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John Kasich Wants To Create A Government Agency To Spread Religious Propaganda

John Kasich

Apparently realizing that his effort to portray himself as a moderate, reasonable conservative wasn’t helping his Presidential campaign, Ohio Governor John Kasich has decided to pander to the extreme religious wing of his party:

John Kasich would like to add a new federal agency if he becomes president: one to promote “Judeo-Christian Western values.”

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, the Ohio governor said the U.S. “must be more forceful in the battle of ideas.”

“U.S. public diplomacy and international broadcasting have lost their focus on the case for Western values and ideals and effectively countering our opponents’ propaganda and disinformation,” Kasich said. “I will consolidate them into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core, Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share: the values of human rights, the values of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association.”

He said the main areas of the world he would target would be Russia, China and the Middle East.

Later Tuesday in an interview with NBC he elaborated on what the job of the agency would be.

“Its job would be fundamentally to revive what we used to do when we beamed messages into the former Soviet Union. We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have Western ethics … to be part of a Judeo-Christian society,” he said.

Given the fact that Kasich has spent most of the Presidential campaign trying to play the role of the moderate, reasonable conservative alternative to people like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz, it’s somewhat surprising to see something like this coming from him. As a practical matter, for example, an agency specifically dedicated to the idea of spreading what would seem to be largely religious propaganda, sort of a Voice of America for Christ if you will, would seem to be entirely counterproductive. One of the primary messages of the radicals in the Middle East has been their claim that the United States and the rest of the West that has spent the better part of the last fourteen years acting in the form of modern day “Crusaders” who are at war with all of Islam rather than trying to combat the very real threat of international terrorism, terrorism that quite often harms Muslims far more than it does Americans, Brits, French, or any other Westerner. This is one of the reasons why the Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration before it, has avoided linking the radicals to Islam as a whole, something for which it has been routinely attacked by conservatives who seem to think that uttering the words “Radical Islamic Terrorism” will somehow accomplish anything. This kind of agency spreading “Judeo-Christian Values,” whatever that even means, would seem to be something that the radicals could point to as further evidence to support the arguments of the radicals, thus undercutting our efforts to build the kind of bridges t Muslims around the world that are needed in this battle. Both Ed Kilgore and Charles Pierce have addressed this particular point quite succinctly.

The other obvious problem with Kasich’s idea, of course, are the rather obvious First Amendment concerns that it raises. If the Establishment Clause of that Amendment means anything, it means that the Government cannot engage in the spreading of religious propaganda of any kind, even in the generic “Judeo-Christian” sense. These concerns hardly mean much of anything the religious right, of course, but they would likely be challenged in Court even in the increasingly unlikely event that Kasich became President and managed to get a program like this through Congress. Of course, this idea of Kasich’s is not meant to be taken seriously as a policy proposal, it is meant to pander to that wing of the Republican Party and given some kind of momentum to a Presidential campaign that seems stuck in neutral. That it is also both ill-advised as policy and unconstitutional just makes Kasich seem all the more desperate and cynical.

Update: The Columbus Dispatch reports that Kasich seems to be trying to distance himself from this idea:

A day after saying he wanted to create a new federal agency focused on spreading Judeo-Christian values to other countries, GOP presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich walked it back,Dispatch Washington bureau chief Jack Torry writes.

“One day after urging the creation of a federal agency to promote ‘core Judeo-Christian, Western values,'” Kasich said “he instead would upgrade the existing Voice of America to ‘engage in the war of ideas’ against Islamic State.”

“I don’t think you need a new agency, it’s really breathing life into something that kind of has become dormant,” Kasich said. “You don’t hear much about the Voice of America anymore.”

So, it’s not a new agency them, just turning VOA into a religious propaganda organ? Yea, still a bad idea, Governor.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    Later Tuesday in an interview with NBC he elaborated on what the job of the agency would be.

    “Its job would be fundamentally to revive what we used to do when we beamed messages into the former Soviet Union. We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have Western ethics … to be part of a Judeo-Christian society,” he said.

    Let this be a private sector enterprise. Why can’t right wing media upgrade their signal strength so that their broadcasts can be picked up in those apostate nations?

    I agree with Doug on this:

    Of course, this idea of Kasich’s is not meant to be taken seriously as a policy proposal, it is meant to pander to that wing of the Republican Party and given some kind of momentum to a Presidential campaign that seems stuck in neutral. That it is also both ill-advised as policy and unconstitutional just makes Kasich seem all the more desperate and cynical.

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  2. CSK says:

    I can’t imagine why he’s doing this. He has no shot at the nomination, so appealing to religious fanatics won’t gain him any votes at this point. They already have Carson, and even Trump, who has recently claimed that the Bible is his favorite book. (Pardon me while I puke.)

    He might be gambling that Carson and Trump will fade, and he’ll then have to fight Cruz for the evangelicals. But…it’s not going to work. I thought he was shrewder than this idiocy seems to indicate.

    And how does this tie in with a desire for smaller government?

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  3. Mark says:

    I’m confused on what he means by “Judeo-Christian?” Is he suggesting that Jesus is the son of God sent to forgive man for our sins and give us eternal life, or is he suggesting that God is one, there is none else, that the the trinity isn’t monotheistic and that worshipping a human being like Jesus is idolatry? Seems pretty schizophrenic.

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  4. Jen says:

    Does someone have a counter going that tracks the number of times these candidates make campaign statements that are clearly unconstitutional?

    Doesn’t it seem strange to anyone else that this many people running for president don’t seem to know or understand what is in that document? I get that much of it is pandering to the base, but…can’t they pander without violating the tenets on which this country was based?

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  5. Pinky says:

    He appears to have defined those values as

    the values of human rights, the values of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association

    You can’t fairly call that “largely religious propaganda, sort of a Voice of America for Christ if you will”.

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  6. CSK says:

    @Pinky:

    No, you can’t object to those values–at least I don’t. His mistake was in labeling them as Judeo-Christian values, which gives a strong religious overtone to the discussion. In any case, those ideas are an outgrowth of Renaissance humanism, which paved the way for the Enlightenment.

    It does sound as if Kasich is trying to pander to the same crowd that’s frantic to retrofit the Founding Fathers as the equivalent of modern day Protestant fundamentalists, when in fact the vast majority of them were publicly Anglicans while maintaining a private belief in Deism. Thomas Jefferson rewrote the Bible to take out the supernatural references.

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  7. André Kenji De Sousa says:

    The British have a good return on their investment with the BBC World Service. Strengthening Voice of America would be a good idea, I don’t if thats Kasich ‘s proposal.

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  8. Tyrell says:

    Mr. Kasich, you have a message. Joseph Goebbels wants you to call him.

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  9. Hal_10000 says:

    This is the end game of GOP campaigns. You saw it with Walker too. The hard right wing pander is the prelude to the total collapse of the campaign.

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  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Hal_10000: I can only hope.

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  11. anjin-san says:

    Your 15 minutes are almost up…

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  12. Slugger says:

    I doubt that Kyrill, the Patriarch of Moscow, wants to hear from America about religion. I doubt that any Muslim thinks that he needs instruction in believing in a monotheistic world view that emphasizes a code of action to achieve eternal bliss from some guy in Ohio. I doubt that writing Gott mit uns on our belts will impress anybody in the Levant.

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  13. Andre Kenji says:

    To be fair, improving both NPR and PBS, them using their content to make VOA a real equivalent to the BBC World Service would be a great idea. You don´t need anything about “Judeo-Christian values”, just good American produced journalism. That would improve the image of the United States among people in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, where the World Service is an institution.

    On the other hand, running on the GOP Primary and then wanting to give more money to NPR and PBS is not going to improve your chances of victory.

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  14. DrDaveT says:

    So, what has Kasich been saying about what we should do for the Syrian refugees, at the same time he has been saying we should double down on Judaeo-Christian values?

    Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

    As ye would that men should do to you, do ye likewise also unto them.

    Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

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  15. Argon says:

    He’s the ‘sane’ candidate, right?

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  16. Kylopod says:

    @CSK:

    I can’t imagine why he’s doing this.

    It’s simple: he wants to generate headlines by saying outrageous things. That’s the way the GOP contests have worked in the past two cycles. He’s been at big risk of simply fading away, but now he’s going to be noticed. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a slight boost in the polls now, courtesy of a few Republican voters who went from “Kasich who?” to “Kasich pissed off the libruls!”

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  17. Tony W says:

    @Pinky:

    He appears to have defined those values as

    the values of human rights, the values of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association

    You can’t fairly call that “largely religious propaganda, sort of a Voice of America for Christ if you will”.

    Agreed that you can’t call that religious propaganda – those are clearly the sort of values that seem to come despite religion, not because of it.

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  18. gVOR08 says:

    We already operate something called Radio Sawa with apparently not much influence. Whatever effectiveness VOA had was because their policy was that “VOA news will be accurate, objective and comprehensive.” That doesn’t seem to be what Kasich has in mind. I wouldn’t be sure this is just a hollow campaign ploy. While not as nutty as Carson or Cruz, Kasich is himself a good deal over-churched, if I may flip the phrase my brother, the Reverend, uses for people like me.

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  19. James Pearce says:

    @Pinky:

    You can’t fairly call that “largely religious propaganda, sort of a Voice of America for Christ if you will”.

    Have to agree with you here. He’s calling for basically secular Western values, but misattributing them as “Judeo-Christian values.”

    I presume this was for his audience’s benefit.

    Still, those values don’t need a new agency. They just need to be reiterated in the extant agencies.

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  20. J-Dub says:

    It’s a Hail Mary and it just landed in the dirt somewhere near the 20 yard line.

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  21. Pinky says:

    @James Pearce: Through most of my life, “Western”, in terms of tradition and culture, has been treated as interchangeable with “Judeo-Christian”. (“Post-Enlightenment” is also used.) If Kasich had used that terminology instead of Judeo-Christian, there would be no story here. I doubt if anyone other than a few people on the left even noticed the terminology.

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  22. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    You are right that if he used Post Enlightenment then there wouldn’t be a story here. We already have the apparatus and we are already doing it on a small scale. He chose Judeo-Christian for a specific political reason. As far as only a few people on the Left noticing, that is mainly because only a few people of any political persuasion even noticed him or anything he said at all.

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  23. Kylopod says:

    @Pinky:

    Through most of my life, “Western”, in terms of tradition and culture, has been treated as interchangeable with “Judeo-Christian”

    Then you’ve had very different experiences from mine (including my experiences with scholarly writings on the topic). “Judeo-Christian” has explicitly religious connotations which runs contrary to the development of Western liberalism. Indeed, what’s striking is that all the supposedly Judeo-Christian values Kasich lists are nothing like what the church has promoted for much of the past two millennia. Indeed, many of the most important figures in advancing these values in the West (Voltaire, Adam Smith, John Locke) were men who explicitly rejected traditional Christianity.

    In any case, regardless of how scholars use the term, you have to be willfully blind not to realize that when American politicians use it, it is a code word for trying to break down the wall between church and state.

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  24. Andre Kenji says:

    Most observers agrees that the BBC World Service is a enormous bargain for the Brits. It´s not a coincidence that London is so popular among people from countries where the World Service is popular. It´s worth every single penny, and you could do a lot more for the chronically underfunded VOA, PBS and NPR.

    On the other hand, Kasich could not say to Conservatives that the BBC is a good model and that he wants to spend more money with PBS and NPR, then that´s why he had to talk about Judeo-Christian values.

    But every country should spend money with that. It´s worth every penny.

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  25. James Pearce says:

    @Pinky:

    Through most of my life, “Western”, in terms of tradition and culture, has been treated as interchangeable with “Judeo-Christian”.

    I’ll agree with the caveat that the term “Western” also includes nods to the Greeks and Romans, who were neither Judeo nor Christian.

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