Friday, November 13, 2015

The Politics of Religious Freedom

Recently, three Republican presidential candidates took the stage at a rally is Des Moines called the National Religious Liberties Conference, targeted toward conservative evangelical voters in advance of the Iowa caucuses.  It was organized and hosted by firebrand pastor Kevin Swanson.  One of the major topics of this conference was the recent Supreme Court Ruling for marriage equality.  But listening to Swanson speak, it was obvious that this was a platform for fear mongering and to spew hatred and stir up sentiment against gays.  The web site for this conference asks these questions:

These are serious questions... are you ready for this?
Are you ready. . . to be arrested?
Are you ready. . . to lose your children to the state?
Is your pastor ready to go to jail for refusing to officiate a same sex marriage?
Will your church be shut down?
Will Christians be forced to break the law?
Kevin Swanson is well-known for his inflammatory rhetoric, mostly targeting gays, but also directed against women's rights, Girl Scouts, Harry Potter, Star Trek, Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, and anything else that offends his religious sensibilities.  His extremist remarks at this rally were some of the most vile, disgusting, hateful anti-gay rhetoric I have ever heard.  Some of his speech was aired by Rachel Maddow.  You can see it here, beginning at about 6:00 minutes into the video.  Among other things, he said that if his son were to marry a man, he would show up at the wedding and smear him with feces.  He also called for gay people to be put to death.

Also speaking at this rally were Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Bobby Jindal, and former Governor Mike Huckabee, all candidates in the race for the Republican nomination for president.  Each of them was introduced by Swanson.  Cruz said that people who don't start each day by praying are not suitable to be president.  Jindal said that people in government should not be limited by the constitution as long as they are acting in accordance with their religious beliefs.  Apparently it doesn't matter what those religious beliefs are, just as long as they are religious.  Read more here.

It is interesting to note that the presidential candidates show a completely different face in front of this audience than they do in front of a national audience, where their remarks are generally much more tempered.  When asked about his attendance at this rally, Cruz insisted that he doesn't know anything about Swanson or the things he says.  If that were true, it would show at the least that he doesn't consider his actions carefully.  But it is clear that he knew what this rally was about, and he was sympathetic to its cause.  Like Swanson, he has little regard for the US Constitution, and would be a significant threat to liberty, should he ever become president.

In my recent post about religious-motivated bigotry, I noted that the bigots like to insinuate that atheists would destroy religious liberty if they ever came into power.  Of course, this is not based on evidence.  It's not based on anything they actually say or do.  Except for the fact that there have been ideologically motivated Communist dictators who did abuse their power, all the historical evidence tells a completely different story from what these people would have us believe.  On the other hand, we have real evidence, in the form of speech by these presidential candidates, as well as their participation in activities like this conference, that they pose a genuine threat to liberty.  It's bad enough that they already serve in government.  Let us hope that they never make it to the top.


  1. When Ted Cruz responds to a question by Swanson about Presidents fearing God with: "Any President who doesn't begin his day on his knees is not fit to be President." he is simply sharing his abiding fear of Hank

    1. An excellent video. I haven't seen this before. And let's nor forget - no condiments on the wieners.