Last week, I got a crazy email from “Joan” (who has hijacked an email list I’m on for animal rescue to send around her political opinions) arguing that Obama should be impeached because he is a Muslim (complete with a promo promising free guns, paid for by “a millionaire” who wants you “protected against what’s coming.”)
The video in the email is by evangelist Jack van Impe, known for his premillennial rapture theology and his disconnected rambling in Bible verses. It is entitled “President Obama’s Religion in Question” and argues that he is really a Muslim. Joan, who claims in an email to be “well-educated,” is one of those tea partiers who thinks she’s calling for a return to “our Constitution” while she’s promoting a religious test for public office. I asked if she had actually read the Constitution and she insists that she has, and then asserted that “Obama and his cronies are trying to change everything in it. Including any part about GOD & Country. He is not a Christian. He stated more than once that he was a Muslim.”
Christine O’Donnell, as Candace so aptly pointed out, was playing on the Christian right canard that since the precise words “separation of church and state” are not in the Constitution, it must not have been intended. But, Joan, there is no “God and country” part. The only reference to religion (not to your god or any other) in the body of the document is the prohibition against a religious test for public office.
The structure of loose affiliation among Tea Party groups (and the “herd of cats” style of the tea partiers themselves) allows tea partiers to say all kinds of distorted and extreme things which can then be denied by other tea partiers. The result for those of us trying to follow the movement is that every time we write about something extreme, it’s dismissed with “well, every movement has its fringe folks.”
I started to write this a week ago but had second thoughts because the whole exchange with Joan seemed like a one-off. Then today Salon.com is reporting that Tea Party Nation leader and founder Judson Phillips is calling for the defeat of Congressman Keith Ellison because he is a Muslim. Tea Party Nation claims 30,000 online members — and no one has called for him to retract the statement.