The Thomas More Law Center, a conservative Catholic fundraising group that portrays itself as a defender of religious liberty, seems to be hoping to corner the market on fundraising from anti-Muslim conservative Catholics.
That’s bad. But it has had the felicitous side-effect of pushing the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty — another conservative Catholic fundraising group that portrays itself as a defender of religious liberty — to carve out a niche among slightly less anti-Muslim conservative Catholic donors.
What happened was Tom Lynch, an exec with the Thomas More Law Center, sent out a tweet accusing the Becket Fund of being insufficiently bigoted:
Believe Islam a religion, then support the Becket Fund. Believe it will destroy US, then supt thomasmore.org.
The Becket Fund seized on this as a chance to put its talents for high dudgeon to good use, demanding a public apology. Bill Mumma, the group’s president, put out a statement saying:
Religious freedom is secure for none of us — Muslim, Catholic, Jew — unless it is secure for us all. That’s a universal truth, and the Thomas More Law Center should know that.
A more accurate, better expression of that idea might have been just to say that religious liberty is not secure for anyone unless it is secure for everyone. Mumma’s statement as it is unhappily seems to suggest that “us all” consists only of “Muslim, Catholic, Jew” — leaving most of us out of the equation.
In fact, that’s probably what Mumma meant to suggest — since the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has made it very clear that they think religious liberty must not be secure for, say, Protestant or non-religious women who use birth control. And that churches and chaplains whose faith celebrates same-sex marriages ought to be denied the religious liberty to recognize them.
This whole business has a whiff of theater to it. Both groups depend on the same pool of conservative Catholic donors — the same direct mail database of mostly the same people who must be kept frightened enough or angry enough to keep the money flowing. This Twitter-sparked conflict between the two seems like something from the contrived world of professional wrestling — a face-heel turn for Thomas More coupled with a heel-face turn for the Becket Fund.
Adding to the strangeness: “Manhattan Declaration” co-author Robert George sits on the board of the Becket Fund and also on the board of the Bradley Foundation, a conservative money machine that “funds some of the worst anti-Islam extremists.”
As Nick Sementelli has reported at Bold Faith Type, the Bradley Foundation:
… has contributed $4.25 million to the David Horowitz Freedom Center, $815,000 to Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and $305,000 to Daniel Pipes’s Middle East Forum, all three of which promote inflammatory false claims about Muslims.
Sementelli has the details of those “inflammatory false claims” — which are an odd mix of racism, religious bigotry and wildly delirious conspiracy theories.
That’s the sort of thing Robert George supports as a Bradley Foundation board member. But as a Becket Fund board member, he takes a principled stand against such anti-Muslim bigotry.
It’s fundraising theater for the direct-mail audience.