A large swathe of Americans can breathe easier today in the knowledge that Christian fundamentalist Ben Carson will not be part of President-elect Trump’s administration.
Last week, it was widely reported that Carson was shortlisted to be Education Secretary, but later he was offered the post of Secretary of Health and Human Services. However, this week it was reported here that turned down the high-profile role as he had “no government experience”.
Carson’s close friend and business manager, Armstrong Williams, said that Carson would only serve as an unofficial adviser.
Carson said he would be tempted to reconsider his stance if Trump “absolutely needed him”, but he added:
Having me as a federal bureaucrat would be like a fish out of water, quite frankly.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that Trump has appointed Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen Bannon his chief strategist. Bannon has been called “the most dangerous political operative in America“.
Carson described Bannon, above, who looks like an unmade bed, as a “very smart and wise counselor”, but Americans United for Separation of Church and State is horrified by Trumps choice, describing Bannon as having:
A disturbing history of attacking a variety of religious minorities. Bannon’s hateful rhetoric towards Jews, Muslims and Catholics should worry anyone who cares about the values Americans United cherishes. We support freedom of religion for all and welcome the country’s growing religious and philosophical diversity.
Bannon doesn’t seem to agree. Some of his most disturbing anti-Semitic comments were made public through his ex-wife’s testimony as they went through a divorce, although he has denied them. In a 2007 sworn statement, his ex-wife said that Bannon had a problem with their kids attending school with Jews.
At one school, she said that he asked, “Why there were so many Hanukkah books in the library?” and at another, Bannon allegedly expressed concern that the school used to be a temple.
His ex-wife said in the 2007 statement:
He said that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which battles anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, released a statement strongly condemning Trump’s decision to appoint Bannon.
It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists – is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house’.
The ADL’s statement, said Rokia Hassanein of American United:
Is spot-on given how Bannon has been unapologetically hateful of various religious groups.
“He doesn’t like Jews, does he,” was the opener from Webb, who cited claims made in court by Bannon’s ex-wife.
That’s 100 per cent false, 100 per cent false. I’m surprised you’d repeat a line like that on air.
Pollak pointed out that he was himself an Orthodox Jew.
You’ve made an inflammatory accusation … your statement is libellous and defamatory.
He claimed that, in five years working with Bannon he had never witnessed him insult any religious group and found him “sensitive” to Jewish concerns.
Bannon apparently doesn’t like Catholics either, according to AU. He is quoted as saying:
Catholics want as many Hispanics in this country as possible because the church is dying in this country, right, if it was not for the Hispanics.
Rokia Hassanein asked:
Will this hostility towards religious minorities continue with Bannon in the White House? Many are hoping Trump reconsiders his choice. The #StopBannon hashtag on Twitter became popular after Sunday, with many activists urging people to pressure congressional leaders to oppose Bannon’s appointment.
Many groups have condemned Trump’s decision, and I hope that if Bannon remains in Trump’s administration despite this backlash, he rids himself of his divisive rhetoric and acknowledges that religious freedom for all is a fundamental American value.He has since looked for other ways to make an impact outside of politics, including his Christian group called My Faith Votes.
Buzzfeed reports that:
Well before victories for Brexit and Trump seemed possible, Bannon declared there was a “global tea party movement” and praised European far-right parties like Great Britain’s UKIP and France’s National Front. Bannon also suggested that a racist element in far-right parties “all gets kind of washed out”, that the West was facing a “crisis of capitalism” after losing its “Judeo-Christian foundation,” and he blasted “crony capitalists” in Washington for failing to prosecute bank executives over the financial crisis.
This was said by Bannon when he addressed, via Skype, a conference held inside the Vatican in the summer of 2014.
The was hosted by the Human Dignity Institute, which BuzzFeed News attended as part of its coverage of the rise of Europe’s religious right. The group was founded by Benjamin Harnwell, a longtime aide to Conservative member of the European Parliament Nirj Deva to promote a “Christian voice” in European politics.
The group has ties to some of the most conservative factions inside the Catholic Church; Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the most vocal critics of Pope Francis who was ousted from a senior Vatican position in 2014, is chair of the group’s advisory board.
Hat tip: AgentCormac (Buzzfeed report)