Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mitt Romney: "It's the Lack of Integrity, Stupid!"

Part 2 of "Mitt Romney is Perfect":

Remember Bob Jones III?  He is the chancellor of the Christian University that bears his and his father and grandfather’s name (BJU) and has, in the past, caused an uproar with some of his Christian fundamentalist points of view.

In the past he has opposed inter-racial dating, and by extension, marriage.  According to Wikipedia, “In May 1975, as it prepared to allow unmarried blacks to enroll, BJU adopted more detailed rules prohibiting interracial dating and marriage—threatening expulsion for any student who dated or married interracially, who advocated interracial marriage, who was "affiliated with any group or organization which holds as one of its goals or advocates interracial marriage," or "who espouse, promote, or encourage others to violate the University's dating rules and regulations (taken from a Court case, go to ).

To solidify his anti-Catholic credentials, in 1966, BJU awarded an honorary doctorate to the Rev. Ian Paisley, future British MP, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, and Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, who has referred to the Pope as an Antichrist.

Reportedly he also has even slammed Mormonism, Mitt Romney’s religion: "The diminution of evangelistic enterprise to cults which call themselves Christian, including Catholicism and Mormonism, is frightening."  (Associated Press, 3/16/00)

So, is the following a surprise?

USA Today reports in October 2007 that “Dr. Bob Jones III, chancellor of the fundamentalist Christian university in Greenville that bears his name, is looking past his religious differences with Gov. Mitt Romney and endorsing the Mormon for the Republican nomination for president, he told The Greenville News Tuesday…

Asked whether Romney's religion was a stumbling block for him, Jones replied, "What is the alternative, Hillary's lack of religion or an erroneous religion?"

Terry Sullivan, Mitt Romney's South Carolina campaign manager said, "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."

Wait a minute!  Aren’t there other candidates whose Christian credentials are beyond doubt?  Why not support one of them?  Isn’t it surprising that Bob Jones III picks Romney out of the pack?  Isn’t it surprising that Romney welcomes this support even though he was Governor of one of the nation’s most liberal states where support from a Bob Jones III would have been unthinkable?

No, of course this is not surprising to readers of the INQUIRER.  From the September 2007 issue of the INQUIRER: Ever wonder why the Religious Right seems to be gravitating towards Mitt Romney, the Mormon candidate for president?  I know I have!

Well, I have the answer: It’s because of all the candidates running, Gov. Romney has displayed the LEAST integrity, and it’s a lack of integrity that the Religious Right cherishes above all else.”

He’s perfect.

Part 3 of "Mitt Romney is Perfect":

As noted before in this newsletter, Mitt Romney is the perfect presidential candidate for the Religious Right (RR), even though he is a Mormon.  Why?  Because he is willing to do and/or say anything that RR might want to hear!

While it should matter that what a candidate believes to be true and accurate is in fact reasonable to believe, supernatural beliefs are generally deemed excluded from this standard, while at the same time, failing to have some supernatural beliefs is not excluded from consideration!  Ahhhh!

In other words, it’s ok if Dennis Kucinich is ridiculed for claiming to having seen a UFO (which does not mean he thinks he’s seen an alien spaceship) while Romney’s belief in a North American Jesus is never even mentioned in mainstream media, even by so-called “liberals.”

Romney has learned that these days, it’s not “it’s the economy, stupid”; no, Romney has learned “it’s the lack of integrity, stupid.”

Even Christian minister Mike Huckabee cannot compete with Romney in this regard.  Huckabee, on some issues, exhibits compassion where typically the RR prefers dogma.  The reason that the RR has not yet anointed Huckabee is their detection of a semblance of conscience in Huckabee’s makeup.

So Romney’s past positions on abortion, gay rights, immigration, sex education, health care and so on are not the disadvantages that one might expect; his flip-flopping on these items are evidence of his malleable character.

The latest display of a vacant conscience ironically has to do with Romney’s opinion of some other religious minority, Muslims.

According to a Muslim businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, Romney said in November 2007 that it was unlikely that he would name a Muslim to his cabinet because they made up such a small part of the American population.

What?  Since when have cabinets or other appointed posts been doled out in any regard to religious affiliation?  If they were, one might ask, “Where are the non-believing judges and cabinet ministers?  They certainly should outnumber Jewish, Muslim and even Mormons in government – but do not.”

So Romney’s alleged answer was ignorant and biased; there is absolutely no reason why a Muslim could not be the top fellow for some cabinet position.  To rule them out because they are so few is simply bigotry; have Mormons been ruled out for this reason as well?  Oh yes, and such a religious test is un-constitutional.

But it gets worse; Romney, in defending himself from this charge, denied ever making the comment and said instead that he would have no such religious test for his appointees.

So that’s where it was expected to end; Romney simply denying the Muslim’s claim.

Who would Religious Right believe?  Answer: It doesn’t matter.  They probably would prefer that Romney said it and then deny it!

Well, Mr. Perfect’s record is in tact.

TPM, a news/blog site, found two Republicans in Nevada who reported being present at a meeting where Romney made similar statements as described by Mr. Ijaz.  One of them described the statements as “racist.”

Of course, this verification could be dismissed as coming from biased Republicans who are not Romney supporters.  After all, a lack of integrity is a common trait.

But wait!  In the September 2007 issue of Liberty Watch Magazine is the following account:

“When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently addressed a group of a prominent local conservatives at a Las Vegas fundraiser, (Liberty Watch columnist) George (Harris) lobbed the first question: “If you are elected President,” he asked, “will you include any Muslim members in your cabinet?”

In the seconds beforeformer Massachusetts Governor Romney responded, you could have heard a pin drop.

His (admittedly, very smooth) answer in a nutshell? “Not likely.”

Now, my fellow Nevada conservatives are not stupid.  The reason a hush fell over the room was not so much due to the boldness of George’s question.  They think the same way he does, and they worry about the consequences of an expanded war in the Middle East, which will inevitably lead to increased taxes, increased fuel prices and an even higher deficit that, sooner or later, American taxpayers will be forced to pay.  More significantly, we wonder: “How can we claim to be fighting a war solely against violent Islamofacism and not the entire Arab world if the White House doesn’t contain a single member of the Arab-American or Muslim community?”  (Go to

This article, which pre-dates the current controversy, pretty much seals the deal: Romney said what he is now denying he said.

The Religious Right is loving it.  Romney remains their perfect candidate.

Teddy Bears and Religion and Utter Hypocrisy

By now, most people have heard the story of a British school teacher working in Sudan who was charged with insulting Islam and inciting religious hatred after it was found that she allowed school children to name a teddy bear “Mohammed”.

It came out quickly that the children and teacher did not intentionally mock the Prophet in any way; the toy was actually named after a 7-year-old student in the class named Mohammed, a very common name in Sudan.  The boy, Mohammed, has said publicly that the bear was named after him, not the Prophet Mohammed.

Al Jazeera reported him saying, "The teacher asked me what I wanted to call the teddy. I said Mohammed.  I named it after my name," he said.

The boy said he was not thinking about the prophet when he made his choice for the toy, but he named it simply after himself.

He described his teacher from Aigburth, Liverpool, as a "very nice" woman who did not mention religion in class.

But that did not prevent her from being arrested, held in jail and charged with the “crime” of insulting Islam and inciting religious hatred.

The teacher, Gillian Gibbons,

is an English citizen and works in a Christian oriented school for children of wealthier Sudanese citizens.

Al Jazeera reported that Abdel Daim Zamrawi, Sudan's deputy justice minister, told the official SUNA news agency that Gillian Gibbons had been charged with the offences on Wednesday.  "The punishment for this is jail, a fine and lashes.  It is up to the judge to determine the sentence," Zamrawi was quoted as saying.  Gibbons faces up to six months in jail, 40 lashes and a fine if she is found guilty of "insulting or degrading any religion, its rites, beliefs and sacred items or humiliating its believers", as stipulated in Sudan's penal code.

Robert Boulos, the school’s director tried to reason with authorities but told Time Magazine that police were under pressure from Islamic courts.  “There were men with big beards asking where she was and saying they wanted to kill her” he said.  A similar angry crowd also gathered at the Khartoum police station where she is being held according to Time.

Al Jazeera further reportedthat some Islamic leaders in Sudan said on Wednesday that the law should be applied against Gibbons.  North Sudan's legal system is based on Sharia, which punishes blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad.  "What has happened was not haphazard or carried out of ignorance, but rather a calculated action and another ring in the circles of plotting against Islam… It is part of the campaign of the so-called war against terrorism and the intense media campaign against Islam,” the Sudanese Assembly of the Ulemas said in a statement.


Thank goodness the Deputy Justice Minister Zamrawi also said that the authorities were working to ensure that Gibbon would not be exposed to angry mobs should she be released.

Angry mobs?

Kill her?

Over the naming of a Teddy Bear?

The Muslim Council of Britain has also joined those calling for Ms. Gibbons to be freed and to use common sense.

"This is a very unfortunate incident and Ms Gibbonsshould never have been arrested in the first place," said secretary general Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari.  "It is obvious that no malice was intended."

Obviously not all Muslims or even most are about to join an angry mob ready to flog some kindly woman over the slightest of indiscretions.  But something is still not quite right with almost every statement that defends Ms. Gibbons, coming from Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Of course it is typically inappropriate for a teacher to insult an icon representing a student’s religion; but in this case the school was a private school, not a public school.  Private religious schools even in the US regularly espouse religious hatred – and if it’s private, a private school is constitutionally allowed to spout that hate.  (Don’t blame secular humanists for this!)  Public schools cannot do this (although the Religious Right would like to either see their hatreds aired in Public Schools or ban Public Schools altogether.)

Now contrast this with the situations in many other countries where governmentally supported religiously-oriented schools, sometimes known as madrassahs, are built upon hatred of the (non-orthodox) non-believer.  We need not go into details on this, other than to note that the “West” is not innocent in this practice; government vouchers paid for Catholic and Protestant schools in Northern Ireland with both sides teaching religious hatred for decades.  This is just the way it is in religious schools.

Many private religious schools in countries where religion and state are separate and many religious schools elsewhere absolutely often insult the beliefs and icons of non-believers!  Inherent in Christianity and Islam is the belief that only “true” believers are saved or destined for paradise and that others have a moral failing for their lack of belief.  Other religions preach that followers are chosen or blessed or simply more moral than those who do not profess the “true” belief.  It is the rare religion that praises non-believers for their morality!

So the problem in Sudan is not generic insulting of any religion; it’s the insulting of the prevailing version of the prevailing religion ONLY.  The prevailing religion can issue insults in schools, public or private, and elsewhere at will.  But it cannot countenance a moment of being slighted in the least bit itself.

And here is the problem with many of those who are defending Ms. Gibbons: they are claiming that she “meant no harm”.

It should not matter whether her “insult” was deliberate or not or whether she “meant no harm” or not.

Religious freedom requires that a person (acting in a non-governmental role) must have the right to make the claim, for example, that a religion that would punish a person with a flogging for naming a toy after a religious icon is a bad religion, or at the least, a bad version of that religion.  Religious freedom requires even the unreasonable insult of a religion as long as it’s not in a governmental capacity!

If one really wanted to defend Ms. Gibbons and future victims of religious intolerance, one would make it clear that we should not require everyone to just “make nice” about religion.  What we need is a defense of real freedom of the mind, a defense of separation of religion and state, and not a defense of the dictatorial rule of the prevailing religious orthodoxy or even acquiescence to the censorship of all religious criticism.  Freedom is there to protect not just the popular or orthodox beliefs; indeed, they rarely need protecting.  Religious freedom’s greatest value is in protecting the right of those who espouse unpopular beliefs; and of course, proven once again, the first victim of religious intolerance is the religious dissenter.

Our Democracy in Trouble, Part 2

It is one thing to be ignorant about the facts that are impacting our lives and values as citizens of the United States; some misinformation is probably unavoidable, although the extent of our lack of understanding of important facts implies some willful ignorance is part of the mix.

And it is also understandable that after a lifetime of being taught that faith (defined as belief without justifying evidence) is a virtue, that many do not value reason as a way of understanding the universe.

But how charitable can one be when assessing the results of a poll by the First Amendment Center, a non-partisan educational group?

Here’s a brief summary of what they found:

·         Sixty-five percent of Americans believe that the nation's founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation, according to the “State of the First Amendment 2007” national survey released Sept. 11 by the First Amendment Center…

·         Just 56% believe that the freedom to worship as one chooses extends to all religious groups, regardless of how extreme — down 16 points from 72% in 2000…

·         34% (lowest since the survey first was done in 1997) think the press “has too much freedom,” but 60% of Americans disagree with the statement that the press tries to report the news without bias, and 62% believe the making up of stories is a widespread problem in the news media — down only slightly from 2006…

·         25% said “the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees,” well below the 49% recorded in the 2002 survey that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, but up from 18% in 2006…

·         Just 74% said it was essential to have “the right to practice the religion of your choice,” down from 81% in 1997 and 83% in 2002.  The right to “speak freely about whatever you want” saw a similar drop, to 66% from 72% 10 years ago and 75% five years ago.

·         58% want teacher-led prayers in schools…

·         43% endorse school holiday programs that are entirely Christian and devotional…

·         50% would allow public school teachers to teach the Bible as a “factual text” in history classes…

·          The right to practice one’s own religion was deemed “essential” or “important” by nearly all Americans (97%); as was the right to “speak freely about whatever you want” (98%) and to “assemble, march, protest or petition the government (94%).”  Still, Americans are hard pressed to name the five freedoms included in the First Amendment… Speech is the only one named by a majority of respondents (64%), followed by religion (19%), press and assembly (each 16%) and petition (3%)… (End of poll results.  Go to .)

Can you imagine that 65% of Americans actually believe that (without even a mention of Christianity or Jesus) the Constitution establishes the US as a Christian Nation?  If you subtract the non-Christians from the population and assume that they are not quite as deluded, it might be fair to say that 70% or more of the Christians in this country think that the Constitution actually somehow, somewhere, establishes a “Christian” nation, whatever that means and whatever that implies legally.

65% to 70%!

Imagine the other contradictions in the opinions of the American Public: they believe that freedom of speech is important but that the “Press” has “too much freedom.”  Exactly how distinct from free speech is a free press?  They want “freedom” of religion for themselves (97%), but not so much for others (56%)!

And of course, the most frightening finding of all: 25% think the First Amendment, about which they are clueless, “goes too far in the rights it guarantees.”

This is not a matter of ignorance: in the poll they are given the actual wording of the First Amendment and asked the question, “Based on your own feelings about the First Amendment, please tell me whether you agree or disagree with the following statement: The First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.”

I guarantee I know what the problem is for this 25%: they have no problems with their own rights of freedom of religion, press, speech, assembly and petition; their problem is with YOUR rights.

Oh yeah, don’t forget that typically our elected officials are chosen by 25% of the voting public since only half of us vote.

Our democracy is in trouble.