Berating Bigotry: Religious And Policy Groups Respond To Bachmann’s Anti-Muslim Hysteria

A wide swath of the American religious and non-religious community believes Michele Bachmann is all wet.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s efforts to stir up an anti-Muslim witch hunt have sparked a bit of a pushback, to put it mildly.

As you might recall, Bachmann (R-Minn.) and four other House members (Trent Franks of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Thomas J. Rooney of Florida and Lynn A. Westmoreland of Georgia) sent letters to the inspector general offices of the State, Justice and Homeland Security departments, demanding an investigation into the infiltration of our government by the Muslim Brotherhood.

This claim of an imminent takeover of the federal government by the Muslim Brotherhood is the latest conspiracy theory to be spat out of the far right-wing “hate-Muslims-hate-Obama” 24/7 nutcase cyclorama. It is getting traction only because we live in an era where, thanks to the Internet and Fox News, any crank with a modem is suddenly a media figure.

Seeing an opportunity to slam Obama and Muslims, Bachmann, a Religious Right favorite and erstwhile presidential candidate, latched onto this like a pit bull on a postal carrier and hasn’t looked back.

But the unfantastic five made a big mistake: They fingered Huma Abedin, a top deputy of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as key to the conspiracy. Abedin, who is Muslim, is supposedly neck-deep in this thing because three of her family members are allegedly tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Among them is her father, who has been dead for 20 years.

All of this craziness was too much for U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who stood up on the Senate floor and blasted the anti-Abedin crusade in strong language. McCain noted that he has worked with Abedin, considers her a friend and assailed those who question her patriotism.

Shortly after that, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters that he doesn’t know Abedin personally but added, “[F]rom everything that I do know of her she has a sterling character. Accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.”

Even Ed Rollins, a GOP strategist who managed Bachmann’s presidential campaign, let her have it. Rollins wrote a column stating, “I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level….Shame on you, Michele!”

The Gang of Five responded by doubling down and insisting that they are right. Gohmert derided McCain and other critics as “numb-nuts.” (Keep it classy, Louie!) As for Abedin, she received at least one death threat.

I’m pleased to say that opposition to Bachmann’s xenophobia is spreading beyond the political world. Yesterday, 42 religious and public policy organizations, including Americans United, signed a joint letter to Bachmann and the other four representatives letting them know that this type of religious bigotry has no place in the United States.

“Far from supporting the safety of our country, these accusations distract us from examining legitimate threats using proven, evidence-based security strategies,” asserts the letter, which was organized by the Interfaith Alliance. “Moreover, we know all too well the danger of casting suspicion on loyal and innocent Americans simply because they hold particular beliefs.

“We will not stand idly by and allow our country to revive federal investigations into innocent individuals based on their religious adherence. We will continue to speak out in support of people of all faiths and no faith, and the religious freedom of all Americans to practice – or choose not to practice – a religion without fear of criticism or suspicion.”

The range of signatories is impressive and includes groups that often don’t see eye to eye on other issues. Religious groups signing on include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Hindu American Foundation, American Baptist Churches USA, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the United Church of Christ.

Secular and public policy groups signing on include the American Humanist Association, American Atheists, the Center for Inquiry, the Secular Coalition for America, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers and the NAACP.

I’ve worked here a long time and don’t know that I’ve ever before seen a letter endorsed by both the Catholic bishops and American Atheists. I think it’s safe to say that a wide swath of the American religious and non-religious community believes the Bachmann gang is all wet.

Of course, the Religious Right is still in Bachmann’s corner. The Family Research Council (FRC) has issued a prayer alert asking its supports to rally around the “vigilant” lawmaker who, they say, is merely asking questions.

Let the FRC stand with Bachmann – and with the anti-American values she represents. As the new letter indicates, much of the rest of the religious and secular community in America has seen her bigotry and repudiated it.