Conservative icon Schlafly could use a lesson on bearing false witness

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TAMPA, Fla. – Christian conservatives have real differences with President Obama on abortion rights, same-sex marriage and his administration’s initial adoption of rules that required Catholic hospitals to provide contraception in their health plans.

But in making the case that the president “wages war on religion,” a venerable religious right leader layered on a series of other fantastical charges in one of the pep rallies firing up visitors here this week for the Republican National Convention.

Generously, one might say that 88-year-old Phyllis Schlafly’s address to the Faith & Freedom rally included some “urban legends” about Obama’s insults to faith and the faithful. Another word for them would be “lies,” but we’ll generously assume someone has been giving the Eagle Forum founder bad information.


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The bottom line is that Schlafly told an adoring crowd in Tampa this week that Obama slights religion in all sorts of ways. The myths have such a robust life in some of the media’s more noxious outposts that few, if any, in the crowd of more than 1,000 even batted a skeptical eye at them.

Schlafly, speaking Sunday at the historic Tampa Theater, began with the canard about Obama refusing to use the word “creator” when he quotes from the Declaration of Independence. Only problem: anyone with YouTube access can readily find multiple clips of Obama quoting the “endowed by their creator” language.

She then rolled out the half-truth about Obama refusing to mention God in his Thanksgiving Day address. While literally true, the claim ignores the fact that he did mention God in his written message to the nation and that past presidents of both parties had a mixed record of bringing the Almighty into Turkey Day discourse. Even Dana Perino, former spokeswoman to President George W. Bush and current Fox News host, said she found the Thanksgiving Day claim against Obama a stretch.

Really rolling at this point with the crowd’s approval, Schlafly told how Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., where veterans and active-duty military receive medical treatment, had effectively banned Bibles.

The conservative gadfly forgot a couple of points: Obama had nothing to do with the rule. The military issued the directive to prevent proselytizing and never enforced it, before realizing it had erred.


Schlafly offered a few more zingers, including this one: Obama “would not allow the traditional White House celebration of the National Day of Prayer.” Very nicely parsed by the octogenarian, but as misleading as the rest.

As found earlier this year, the creators of the anti-Day of Prayer meme neglected to say that Obama has recognized the National Day of Prayer like every president since Harry Truman. What has differed among presidents is whether they have held a public event to recognize the occasion. President George W. Bush and some others have held public celebrations, while others have not.

Obama chose to pray privately as he does regularly, the White House has said. (And here come the shots about prayers to Allah not counting.) To say he did “not allow” the prayer event is a mighty stretch, even for a polemicist like Schlafly.

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“Friends, our religious liberty is at stake in this election,” Schlafly pronounced, “because Obama is at war with all religion in any public place, any public square, any public school and wants to confine the meaning of the 1st Amendment to just the prayer you say when you are inside your church and close the door and no one can hear you.”

At this rate, with this tone, everyone in the election free-fire zone will need a good dose of prayer and self-reflection. They might start with Exodus or Proverbs. Seems like there is something in there about bearing false witness.


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