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Will Mike Pence speak up about religious intolerance?

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Indianas own, Rep. Mike Pence
  • Image by the US Congress, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Indiana's own, Rep. Mike Pence

When are Republican Party leaders going to find the courage to speak out about the party's radical, un-American fringe?

For some reason, expressions of religious intolerance (an inherently unpatriotic premise in a country started by religious dissidents) seems to have become wholly permissible on the right these days, even among public figures of national prominence.

Case in point was Tuesday's little piece of bigoted invective called "No more mosques, period," written by Bryan Fischer, radio host and director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at American Family Association.

Here's a sample:

Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero. This is for one simple reason: each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.

Each one is a potential jihadist recruitment and training center, and determined to implement the “Grand Jihad” of which Andy McCarthy has written.

Fischer goes on to cite “An Explanatory Memorandum” circulated by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1991 as "evidence." He fails to mention that the Muslim Brotherhood has been considered an extremist group for much of its history — its leaders, like Sayyid Qutb, having exerted a profound influence on groups like al-Qaeda (with one important distinction: the Muslim Brotherhood explicitly advocates non-violence — which is why nuts like Osama bin Laden ultimately rejected the group in favor a more violent tack).

Of course, full disclosure wouldn't feel nearly as persuasive or as sexy, would it? But what care we for truth?

For those who aren't familiar with Fischer's work, this is hardly the first ignorant and hateful idea he has promoted. In May, he claimed that Hitler's brownshirts were gay because Hitler "could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough to carry out his orders, but that homosexual solders basically had no limits and the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whomever Hitler sent them after."

A week earlier he argued on-air that "God is obviously looking for is more Phinehases in our day," citing a bible verse that, as Right Wing Watch points out, is "about a man who killed two people with a spear for engaging in sexual immorality."

But no matter. Fischer's views apparently made him a perfect fit to speak at next month's Values Voter Summit, which promises to be a real humdinger. The list of confirmed speakers thus far includes Fischer and such stars of the right as Michele Bachmann, Mike Huckabee, Jim "Obama's Waterloo" DeMint, and, my 2010 nominee most deserving of a serious wedgie, 15-year-old conservative "thinker," Jonathan Krohn.

It also includes Indiana's own US Congressman and Tea Party leader, Mike Pence.

At this point, there's simply no way for Republican leaders to deny they are beholden to the radical fringe. Moderation seems to have become a thing of the past, as voices of reason are silenced one-by-one for fear of reprisal by religious zealots and intolerant hatemongers.

For all the high-minded drivel spouted by Tea Partiers and their ilk about "founding principles" and small government, the G.O.P. needs to take a tough and honest look at its bedfellows — purveyors of fear and disinformation, whose vision of America seems not only increasingly (and hypocritically) fascist (barring mosque-building is big government imposition at its worst), but increasingly exclusionary. Right-wing talk of wanting to revoke the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to all U.S.-born and naturalized persons, is just a start; it's anodyne compared to efforts by blowhards like Fischer to, say, criminalize homosexuality.

Tea Partiers, et al., who claim their unfocused movement is more than a haven for scared white people have a lot of work to do to change that perception. Republicans could stand some of the same. Those efforts should start by thinning the ranks and choosing associations a bit more wisely.

There's an opportunity here for Mike Pence, and leaders like him, to disassociate themselves from the destructive rhetoric we're hearing from hatemongers like Fischer. If the Tea Party and GOP are really about founding principles, stand up for them now.

I'm pretty sure that whole "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" thing was a key part of our founding. It is explicitly corrupted by intolerance. Remove yourself from the speakers list, Mr. Pence, or else demand Fischer be taken off. Now is a great chance to do the right thing.

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