Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Religious Reich Strikes Again

Political discourse has really sunk to new lows in the past weeks. The episode I found most disturbing involved a spat on the House Floor. Rep. David Obey (Dem) proposed legislation that would clean up the mess at the Air Force Academy and was promptly shot down in deplorable fashion.

E. J. Dionne comments on the brouhaha:

There was no obvious political benefit in David Obey's decision to take on the defense of religious minorities at the Air Force Academy. Because he stood up for their rights on the floor of the House of Representatives, the Wisconsin Democrat found himself accused of "denigrating and demonizing Christians."

This is tragically ironic because Mr. Obey is a Roman Catholic who was banned from Holy Communion by a bishop for his votes on abortion rights. As Dionne notes in his column, Obey has refrained from asking for communion because he didn't want to put any priest on the spot. Obey introduced the measure because he actually believes in religious liberty, not because he is opposed to it.

More from Dionne:

Let's be clear: The academy's brass are not in trouble because they allowed evangelical Christian cadets to speak of their faith to other cadets. That is their right. The issue is whether officers higher in the chain of command used their positions of authority to promote their faith. That is coercion, and it is neither right nor just.

Thus did Obey offer an amendment to the military appropriations bill calling on the secretary of the Air Force to "develop a plan to ensure that the Air Force Academy maintains a climate free from coercive intimidation and inappropriate proselytizing."

Obey's all-American assertion of religious liberty was, for Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.), part of "the long war on Christianity in America [that] continues today on the floor of the House of Representatives. It continues unabated with aid and comfort to those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage being supplied by the usual suspects, the Democrats. . . . Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians."

Now comes the good part:

Obey rose to his feet and demanded that Hostettler's last words be stricken from the record, which they eventually were. "If Jesus is watching what's happening on the floor of the House of Representatives, with people behaving in such a blasphemous fashion," Obey said this week, "well, I am reminded of that passage, 'Jesus wept.' "

Rep. Obey did exactly the right thing, first by introducing the bill and then by responding strongly to the outrageous comments of Rep. Hostettler. That is the way all of us should be responding to the intimidation tactics currently being used by allegedly Christian politicians.

Way to go, David Obey. You are a patriot of the highest kind, and my kind of Christian.


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