moderated a panel discussion sponsored by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The panel was hosted by Broadway United Methodist Church, and candidates for the Indiana legislature (both incumbents and challengers) were invited to participate. Five accepted: four Democrats and one Republican.

I was initially impressed that a Republican would be willing to defend the party’s current platform to a group that was unlikely to agree with much of it, but it immediately became clear that the Republican had not the foggiest notion what AU stood for, or for that matter, how church and state differ. Her answers to the questions were rambling, incoherent and  filled with personal anecdotes and biblical quotes. (Although she seemed totally unaware of the operation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, she did at one point offer the opinion that Jefferson “lied” in his letter to the Danbury Baptists.)

When a question was asked about recognition of same-sex marriage, she responded that “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” (I kid you not.) She offered her support for pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions and merchants who refuse to provide services to gay customers, because “liberty,” and when asked whether those same merchants should also be able to refuse service to African-American patrons, she at first said she didn’t understand the question, but when pressed, said yes.

There was much, much more–including a closing statement in which she shared with the audience the information that God had asked her to run for office.

I know this woman is not representative of all Republican candidates. (As one appalled attendee noted afterward, she was a “stereotype on steroids.”) But the party was willing to have her run under its label. She somehow made it through slating.

In the course of the evening, she took every position on Brayton’s list (indeed, she went well beyond the list).

I’d be interested in knowing which of those positions today’s GOP–aka the American Taliban–would disown.


  1. The correct name of the organization is Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

  2. People of her ilk, not only politicians, seem to be unable to separate their personal views from the basics of the Constitution and Amendments and laws that deny civil and human rights to so many Americans. Or separate their religion from law on any level; their morals and values are the only reality to them with no awareness that others have the right to disagree. Undoing the damage that has been done by the current GOP, firmly backed on most issues by SCOTUS, will take years to undo – IF it can ever be undone. Those old men sitting on SCOTUS will have to die before they can be replaced. It appears to be the same at state level here. I would be willing to bet my next Social Security check on the fact the attending Democrats at that meeting remained logical, rational and respectful of her inane and anti-Constitutional (state and national) realities. The same cannot be expected from the current GOP who are still against ACA, a large portion of which is based on health care changes they tried to pass under Bush. A Congress who believes that shutting down government – AGAIN – will resolve all problems, prove their points and keep them in control, must be voted out to stop. Their obscure pseudo religious based government has endangered all of us – including themselves but they are unaware of this. Meetings and discussions such as the one Sheila refers to in this blog are important and need to be continued because, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” However, so far the adage that has proven to be true is, “Dogs barked but the caravan moves on.” The GOP caravan is moving on – November is almost upon us – VOTE.

  3. One can construct a presentation tool the shows the relationship between “evidence” and “possibilities”. At one end of a spectrum it would show that when there exists a preponderance of evidence, all possibilities have been eliminated but one. This end shows the goal of science and criminal trials.

    At the other end of the spectrum is faith (including Faith). In the absence of evidence all possibilities exist. Nothing can be eliminated. We can choose a possibility that serves us best and accept that there is no way of knowing and build our worldview accordingly. This view then can be central to people’s lives.

    Extreme religions build on this simple concept the notion that when there is no evidence, with faith all things are possible, and they have special insight that reveals to them something that only they can see. Something that reduces all possibilities to one. Their self serving faith.

    Fine with me as long as shamanism and governance are maintained separate and distinct as in our Constitution.

    Voters should be smart enough to realize that within our system a shaman will be totally ineffective at governance. Trying to get things done when there exists no evidence as to their basis makes for good preaching but lousy law.

    So, we would hope that democracy would keep church and state naturally separate.

    Evidence shows that culture can be more powerful than freedom even, among some people. See culturalcognition.net. And that cultures can be built with brand marketing technology.

    A chink in the armor of democracy? Decidedly.

    Are there cultures that are more or less effective in maintaining stable effective society? Of course. Parenting is our chief tool in bringing them about. Government is not parenting. If we are to continue to be free, that’s an essential distinction.

  4. How can this be a surprise when Patricia Miller, an Indiana Senator, who is ALSO an RN (I checked–her license is current) is 100% behind putting the Lafayette Planned Parenthood out of business because they dispense the abortion drug. Now, as an RN, she KNOWS this is the safest procedure for terminating a pregnancy, that it is inherently safer and cheaper than a surgical abortion, but she has decided to do everything she can to shut the clinic. She also supported legislation that required before and after vaginal probes performed on everyone who has a chemical abortion–just in cases you missed the memo of what she thinks of women who have sex. BTW, I have been wanting to ask a lawyer this–at what point is her proposal of legislation that has nothing to do with women’s health but everything to do with her personal brand of religion–constitute malpractice? Other republicans can claim ignorance (which I agree with wholeheartedly) but an RN?

  5. Except that Brayton’s observations about the Republican party are a gross, and undoubtedly deliberate, misrepresentation of the party’s views. They are patently absurd.

  6. Paul, which of these do you claim are not advocated within the GOP?

    Government is to be based upon religious doctrine
    Women should have fewer rights than men
    Homosexuality is to be outlawed
    Religious doctrine trumps science
    There is no separation of church and state
    Religion is taught in government schools
    Abortion should be illegal

    While I’m sure that not all Republicans believe any one thing, certainly this list does not contain things that some Republicans don’t advocate.

  7. Margaret ‘Peggy’ Jones.?? She is running against Greg Porter. He was one the panel also. What an intelligent classy guy is Greg Porter. There is no comparison. Shouldn’t even be a contest.

  8. Religion is the perfect cover for indecision or incompetence by a public official – no accountability and no argument – can’t argue against god. Her inability to speak intelligently gives insight into her ability to govern and create useful public policies – to me this is the scariest aspect of the tea party.

  9. As I have noted other times, Stupid people with holy books are a real & present danger to us all.

  10. While it disturbs me greatly that people cannot mentally separate religious teachings from state obligations, I do understand the confusion since some religious tenets inspire laws (thou shalt not murder) and some do not (coveting a neighbor’s spouse or property). More confusion arises for those who wish to see all issues in black and white absolutes. There are shades of gray even for major issues like murder (permissible if committed in self-defense).

    Interestingly, exploring the shades of gray is not a threat to one’s faith. Once I told my pastor – a little sheepishly – that I’d read and enjoyed some of Shirley MacLain’s books. Though her views on reincarnation and more differed from mine, she’s a very spiritual person in her own way. My pastor said he’d read her books too and loved that she was constantly exploring the boundaries of her own spirituality. He encouraged me to do the same and said my faith would deepen in the process. He was right. I liken it to taking a trip. I love traveling to explore and learn about other places and cultures, and while those experiences are enriching, it feels really good to come home again.

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