U.S. President Barack Obama waves at the start of his State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 20, 2015.
Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

This Week in God, 1.24.15

First up from the God Machine this week is an unexpected complaint from the religious right about, of all things, President Obama’s State of the Union address.
 
At first, I thought conservatives might complain about the way in which the president ended his remarks. While most SOTU addresses conclude with a president saying, “God Bless America,” Obama this week wrapped up by saying, “God bless you. God bless this country we love.” The subtle shift seemed like the sort of thing conservatives might not like, and as it turns out, some on the right did take note.
 
What I didn’t expect was this.
The American Family Association’s Sandy Rios enjoys promoting bizarre conspiracy theories to imply that President Obama is a secret Muslim, and [Wednesday] she even managed to find proof of Obama’s hidden faith in his State of the Union address.
 
On Rios’ radio program … she did use the opportunity to claim that Obama was spreading Muslim messages in his speech when he used the word “pillar” to describe the foundations of American leadership in the world: “The other thing he said that I caught, he has done this before, you know there are five pillars of Islam, and he used the term ‘pillars’ again in his speech last night.”
According to the Right Wing Watch report, Rios, who seems a little preoccupied with the idea that the Christian president is a secret Muslim, added, “It is just really interesting, language can actually give us some insight, choices of words.”
 
It’s probably worth noting that the president did use the word “pillar” in his speech, but last week, Mitt Romney used the same word. Former President George W. Bush referenced “pillars” several times when discussing U.S. policy in Iraq, and former President Ronald Reagan referenced “pillars” while promoting government-sponsored religion in public schools.
 
One can only wonder whether the American Family Association, a co-host of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) “The Response” prayer rally today, sees secret Muslims everywhere.
 
Also from the God Machine this week:
 
* Likely Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum this week argued that news organizations are using Pope Francis’ recent observations to “drive a real division between the church.”
 
* Santorum appeared to be referring to news like this: “Pope Francis is firmly upholding church teaching banning contraception, but said Monday that Catholics don’t have to breed ‘like rabbits’ and should instead practice ‘responsible parenting.’”
 
* Fascinating case: “A unanimous Supreme Court ruling has invalidated an Arkansas state prison rule that barred inmates from growing beards measuring more than a quarter of an inch long. The rule had been challenged by inmate Gregory Holt, a Muslim man who had asked for permission to grow a half-inch-long beard as a compromise from the full beard he believes is required by his faith. In a ruling announced Tuesday, the Supreme Court said the policy violated Holt’s religious beliefs.”
 
* This seems like a lawsuit that probably shouldn’t have been filed: “In an effort to prove that the gays are just as hateful as Christians and therefore QED ispo facto it’s totally cool to not let them have rights, [Colorado resident Bill Jack] has filed a discrimination complaint against a Denver baker who denied him his civil rights of having ‘God Hates Gays’ on a cake” (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up)
 
* You know who you are: “Raise your hand if you go to church. OK – some of you are lying. That’s what sociology professor Philip Brenner discovered in 2011 when he published research showing that Americans “exaggerate their frequency of attendance” at weekly worship services.”
 

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This Week in God, 1.24.15