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Vast Majority Of Americans Oppose Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis’s Actions

Kim Davis Mike Huckabee

In a poll that was taken before she was released yesterday, a new Rasmussen poll shows that the vast majority of Americans do not support Kim Davis or other political officials who ignore court rulings based on alleged religious principles:

A federal judge has sent a Kentucky county clerk to jail for refusing to issue wedding licenses to gay couples despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in late June upholding the legality of same-sex marriage. The clerk insists that gay marriage violates her Christian beliefs.

But just 26% of Likely U.S. Voters think an elected official should be able to a ignore a federal court ruling that he or she disagrees with for religious reasons. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 66% think the official should carry out the law as the federal court has interpreted it.

This polling is largely consistent with the polling we’ve seen on same-sex marriage in general, as well as with polling taken in the wake of this Spring’s controversy regarding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In that poll, a smaller majority of Americans said they opposed the idea that religious business owners should have the right to refuse to provide services of same-sex weddings. Obviously, the fact that we are dealing here with the case of a public official likely makes the public response stronger than it would be in the case of a private business owner. Additionally, Davis’s flagrant disregard for the Orders of a Court and her refusal to even allow her employees to issue marriage licenses if they were willing to do so has likely not done very good for her political cause.

We can’t access the crosstabs on this poll without being a paid Rasmussen subscriber, but I think it’s fairly clear where the breakdown of supporters and opponents will lie. To the extent that there are any people who support Davis’s position, they are likely to be found on the Republican side of aisle and most especially among those who identify themselves as strongly conservative. That’s why we’ve seen, with notable exceptions like Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Carly Fiorina, nearly all of the Republican candidates for President support Davis in what she is doing, and many of them, such as Mike Huckabee, making the entirely nonsensical argument that nobody is obligated to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergegell v. Hodges. Whether or not these candidates actually believe what they’re saying, it’s clear that the real reason that they rallying behind Davis is because they are pandering to a very specific wing of the Republican Party. These religious conservatives don’t represent the majority of the Republican Party by any means, and as this polls shows, they certainly don’t represent a majority of the nation, but they play an important role in the GOP because they are the ones most likely to come out to vote in places like Iowa and South Carolina.

That pandering was on great display yesterday in Kentucky outside the county jail where Davis was being held. Prior to the announcement of her release, it had already been announced that Presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz were going to be appearing at a rally there and would try to meet with Davis in jail as well. With her release announced, the event took on a completely different tone, with Huckabee, Davis’s lawyer, and, briefly, Davis herself speaking. Perhaps the amusing part of the day was the sight of Mike Huckabee’s aides physically preventing Cruz from getting up on the stage with Huckabee and Davis, with the result being that anyone watching on national television would’ve just seen Mike Huckabee and Kim Davis in rally that even Rod Dreher, who calls Davis the “Shipwreck of Religious Liberty,” was turned off by:

I thought Ted Cruz’s turning up at the Middle Eastern bishops meeting and bashing them was the most cynical move I had ever seen by a Christian Right politician, but Huckabee may have bested that. The Family Research Council and other Christian, Inc. lobbyists are already writing the fundraising appeals, you can bet. And you can also bet that they’re bending the ear of clueless House Republicans to get them to propose provocative religious liberty legislation that stands no chance of passing, but every chance of discrediting the cause in the public’s eye. (In fact, I was told last night by someone deeply involved in this issue at the Congressional level that this is exactly what is happening.)

So I’m angry about this. Huckabee and Cruz, but especially Huckabee, are doing wonders to inject juice into their own presidential campaigns, but the political cost to the long-term good of orthodox Christians will be severe. But hey, we’ve Made A Statement, and demonstrating our emotions (and, while we’re at it, raising some money for GOP candidates and Christian advocacy groups) is the most important thing.

For conservative Christians who don’t understand why we should care about the political effect of the Kim Davis debacle, and the optics of yesterday’s release rally, I want you to consider how it would appear to you if Hillary Clinton staged a rally against police brutality around the release from jail of a West Baltimore thug who had been roughed up by the cops as they were arresting him for shooting up a neighborhood. The gangster takes the stage to the sound of gangsta rap, wearing pants hanging off his butt, with cornrowed hair and covered in tattoos.

It could well be that Hillary’s principles were in order, and an important principle was at stake. But think of how the imagery of celebrating this guy like that would make you feel. How sympathetic would you be to the worthy cause of fighting police brutality after that display? If fighting police brutality means having to stand with a victim like that, would most people be more inclined to join the cause?

Dreher is concerned, obviously, that the Kim Davis fiasco and the extent to which it has become injected into the race for the Republican nomination for President will harm the political case for the issues he cares about such as religious liberty exemptions for private business owners. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with Dreher on that issue, the Rasmussen poll would seem to confirm that his fears are very well placed. Just as Republican opposition to same-sex marriage to the point of making support of a Constitutional Amendment to ban it a plank in their platform has caused real harm to the GOP among many voting groups, associating the cause of religious liberty with a lawbreaker like Kim Davis in the mind of the public can only serve to harm that cause.

On a broader political level, it also seems fairly clear that Republicans are in danger of harming themselves if they allow the party to become associated with the likes of Kim Davis or other public officials who seem to believe that ignoring the law is a form of “religious liberty.” No doubt, this issue will come up at next’s week Republican debate and if the impression that the public walks with from that debate is of a party the majority of whose candidates support a woman who is breaking the law and defying the orders of Federal District Court Judge, then that seems like something that is likely to hurt the party going forward.

As for Davis’s case itself, there are no new developments today. Although she has been released from jail, Davis’s lawyers say that she will not be returning to work until at least Friday. Meanwhile, Deputy Clerks in her office continue to issue licenses, with one saying that he would continue to do so even if she ordered him not to upon her return. Where it goes from here is really all up to her, but given the fact that she, her attorneys, and the politicians that have rallied around her claiming some kind of victory out of all of this I am suspecting that this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Kimberly Davis, or of this issue in general.

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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. Modulo Myself says:

    If 26% percent of Americans believe that Kim Davis should not have to follow the law, it’s pretty obvious that this 26% is a majority of Republicans and religious.

    Personally, I find Kim Davis somewhat sympathetic, in that she seems to believe that her soul is actually on the line. Compare her to a religious CEO who won’t offer birth control as a health care option, or some dirtball Catholic who won’t follow federal law and provide abortions to teenagers who have been sexually assaulted while crossing into America. These people are total frauds. Not surprisingly, Dreher identifies with them rather than a poor white woman from Kentucky.

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  2. CSK says:

    Whenever I’m looking for sound moral advice, I always seek out the nearest thrice-divorced, four times married adulteress who gave birth to one man’s twins whilst still married to another man.

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  3. michael reynolds says:

    The slow, slow, sloooooooow awakening of conservative pundits is fascinating to watch. Slowly, a full seven years behind reality, it begins to dawn on them that the party of small government is now the party of fear, bigotry and contempt.

    When you breed and feed monsters, sometimes the monster turns on you. It’s what we call poetic justice.

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  4. David in KC says:

    @Modulo Myself: I’m not sure she is all that sympathetic. If she truly believed her soul was on the line, she would resign. Kim Davis might be the best thing to happen to same sex marriage. Her words and actions show how far they will go to deny civil rights in the name of religion, and doing so in such a way that it is front page news. Of course, there is the added benefit of dragging most of the republican candidates for President down with her. (And before any of the usual suspects point out that she’s a democrat, please point out one major party figure, or heck, a minor one, that is supporting her.)

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  5. Gromitt Gunn says:

    She seems like such a delightful person to work for, it is unsurprising that some of her Deputy Chiefs are enjoying being able to publically defy her while the attention of the world makes it supremely unlikely that they would get fired for it. Everything about her screams Micromanaging Petty Tyrant. It would not surprise me if Deputy Clerk Mason realized that playing his cards right here could easily lead to him be the next person earning that $80,000 annual salary.

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  6. DrDaveT says:

    the vast majority of Americans do not support Kim Davis or other political officials who ignore court rulings based on alleged religious principles

    In that case, I strongly encourage all GOP candidates to get behind Ms. Davis as vehemently and publicly as possible.

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  7. Ron Beasley says:

    She’s a fat hypocritical hillbilly who should be in prison. Where are the lions when we need them?

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  8. al-Ameda says:

    @CSK:

    Whenever I’m looking for sound moral advice, I always seek out the nearest thrice-divorced, four times married adulteress who gave birth to one man’s twins whilst still married to another man.

    I think I can see why her deeply held religious beliefs compelled her to refuse to issue a marriage license to same sex couples, after all, they’re immoral, in a way that repeated adulterous behavior is … not … right?

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  9. Rafer Janders says:

    But just 26% of Likely U.S. Voters think an elected official should be able to a ignore a federal court ruling that he or she disagrees with for religious reasons.

    There’s that number again….

    “Obama vs. Alan Keyes. Keyes was from out of state, so you can eliminate any established political base; both candidates were black, so you can factor out racism; and Keyes was plainly, obviously, completely crazy…Head-trauma crazy. But 27% of the population of Illinois voted for him. They put party identification, personal prejudice, whatever ahead of rational judgement. Hell, even like 5% of Democrats voted for him. That’s crazy behaviour. I think you have to assume a 27% crazification factor in any population.”

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  10. J-Dub says:

    She looks so happy and triumphant, like she won. She doesn’t seem to realize that she is headed right back to jail as soon as she tries to impose her will on her deputy clerks. It seems clear that the only reason she hasn’t resigned in protest is because she makes quite a bit more than most people in Kentucky. Sending her to jail will do no good as long as she continues to be paid. The judge should fine her daily in excess of whatever she is getting paid until she feels compelled to resign.

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  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Personally, I am sickened by this racist characterization:

    I want you to consider how it would appear to you if Hillary Clinton staged a rally against police brutality around the release from jail of a West Baltimore thug who had been roughed up by the cops as they were arresting him for shooting up a neighborhood…. The gangster takes the stage to the sound of gangsta rap, wearing pants hanging off his butt, with cornrowed hair and covered in tattoos.

    Rod Dreher? You are a vile racist chicken livered pig. You just happen to know he is a thug because he is from West Baltimore? Or is it because there is “gangsta rap” playing (in all truth, you don’t have a clue what gangsta rap is do you? but I’ll bet you read about it once)? Or can you tell by the way he dresses? Or is it the cornrows? The tattoos?

    No, it’s not any of those things. It’s because he was black and the police arrested him and we all know cops don’t ever make any mistakes, do they?

    @Ron Beasley:It’s people like her that give hillbillies a bad name.

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    @Rafer Janders: 27% of the electorate fall under the crazification factor. let’s say Dems and GOPs are each about 35% of the electorate with 30 % pretending to be uncommitted. If it’s a good number that 5% of Dems are crazified, that’s about 2% of the total electorate. That leaves 25% of the electorate who are crazified AND GOP. That’s 71% of GOPs who are crazified. That explains a lot. And it’s easily enough for a Trump, or a Cruz, or even a Huckabee to get the nomination.

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  13. Lenoxus says:

    @David in KC:

    If she truly believed her soul was on the line, she would resign.

    Why couldn’t she believe that God expects his servants to actively prevent as many gay marriages as possible, not just keep their hands clean on authorizing new ones? Or at least that doing so could serve as repentence for her past sins (adultery, etc)? Maybe that’s how she pictures the convo with St Peter going down. “Sure I had four marriages, but I also made some gay couples miserable for a while!”

    Not that this excuses her. My point is that you can’t allow the sincerity of belief to be too significant a factor, or else you’ll be defeated by the next bigot who can prove their beliefs are sincere.

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  14. C. Clavin says:

    @CSK:
    But see….that doesn’t matter. Because after all that she found Christ (a fictional character) and now she is qualified to teach the rest of us how to live according to God’s word. Which is also fictional.

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  15. Joe says:

    @Rafer Janders: I was stopped at the idea that 26% of Americans actually believe it’s ok for a government official to violate the law for their personal religious beliefs – like 1 in 4. Being from Illinois and being reminded of the Obama/Keyes election which I survived to talk about, I was strangely buoyed up by the comparison. I guess 1 in 4 people will just do or believe anything – and the world goes on.

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  16. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: In fairness Dreher was trying to make a valid point. He feels that it’s important to fight for religious freedom, he feels that Davis has a valid point to make, and he feels that having that case associated with carnival hucksters like Huckabee and Cruz associates the cause of religious freedom with right wing extremism in the public eye, thereby harming the cause of religious freedom. Or at least his point would be valid if a) he could define their religious freedom in a way that makes sense and doesn’t impact the freedom of the rest of us, and b) this stuff hadn’t been intimately intertwined with RW extremism for decades.

    Apparently his Benedict Option is a lot like going Galt. A lot of talk, but no one ever actually goes.

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  17. JohnMcC says:

    While I am not a Christian I have a lot of respect for those who are and what really burns me up about this kind of circus is the easy assumption by Ms Davis and Gov Huckabee and their crowd that they are the true Christians.

    They should read Romans chapter 13. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established….(H)e who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted…”

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  18. Tony W says:

    One of the best bellwethers of public opinion is comedy – and in this area Ms. Davis is clearly losing the battle.

    Seemingly absurd comparisons to the Kentucky situation are everywhere. My favorite imagines Muslim WalMart employees asking pork-buyers to move to aisle 9, but you’d better first buy those Cheetos in aisle 7 because the lady over in 9 is a bit overweight and can’t sell you the junk food. I’ve seen fake DMV signs explaining that Women driving violates the clerk’s beliefs. It goes on and on – and every one of them is spot on.

    I am still awestruck that this lady is the hill the “real” conservatives decided to die upon.

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  19. Grewgills says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    He may or may not be a racist, I don’t know him or even read him so I don’t know. To your point though, he knows he’s a gangster because he made him up and specified that he had been shooting up the community. The racial stereotypes he threw on top of that were about optics. He added many of the typical stereotypes that people, particularly socially conservatives, associate with thugs or gangsters, race, music, style, etc. The optics of Clinton appearing beside someone who fulfilled the right wing fever dream of an inner city gang banger would make their collective heads explode. That is the point he was trying to get across. This circus with Davis at the center ring, the Huckster horning in, her husband outfitted in full stereotypical redneck regalia (overalls, softball jersey, and trucker hat) only serves to associate ‘religious freedom’ with backwards hillbilly hypocrite. In his mind that is a bad thing because it hurts causes he supports.

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  20. Ron Beasley says:

    I see the band Survivor has sued Mike Hackabee and Kim Davis for using their song Eye of The Tiger without permission.

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  21. CSK says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Oh,indeed.We should all follow Mz. Kim’s sterling example of cheating on and dumping spouses (having, presumably, sworn before God to remain faithful in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, till death do us part) and unleash our holy wrath on the two guys next door who’ve been living together monogamously and happily for the past 25 years.

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  22. DrDaveT says:

    @Joe:

    I was stopped at the idea that 26% of Americans actually believe it’s ok for a government official to violate the law for their personal religious beliefs

    It’s both worse than that and not as bad. I’m reasonably certain that the 26% don’t believe “it’s OK for a government official to violate the law for their personal religious beliefs”, full stop. The 26% are a mix of those who believe it’s OK if you’re doing it to prevent a gay marriage, and those who believe it’s OK if the beliefs involved are those of [insert subset of Christians here]. No rationality or consistency is in play here — it’s a mix of a particular sect feeling entitled to special treatment, and/or various people wanting to stuff the djinn back in the bottle on gay marriage. With considerable overlap.

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  23. Joe says:

    @DrDaveT: Going back to the RaferJanders story to which I was replying, I think it’s not limited to entitled Christians, but to about any fringe position you might want to propose, entitled Christians being an obvious and high-profile example. So, yes, worse and not that bad – as long as we can hold them (and they, us in our little idiosyncracies) to a simple quarter.

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  24. humanoid.panda says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Compare her to a religious CEO who won’t offer birth control as a health care option, or some dirtball Catholic who won’t follow federal law and provide abortions to teenagers who have been sexually assaulted while crossing into America.

    I view this differently, a little. Imagine a Catholic nun that spent her whole life working with the poor and really does think that abortion is murder (a position with which I totally disagree). How is she any less of a sympatethic figure than Davis, someone who wants to both keep her conscience clear and keep getting government $$$. In the case of the nun, the problem is really with a system which devolves state responsibility on private actors. The problem with Davis is that she is an entitled idiot.

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  25. humanoid.panda says:

    26% is slightly below 27%, so we are making (slow and statistically insignificant) progress here!

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  26. humanoid.panda says:

    An interesting wrinkle here: Davis says she is going back to work and will block clerks from issuing licenses again. This means she could be in prison on Tuesday, the day of the next GOP debate- and her “plight” will be inevitably a major point of discussion. Let’s just say that the RNC will not be happy about that…

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  27. DK says:

    The U.S. is — what? — 70% Christian and 76% religious. But only 26% of Americans think religion is a valid excuse to deny rights to other citizens.

    There’s a lot of hope in these numbers. Americans may take a while, but we eventually get it right.

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  28. Modulo Myself says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    Well, no one forced Catholic Charities to accept money from the federal government in return for providing services to illegal immigrants. I mean, in the case I’m referring to, it was black and white–sexual assault against women crossing the border is common and abortion, in this case, is allowed to be funded by the government.

    There’s really no defense of their position. I have no sympathy for someone who ends up dealing with teenage victims of sexual abuse and who can’t follow the law. It’s low disgusting bulls–t. I’m sure plenty of nuns would agree with me in holier terms btw.

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  29. Kylopod says:

    It surprises me no one’s pointed out that this is Rasmussen we’re talking about, a Republican outfit with a well-documented bias. So maybe it’s no coincidence the question wasn’t “Should an elected official assigned to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple be able to refuse for religious reasons?” but rather the more general “Should an elected official be able to ignore a federal court ruling he or she disagrees with for religious reasons?” If a much higher percentage had said “yes” to the latter–say, 46%–I have a feeling the results would have been hyped by the right as proof that “The American public supports Kim Davis” even though it wouldn’t have proven anything of the sort.

    A bit of a tangent, but my absolute favorite example of how wording can affect poll results came in 2010 when a poll asked some respondents “Do you support gay men and lesbians serving in the military?” and other respondents “Do you support homosexuals serving in the military?” Nearly 20% more respondents answered yes to the former than the latter. I’m still scratching my head about that one.

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  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Grewgills:

    He may or may not be a racist, I don’t know him or even read him so I don’t know.

    How can you read that and not know he is a racist PoS?

    and specified that he had been shooting up the community.

    No, no he did not. He stated that the imaginary individual was

    a West Baltimore thug who had been roughed up by the cops as they were arresting him for shooting up a neighborhood.

    My English says the cops arrested him for shooting up a neighborhood, not that he actually did, and I even made fun of this by saying with great sarcasm that we all know cops are never wrong.

    The racial stereotypes he threw on top of that were about optics.

    Really? Are you that completely clueless about racism and where it comes from? Racism, by it’s very definition, IS ALL ABOUT THE OPTICS!!!!*** That is where it begins, by looking at someone and saying, “I know what that person is, I can just tell. A ni**er is a ni**er.”
    *** (and yes, I am yelling that, because I can’t believe you actually wrote that)

    He added many of the typical stereotypes that people, particularly socially conservatives, associate with thugs or gangsters, race, music, style, etc. The optics of Clinton appearing beside someone who fulfilled the right wing fever dream of an inner city gang banger would make their collective heads explode.

    You can even give a textbook definition of race baiting and not recognize it as such? Please, call Rod Dreher what he is, a racist pig, and stop making excuses for him.

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  31. Grewgills says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    How can you read that and not know he is a racist PoS?

    I can read that and see that he is speaking to a largely racist audience. That in and of itself doesn’t make him a racist. He invented an individual to match right wing stereotypes in order to illustrate to right wingers how Davis and her circus matched up with left wing stereotypes of redneck religious zealots. He couldn’t draw a parallel for that audience without drawing on racist or sexist stereotypes. Does speaking to a racist audience that are allies of the moment on an issue make someone a racist?

    That is where it begins, by looking at someone and saying…

    That’s where it begins, but not where it ends. If that was where it ended he wouldn’t have needed to add all those other details. If his fictionalized individual was an African American teenager that was a clean cut A student in his first year of college wearing a tie without the sound track that scares old white people his parallel falls flat. Yes, the racists would still howl and try to make him out to be a thug in sheep’s clothing, but that isn’t Dreher’s point.

    As a side note, I can’t believe you have me defending Dreher. I have really only read the bits of him that have been linked here and so far as I remember I have uniformly (or nearly so) disagreed with him.

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  32. mannning says:

    The real issue here is homosexuality and SSM, obviously, and to an overzealous Christian, who has read the four or so Bible phrases that totally condemn homosexuality, to them this mandate overrides the fact of her operating from a government position. (The passages of concern are: Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; and Corinthians 6:9-10.)

    All of which calls into question such excerpts from the Bible as being applicable and relevant today in the public sphere and public office.

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  33. Modulo Myself says:

    @Grewgills:

    If you click over right now to Dreher’s website, he’s reading a novel about hordes of immigrants overtaking Europe:

    One of the most unsettling thoughts provoked by Raspail’s novel is that the kind of people who will do whatever is necessary to preserve their civilization are the kind of people who regard people from the Third World as Raspail does in Chapter 20: as an undifferentiated mass of people who are barely human. In which case one wonders whether one has preserved civilization at all.

    Hard, hard questions…

    Anyone who spends their time agonizing over the same questions that dim racists agonize over is a racist.

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  34. Deserttrek says:

    @michael reynolds: can’t stop the hatred and bigotry can you? i am sure you revel in it

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  35. Pylon says:

    I think the right wing risks this turning into a Terry Schaivo case, where they all ounce on what they think will be a popular stance, especially in their party, but which backfires big time.

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