Is Bigotry All Right in Politics?
John Aravosis argues that Pat Robertson should be a political pariah after his remarks on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that Muslim Americans are not fit to serve in the US cabinet. It is actually much worse than that. Robertson also implied that Jews are unfit to serve on the Supreme Court because some of them defend the ACLU, which he equates with defending Communism. The anti-Jewish bigotry among some evangelicals that codes Jews as a “cultural elite” promoting non-Christian values just drips from his words. I give the relevant parts of the interview below.
Too right, that Robertson should be a political pariah after this performance. I say we hold accountable every politician that shares a stage with him. I say we target the advertisers for his insidious television show for a nationwide boycott. I say we draw the line right here. In Robertson’s warped little world, all Muslims are dangerous and all liberal Jews are proto-Communists. And if we don’t speak out, his world is about to become our world.
Robertson knows nothing about the Koran or Islam. He can cite some extremist medieval jurist such as Ibn Taymiyyah, but who couldn’t come up with extreme statements by medieval Christian leaders? The Christians did give us the Inquisition, after all, not to mention the Crusades. As for Islam, here is what Koran 5:82 says about Christian-Muslim relations, after it describes tensions with pagans and Jews: “You will certainly find that the nearest in love to those who believe [the Muslims] are those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ This is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly.” Somehow that one never gets quoted. “Nearest in love” is something we need to get back to.
American Muslims are Americans. They have all the same rights and duties as all other Americans. Period. Likewise Jewish Americans. Robertson’s religious bigotry flies directly in the face of Thomas Jefferson’s thinking on religious liberty, which he dares sully by passing it through his bilious venomous lips.
Here is what Jefferson actually wrote, in his 1777 Draft of a
Bill for Religious Freedom:
that our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right . . .
In fact, it was Jefferson’s more bigotted opponents in the Virginia legislature who brought up the specter of Muslims and atheists being elected to it in the world Jefferson was trying to create. He was undeterred by such considerations, which should tell us something.
Enlightenment Americans knew about Islam and just did not care to divide up human beings by religion. George Washington asked in a March 24, 1784, letter to his aide Tench Tilghman that some craftsmen be hired for him: “If they are good workmen, they may be of Assia, [sic] Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans, [Muslims] Jews, or Christian of any Sect – or they may be Atheists …”
John Locke had already advocated civil rights for non-Christians in his Letter on Toleration:
Thus if solemn assemblies, observations of festivals, public worship be permitted to any one sort of professors [adherents], all these things ought to be permitted to the Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, Arminians, Quakers, and others, with the same liberty. Nay, if we may openly speak the truth, and as becomes one man to another, neither Pagan nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion. The Gospel commands no such thing.
Locke was concerned only if hypothetical English Muslims gave their political loyalty to the Ottoman Sultan rather than to the British crown. Otherwise, as the passage above makes clear, if they were loyal subjects then he felt they deserved their civil rights just as anyone else did.
Jefferson’s frequent citation of Locke’s treatises is well known, and it is certain that Jefferson knew this passage and that it was influential for him in his own thought on religious liberty.
Here is another apposite quote from Jefferson: “The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.”
— Thomas Jefferson, note in Destutt de Tracy, “Political Economy,” 1816.
Or: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
— Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82
We have known Thomas Jefferson all our lives; we have studied Thomas Jefferson. And you, Pat Robertson, are no Thomas Jefferson.
Here is the despicable segment:
THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (10:30 AM ET) – ABC
May 1, 2005 Sunday . . .
(Off Camera) You know, President Bush at that press conference also said that he believes you’re equally American whether you’re Christian, Muslim, or Jew, and I wonder if you fully accept that, because in the past, you’ve said that you believe that only Christians and Jews are qualified to serve in the government. Is that still your belief?
Well, you know, Thomas Jefferson, who was the author of the Declaration of Independence said he wouldn’t have any atheists in his cabinet because atheists wouldn’t swear an oath to God. That was Jefferson and we have never had any Muslims in the cabinet. I didn’t say serve in government. I said in my cabinet if I were elected president, and I think a president has a right to take people who share his point of view, and I would think that would be …
(Off Camera) Well, wait a second. Let me just stop you there. ‘Cause in your book “The New World Order” you wrote, “‘How dare you maintain that those who believe in the Judeo-Christian values are better qualified to govern America than Hindus or Muslims.’ My simple answer is, ‘yes, they are.'” Does that mean no Hindu and Muslim judges?
Right now, I think people who feel that there should be a jihad against America, read what the Islamic people say. They divide the world into two spheres, Dar al Islam Dar al Harb. The Dar al Islam are those who’ve submitted to Islam, Dar al Harb are those who are in the land of war and they have said in the Koran there’s a war against all the infidels. So do you want somebody like that sitting as a judge? I wouldn’t.
(Off Camera) So I take it then the answer to the question is that you believe that only Christians and Jews are qualified to serve in the Federal judiciary?
Um, I’m not sure I’d make such a broad, sweeping statement, but I just feel that those who share the philosophy of the founders of this nation, who assent to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, who assent to the principles that underlie the constitution, such people are the ones that should be judges, and the thing that I’m opposed to about judges is the thought that this is a living document that can be manipulated at the will of five out of nine judge, nonelected judges. It’s the tyranny of an oligarchy that I’m concerned about.
(Off Camera) You said also that you believe Democrats appoint judges who “don’t share our Christian values” and will “dismantle Christian culture.” So do you believe that Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg, who were appointed by President Clinton, are trying to dismantle Christian culture?
Justice Ginsburg served as a general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU. That was founded, as you probably know, by about three members of the Communist Internationale. Their leader, Baldwin, said that he wanted to be a Communist and wanted to make this …
(Off Camera) So she’s a Communist?
He was. He said, it’s in my book. I mean, he said it. He made a declaration. He said I want to make America a workers’ state, breed Communists.
(Off Camera) But I was asking about Justice Ginsburg. And you now seem to be trying to equate her with these Communists.
Well, she was the general counsel for this organization whose purpose right now is to rid religion from the public square. That’s they are announced. We’ve Nadine Strasser down here to our university in a debate. She’s a very pleasant lady but that’s what she said was her avowed goal, to take all religion from the public square. That’s their initiative and Justice Ginsburg served as their general counsel, so …