People for the American Way (PFAW) has challenged rumored 2012 Republican presidential candidates former House Speaker Newt Gingrich , former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS) to categorically state their views on religious freedom while they appear on the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer’s radio show today. According to PFAW:
Fischer, who has a long history of outspoken bigotry and intolerance, wrote a column earlier this week asserting that the First Amendment was meant to protect only Christians.
‘The First Amendment was written by the Founders to protect the free exercise of Christianity,’ Fischer wrote, ‘They were making no effort to give special protections to Islam… Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy.’
PFAW’s President Michael Keegan said in a statement:
Gingrich, Huckabee, and Barbour all say they value the Constitution. This will be a great opportunity to show their true commitment. Bryan Fischer’s attempt to redefine a basic right at the core of our democracy is something that no public official - especially one who prides himself in protecting the Constitution - should let slide. These candidates must make it clear that if elected president they will work to uphold the rights and freedoms of all Americans. And, if they hope to one day represent all Americans, they must be careful to distance themselves from people like Fischer, who want the rights and opportunities of our country to be extended only to a few.
It’s baffling that these presidential hopefuls think that it’s appropriate to lend any credibility to someone with as astounding a record of intolerance and bigotry as Fischer. But if they still go on Fischer’s program, while on the show they should at least clearly separate themselves from his demonstrated contempt for the Constitution and for many of his fellow Americans.
The decisions by Gingrich, Huckabee, and Barbour to appear on Fischer’s show lend credibility to Fischer’s outrageous views and demonstrate that Gingrich, Huckabee, and Barbour are clearly pandering to extremist elements within Republican Party’s base. If Gingrich, Huckabee, and Barbour fail to repudiate Fischer’s comments, serious questions will remain about their purported commitments to religious freedom. Further, it will be just one more demonstration that today’s Republican Party does not represent a core interest of the American Jewish community.
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