Freedom for all three religions: fundraising theater

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.

  • AnonymousSam

    Y’know, all this does is remind me of Pope Innocent III’s prediction that Islam would play a role in the end of the world. He even gave a specific date that he expected it to happen: 1284. Why this date specifically? Because it was 666 years since Islam had taken firm root in the middle east.

    It is now 728 years since the world was supposed to end at the hands of Islamic heresy and the worst I can say about it is that there’s a sad correlation between gross human rights violations and Islamic countries, but I suspect Christianity would have a similar track record if gentlemen like Charles Worley could get the power they desired.

    So in a wonderful demonstration of irony, I say “God bless America, for protecting us from His followers by having given our deist ancestors the wisdom to implement infrastructure preventing the rise of power-hungry theocrats.”

  • alfgifu

    Becket vs. More?  What is it about historical English religious/political figures named Thomas that appeals to these people?

    (Apart from them being safely in the past, so their politics is nicely disinfected by distance and their inconvenient aspects can be comfortably ignored by the faithful, and for the whole martyrdom-by-the-authorities glamour, and the romantic fuzziness of the story to the average modern, that is.)

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    But not Jefferson, sadly. 

  • Magic_Cracker

    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.

    Possible catchphrases:
    “Can you smell what Saint Sir Tom is cookin’?!”
    “I love the smell of heretics burning in the morning!”
    “Whatcha gonna do when Popamania runs wild you you?!”
    “Let’s get ready to go Medievaaaaaaallllll!”
    “Know your role and shut your mouth!” (That’s actually one of the Rock’s catchphrases, verbatim.)

    Becket vs. More?  What is it about historical English religious/political figures named Thomas that appeals to these people?

    Well, they don’t seem to extend the same reverence to Thomas Rainsborough. :-)

  • TheFaithfulStone

    there’s a sad correlation between gross human rights violations and Islamic countries,

    Oh, but that’s a mostly recently development – which has as much to do with the fact that western corporate interests installed their preferred (capitalist, and therefore not godless heathen communist) dictators after World War II.  In fact, between 1284 and 1945 I think it would be fair to say that “Christendom” makes present day war torn dystopias like Somalia look like nice spots for a good family vacay.*

    We’re talking 1,000 years of non-stop religious warfare here.  I mean –
    it was European war (ostensibly a philosophical disagreement) that brought the world to the brink of destruction.  Considering that after the establishment of Islam (around 650 I think) Mohammed decreed that religious freedom was the order of the day for “people of the book” and that they were free to engage in behaviors prohibited to Muslims, Islam had an early head up on religious pluralism.  I’m not exactly clear on when this changed – but until the establishment of the modern Middle East by the European Powers, Islamic society seems to have been relatively pluralistic.  We’re not talking (aspirational) US-level tolerance here – but European discovery of the “live and let live” attitude is relatively recent.  My theory on that is because (we / they) got tired of brutally murdering each other over minor theological points, although it does seem like some conservatives miss the good ol’days.

    *Okay, that’s not exactly, true – but it’d be close for the context.  Between the Crusades and WWII, Europe was the most violent place on earth BAR NONE.

  • Morilore

    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.

    So close, and yet so far.

  • TheFaithfulStone

    hategoating

    An internet to you sir.  WotD.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Wait till someone busts out the Hasbara Handbook and religiousplains to us all that omg Christians and Jews had to pay like OMG an extra tax!!!!oneoneone to the ruling Muslim authorities.

  • Tonio

    that’s a mostly recently development – which has as much to do with the
    fact that western corporate interests installed their preferred
    (capitalist, and therefore not godless heathen communist) dictators
    after World War II.

    Iran might not be ruled by mullahs today if weren’t for our meddling, and we may share some of the blame for the Taliban as well. The sexist regime of Saudi Arabia owes its power in large degree to British machinations during World War One and to US support in more recent decades.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Freedom for all three religions…

    We respect both kinds of religion here, Judeo and Christian /bluesbrothers

  • reynard61

    “Okay, that’s not exactly true – but it’d be close for the context. Between the Crusades and WWII, Europe was the most violent place on earth BAR NONE.”

    I dunno…

    I’ve been reading various histories of Japan (thank or blame the show InuYasha, depending on whether or not you disagree with me here) and they were *AT LEAST* as violent as the Europeans — although their internecine warfare tended to be politically, rather than religiously, motivated. (The few times that it *was* religiously motivated, it tended to be because the monks objected to the depredations of the upper-Samurai class [i.e. the Shogun and his immediate minions] against the Peasant and Merchant classes.)

  • aunursa

    Rev. Lovejoy: Homer, God didn’t burn your house down, but he was working in the hearts of your friends, be they Christian, Jew, or miscellaneous.
    Apu [irritated]: Hindu. There are seven hundred million of us.
    Rev. Lovejoy: Aw, that’s super. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    It’s going to be hard for anyone to win a “violence-off” historically. (Well, as much as you really can “win” something like that). 

  • Tonio

    Heh. That’s the effect of using the term “God” at all – it  marginalizes non-monotheistic religions and biases discussions of religions in favor of  the monotheistic ones.

  • Magic_Cracker

    True that. I think it’s pretty safe to say that when looking at history as a whole, whether motivated by money, power or religion, it’s the Flaming Assholes who are the most violent and bloodthirsty of sects. Down with the Assholes! Death to Assholism!

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    “Believe Islam a religion,”

    As opposed to, whatever the hell else at all?  Whatever beef you might have with this particular religion?  Do I even want to know? 

     “Believe it will destroy US”

    “Will?”  Not ‘wants’ or ‘plans too’?     You gotta give the people some hope for cosmic triumph if you want them to cough up the cash.   Lovecraft died a poor man you know.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Why are all these so-called U.S. patriots lauding a couple of English aristocrats? 

    “Becket Fund for Religious Liberty” is sort of like “Cats for Veganism” anyway. Becket stood up for the privilege of his particular church, and only his particular church, to crown the king. Religious liberty doesn’t work that way.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Lovecraft died a poor man you know.

    That’s rather apropos since Lovecraft’s fear of fears was fear of the Other.

  • LoneWolf343

    The only Thomas i can think of off the top of my head is St. Thomas, aka, “Doubting” Thomas. Yeah, not working in their favor, there.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    “He even gave a specific date that he expected it to happen: 1284. Why this date specifically? Because it was 666 years since Islam had taken firm root in the middle east.”

    So, something like this then?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPUe1nv4gIk&ob=av3e

  • Magic_Cracker

    Don’t forget Thomas Merton!

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    “Believe Islam a religion,”
    As opposed to, whatever the hell else at all?  Whatever beef you might have with this particular religion?  Do I even want to know? 

    A personal relationship with Chr– no, wait.
    It’s pretty common practice actually among Islamophobes to insist that Islam is not a religion (and therefore not protected by freedom of religion). I’ve heard it claimed that “Islam is not a religion, it’s a…”
    * Cult
    * Foreign Law
    * “total system of life”
    * “political system”
    * Ethnicity*

    (* I have never actually heard anyone claim this outright. But it is quite clearly what they *believe* even if they know better than to say it)

  • Lori

    Becket stood up for the privilege of his particular church, and only his particular church, to crown the king. Religious liberty doesn’t work
    that way.  

    Sadly some folks are seriously unclear on that concept.

    For example: The group in Tennesee that sued to prevent the building of a mosque on the grounds that Islam is not a religion and therefore not subject to first amendment protections.

    I am not making that up.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/05/islam-is-a-religion-and-therefore-protected-by-the-constitution/257846/

  • Lori

    It’s pretty common practice actually among Islamophobes to insist that
    Islam is not a religion (and therefore not protected by freedom of
    religion). 

    This is one of those idea that’s so astoundingly stupid and so obvious in it’s bigotry that I’m never exactly sure how to reply. “What is wrong with you?” generally doesn’t get a good response.

    * Cult 

    I’m tempted to make a joke about L Ron Hubbard’s money-making scheme being considered a religion, but I can’t think of one that isn’t offensive.

    * Foreign Law

    Someone forget to send this memo to the whackadoos in New Hampshire who wanted every new law justified with a quote from the Magna Carta.

     

    * “total system of life” 

    Totally unlike the Evangelical “world view”.

    * “political system”

    I figure this one is pure jealousy.

  • Tricksterson

    I bet they also listen to both kinds of music, Country and Western.

  • Tricksterson

    To be fair at the time the RC was the only game in town.  Even Hus and Wycliffe hadn’t come around yet, never mind Luther.  And of course Islam was right out.

  • Hapaxnom

    Becket stood up for the privilege of his particular church, and only his particular church, to crown the king

    Well, that was the immediate cause for his assassination / martyrdom, but it’s important to remember the real motivation for the quarrel between Henry and Becket:  Becket wanted to maintain the “benefit of clergy”, which originally had nothing to do with your parents being married, and everything to do with all members of the clergy (which included minor orders, so practically speaking everyone who could read and write) being exempt from prosecution by secular courts for even secular crimes, such as, oh, theft, perjury, rape, and murder.

    Henry, for some reason, thought this an obstruction to the establishment of justice and order.
    Three guesses on why conservative Catholics currently find Becket an appealing symbol of “religious liberty.”

  • hapax

    Why do you keep messing up my login, Disqus?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Vinson/100002426710253 Tom Vinson

    I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned Thomas Paine yet.  Can’t get much more “religious liberty” than that; I mean, liberty was his religion.
    Personally I’m pretty much on the side of the Apostle, although I have my doubts at times.

  • Tricksterson

    Because they’re evil and they hate you?

  • P J Evans

     I don’t know what kind of problems Disqus has built into it. I usually post a s a ‘guest’ with the screen-name I prefer using.

  • Keulan

    Disqus is being a pain in the ass and making me wait for ages to comment…
    Anyway, the Becket Fund seems to only care about the religious liberty of some religious groups. In several cases, they’ve chosen to side against atheists in legal cases where public schools have been unconstitutionally supporting religion. http://www.becketfund.org/ahlquist-v-city-of-cranston-rhode-island-2011-present/
    http://www.becketfund.org/the-pledge-of-allegiance-cases-2000-current/

  • alfgifu

    Because the hooly blissful martyr hath holpen them when that they were seeke?

    Actually, that would save on healthcare costs across the board.  I doubt More has anything quite so useful to bring to the table.

    Like Magic_Cracker, I’m finding it difficult to come up with a serious response to this because it’s so disturbing.  I can’t imagine how anyone could think this way, honestly, the idea just does not compute.

  • The_L1985

    The greatest irony is that the largest Muslim country isn’t even IN the Middle East. Indonesians are not Arabs.

  • christopher_young

    The group in Tennesee that sued to prevent the building of a mosque on
    the grounds that Islam is not a religion and therefore not subject to
    first amendment protections.

    I wonder whether these people understand (no, I don’t actually) that Muslims believe that in the End Times, Jesus will return to defeat the devil and reign over a golden age.

  • Tonio

    Why are all these so-called U.S. patriots lauding a couple of English aristocrats?

    Molly Ivins once said that the conservatives who lauded the Founding Fathers would most likely have been Tories had they lived back then. (I assume that Ivins meant colonists who remained loyal to the British crown rather than modern UK conservatives, but I suspect that philosophically the two groups weren’t all that different.)

  • Jim from BC

     If you look closely, I think you’ll see that if you compare a given islamic country to a non-muslim country with a similar GDP per capita (not counting Oil States like Qatar or Saudi Arabia) you’ll find that the general conditions depend much more on a country’s relative wealth or poverty than it’s religious climate. Case in point: Singapore (muslim country). It just happens that muslim countries trend to be middle or low income countries with only a few exceptions like Turkey, Malaysia or Singapore.

  • Jim from BC

    “Europe was the most Violent place in the world Bar none”
    While I respect the point you’re trying to make, I suggest you look a little closer at the history of China, India, The Mongol Empire, The Timurid Empire, the Ottoman Empire (any oriental empire really) before you make broad statements like this, whitey didn’t have much to teach the Asians when it came to wanton slaughter and as violent as European colonization in India and China was, it barely registered compared to the level of violence used by the Moghuls and Manchus in maintaining their own rule.
    “Oh. But that’s a mostly recent development- which has as much to do with the fact that western corporate interests installed their preferred (capitalist) dictators after world war II”
    Right, because we can’t, you know, give muslims any responsibility for the way their own countries turn out can we? Muslims are just toys for europeans to do with as they like with no capacity for action of their own, to say otherwise would be racist.

  • The Guest that Posts

    It’s worth a mention that some of the “Islam isn’t a religion” nonsense is very similar to what Nazi propagandists said about Judaism; namely, that Judaism wasn’t a religion, just a system intended to propagate the Jewish race.

  • AnonymousSam

    Hmm. Turkey and Malaysia have anti-blasphemy laws that are enforced quite stringently, and Turkey was the site of violent protests over the Danish cartoons portraying Muhammad. I’d say they have a ways to go before I can consider them an exception.

    Singapore, on the other hand, is a country I wouldn’t necessarily mind visiting. I had a friend who grew up there, primarily Chinese in heritage, who was generally quite fond of the country. Her only two major brushes with violence were, in a battle of ironies, one from a corruption scandal in the police force which ended with a neighbor’s door being broken down and rushed by armed officers arresting one of their own; and a clique of evangelical Christians harassing and sometimes carrying out threats on non-Christian students.

  • Tricksterson

    Although it’s very diverse religiously the largest religious group in Singapore is Buddhism at 33%  Islam comes in 4th at 15% behind Buddhism, Christianity and “No Religion”. 

  • Lori

     

    Molly Ivins once said that the conservatives who lauded the Founding
    Fathers would most likely have been Tories had they lived back then. 

    As with many things, Molly was totally right about that. It’s one of the reasons I get so chapped off when one of them uses their blather about the Founding Fathers to question my patriotism.

  • Jim from BC

     The UK also had anti-blasphemy laws until the mid-1970s (though mostly not stringently enforced) and shall we list the stupid protests and social movements that occur in the US and western Europe? Turkey and Malaysia aren’t perfect but no-one is and every country has bizarre or oppressive practices that seem strange to other countries. Having actually been to Turkey I can tell you that it deserves a spot on your list of “Places you wouldn’t mind visiting”. Considering that the nearest christian country to Turkey in GDP per capita is either Mexico (IMF) or Russia (World Bank) I’d say that turkey is doing pretty well by my system.

  • Jim from BC

     Huh, I actually didn’t know that and had always assumed Singapore was muslim-majority for some reason without actually checking. It seems I’ve been an idiot, kudos.

  • AnonymousSam

    Any country in which I might be torn apart by a rabid mob for drawing a picture of someone is not civilized enough for me to visit, sorry. :p

  • Jim from BC

    Considering that all the protestors in Turkey did was chant slogans I don’t really see your point. It’s unfortunate that ever since last year’s stanley cup final you’re criteria would exclude my own country (Canada).


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