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Religion Last Updated: Oct 11th, 2006 - 01:28:07

The bully pulpit, sanctimonious Santorum, and the meaning of �zero�
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 11, 2006, 01:22

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As the November elections near, the Christian Right is again using the pulpit to bully (and scare) people into voting as they want them to vote.

The term �bully pulpit� derives �from President Theodore Roosevelt�s reference to the White House as a �bully pulpit,� meaning a terrific platform from which to persuasively advocate an agenda.� The Christian Right already control their bully puppet in the White House pulpit. Using church pulpits to propagate their political agenda was a natural for those intent on making America a theo-state, with themselves in charge of course.

Groups such as the American Center for Law and Justice and the Alliance Defense Fund have already begun coaching pastors on how to politic from the pulpit without losing their tax exempt status.

The American Center for Law and Justice was founded by Pat Robertson, the �law and justice� televangelist who called for the murder of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

The Alliance Defense Fund was founded by, among others, Dr. James Dobson and Rev. D. James Kennedy. In his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle, notorious homophobe James Dobson claimed that allowing gays to enter into the state-sanctioned civil union called �marriage� would bring about the end of civilization. Rev. Kennedy, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, has been encouraging his followers to pull their kids out of public schools: �The infusion of an atheistic, amoral, evolutionary, socialistic, one-world, anti-American system of education in our public schools has indeed become such that if it had been done by an enemy, it would be considered an act of war� [italics added].

The reactionary Republican leaders of the Christian Right do so love to cloak everything in terms of �battles� and �war,� the ultimate expressions of hate. But that makes sense: they can see outside only what�s in their minds and hearts. That�s why they see equality and respect for others as �anti-American.� And not surprisingly, that�s why they�re once again playing the �homophobia card,� as David D. Kirkpatrick noted in The New York Times on September 25, 2006:

Openly anxious about grass-roots disaffection from the Republican Party, conservative Christian organizers are reaching for ways to turn out voters this November, including arguing that recognizing same-sex marriage could also limit religious freedom.

Dr. Dobson, �The Religious Right�s New Kingmaker,� and Rev. Kennedy, the �Crusader for a Christian Nation,� are primarily interested in building their own political power. All else and everyone else be damned.

All Americans would do well to read Mel White�s new book Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right. It exposes the leaders of the radical Christian Right for what they are: dangerous demagogues who hide behind �religious freedom.�

Just as Dobson, Kennedy and the rest of their cronies are being exposed for what they are, the �values� espoused from the bully pulpits are increasing being recognized for what they are: valueless. No one made that clearer than the Golden Girl of the Christian Right, Marilyn Musgrave, Republican congresswoamn from Colorado and the author of the first attempt to embed discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans into the U.S. Constitution.

Speaking at a recent �Values Voter Summit� -- a bully pulpit event sponsored by Tony Perkins� Family Research Council, the group that also sponsored the three Injustice Sunday events (JS I, JS II, JS III) -- Musgrave made what may be the most idiotic statement of the decade: �As we face the issues that we are facing today, I don�t think there�s anything more important out there than the marriage issue.�

Forget the Iraq war disaster led by a totally incompetent secretary of defense: �Retired officers slam Rumsfeld handling of Iraq war.� The retired generals charged:

Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld of bungling the war in Iraq, saying U.S. troops were sent to fight without the best equipment and that critical facts were hidden from the public.

I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq,� retired Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste said in remarks prepared for a hearing by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

A second witness, retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, assessed Rumsfeld as �incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically. . . ." [italics added]

Forget about a president who sanctions spying on American citizens and torturing citizens of other countries, with the blessing of the evangelical Christian Right: �Rev. Louis Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition is so in favor of torture he told [John] McCain that the senator either supports the torture bill or he can forget about the evangelical Christian vote� [links added].

Forget the ballooning, already enormous budget deficit.

Forget the fact that 43,000,000 Americans have no health insurance.

Forget that the �No Child Left Behind� program is leaving every American school child far behind their peers in virtually every other industrialized country (and some of the unindustrialized ones as well).

Forget that America�s senior citizens are finding it increasing difficult to make ends meet.

Forget global warming and the rape of Mother Earth.

Forget all that �trivial� stuff.

For Musgrave and the �values voters� that applauded her, preventing gay and lesbian Americans from getting married and providing their children with the same social, legal and economic benefits other families receive is the most important issue facing America today. If her statement weren�t so maliciously deranged, it�d be laughable.

The good news, however, is that such radical fanatics have taken over the Republican Party, which is sinking fast in the quicksand of faith-based political pandering, as former Republican Senator from Missouri John Danforth made clear in his new book, Faith and Politics: How the �Moral Values� Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together:

God calls us to be faithful without handing us a political agenda. At least that�s how I see faith and politics, but it is not how everyone sees faith and politics. Christian conservatives believe that God�s will can be reduced to a political program and that they have done so. In their minds, there is indeed a Christian agenda for America and in recent years, they have succeeded in pressing it upon the Republican Party. It is an agenda comprised of wedge issues, which, when hammered relentlessly in political forums, divide the American people.

The Republican Party�s self-proclaimed spokesmen for �God� and �Jesus� are in trouble this election year, and their messianic president is helping sink them. One of the most closely watched senatorial races involves Pennsylvania�s junior Senator Rick Santorum who, with malice aforethought (and political pandering in mind), compared homosexuality with incest, pedophilia and bestiality. He�s losing in the polls and trying to downplay his miserable record that includes voting for more tax breaks for big oil companies and allowing companies to eliminate overtime pay for average Americans, as well as (legitimate) allegations that he bilked Pennsylvania taxpayers:

From 2001 to 2004, Santorum enrolled five of his children at the Western Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, although his family�s primary residence is in Leesburg, Va. The cyber school is open to all children of Pennsylvania residents. The state�s 2002 law, a boon to home-schoolers, requires local school districts to pay 80 percent of the students� tuition.

Santorum has argued that he owns a home in the Penn Hills school district and pays taxes there. OK, that�s a point in his favor, but it hardly quells all legitimate questions about whether he should have been able to wangle this six-figure subsidy for his family. It�s worth noting that the senator quickly retreated when the local school board finally balked at paying for another year.

True to character -- or rather lack thereof -- Sen. Santorum is having his children defend him: �My dad�s opponents have criticized him for moving us to Washington so we could be with him more," says Johnny Santorum, 13. "And they criticized us for attending a Pennsylvania public school over the Internet," says Daniel, 11.

As a recent Associated Press story noted, �Rick Santorum has spent 12 years in the Senate -- and millions of dollars on TV ads for a third term. Yet a lot of Pennsylvania voters just plain don't like him. . . . �Santorum�s real problem is Santorum,' said Clay Richards, a Quinnipiac University pollster."

Santorum�s despicable behavior, his record of voting 98 percent of the time as George W. Bush wished and 100 percent of the time as the Christian Coalition dictated, and his �personality� problems were also the subject of a Philadelphia Inquirer report:

Disapproval of President Bush remains a powerful undertow in Pennsylvania politics, threatening Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate and House, according to a new poll by Temple University and The Inquirer.

The Bush effect -- strongest in the southeast region -- is acting as a drag on Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, and tugs at GOP House incumbents in the suburbs of Philadelphia, who are locked in three of the nation's most competitive races . . .

�Some of the reason Santorum trails is due to national forces, but it�s not the whole story,� said pollster Michael G. Hagen, an associate professor of political science at Temple [University] and director of the school's Institute for Public Affairs.

�It is also about his candidacy and his personality,� Hagen said.

The Temple/Inquirer Poll asked respondents to rate their feelings toward candidates for Senate and governor on a scale of zero to 10.

Twenty-four percent of likely voters gave Santorum a zero, far more than any other candidate. Democrats were the most hostile, but 51 percent of independents rated Santorum below 5 -- and 26 percent of these voters gave him a zero.

�Zero�: the perfect description for Rick Santorum. It�s also the perfect value to assign to the radical Christian Right�s ethics and morals being spewed from their bully pulpits.

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