I’ve been arguing for some time now that any claims by Religious Right groups to be “moral” or “pro-family” are made ridiculous by their ongoing support for President Donald Trump.
But it doesn’t stop with Trump. The so-called “pro-family” Religious Right – a movement that claims to be all about promoting morals and decency – is all too happy these days to endorse any politician who agrees with them on certain issues – no matter how alarming that person’s statements and views may be.
For more evidence of that, consider that hundreds of allegedly “moral” organizations and individuals just signed a letter to Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives demanding that U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) be given his committee assignments back.
King lost the assignments because he has a long track record of saying incendiary, racist things and snuggling up to extreme organizations that preach hate. Although GOP leaders tolerated his antics for years, King finally went too far last month when, during an interview with The New York Times, he questioned why the term “white nationalist” is considered offensive.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization – how did that language become offensive?” King mused. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
King later claimed to have been misquoted. It’s almost certainly a lie, but even if it were the case, it hardly matters – there are plenty of other damning statements by King. He has been spouting racist rhetoric for a long time and last year went so far as to endorse a candidate for mayor of Toronto who had granted an interview to a podcast run by the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website. King once retweeted a neo-Nazi and has been accused of anti-Semitism. He has also met with fascist politicians abroad and has repeatedly endorsed The Camp of the Saints, a paranoid, openly racist 1973 novel that portrays a future Europe overrun by hordes of non-whites.
The New York Times has collected numerous instances of King spouting white supremacy and anti-immigrant rhetoric. U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) grew so disgusted with King’s comments that last year he blasted him in a tweet, saying, “I strongly condemn this behavior.”
So why is the Religious Right defending this guy? Well, King also has a long history of promoting that movement’s pet ideas. In 2002, while a member of the Iowa legislature, King introduced a bill requiring that public schools teach that the United States derives its strength from “Christianity, free enterprise capitalism and Western civilization.” In 2005, King, now a member of Congress, cosponsored legislation that would have stripped the federal courts of their ability to hear any legal case that would challenge any government’s decision to acknowledge “God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.” He has been a reliable vote for the Religious Right ever since.
The letter supporting King contains a lot of obscure names, but some leap out at you. Among them are former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay; James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Rick Scarborough of Vision America; Gordon Klingenschmitt, a former chaplain who was drummed out of the Navy and now has the habit of praying for his enemies to die; Scott Lively, a rabid anti-LGBTQ figure who endorsed a bill calling for imprisonment for gays in Uganda; and Kayla Moore, wife of the infamous “Ten Commandments judge,” failed U.S. Senate candidate and shopping mall creeper Roy Moore.
These “pro-family” leaders are eager to see King suffer no sanctions for his statements and behavior. In their letter, they call King “an outstanding member of Congress” and assert that his recent problems are a plot cooked up by “the liberal media.”
But the media – liberal or otherwise – did not force King to retweet neo-Nazis, support hate-spouting candidates abroad and bemoan the fact that decent people consider the term “white nationalist” inflammatory. King did these things himself.
King is no victim here. He’s simply being held accountable (finally!) for a long history of ugly statements. Religious Right leaders can cozy up to him if they want, but their decision to do that says a lot about their ethics – specifically, their utter lack of them.
(Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Preston Keres)