First up from the God Machine this week is a prominent voice in the religious right movement, taking a bold policy position that most fair-minded Americans rejected many generations ago.
As my friend Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch reported this week, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer told his audience that in the 18th century, only property owners were allowed to vote – and according to Fischer, that’s still a sensible policy for a democracy. For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the argument:
“You know back in the day, the colonial period, you had to be a landowner, a property owner, to be eligible to vote – and I don’t think that’s a bad idea. And the reason is very simple: if somebody owns property in a community, they’re vested in the community. If they’re renters, they’re going to be up and gone. They could leave the next day. They have no tie to the community; they’ve got no long-term investment in the community.“But somebody that owns property, he cares, now, he cares about the public policies that manage that community because it’s going to affect his property; it’s going to affect the use of his property; it’s going to affect the value of his property; it’s going to affect what he’s able to do with his property; it’s going to affect his family who lives on that property. He’s vested. So he’s going to have a real interest in seeing what kind of policies are adopted.“But see, people that are not property owners, it’s like people that pay no taxes – they’ve got no skin in the game. They don’t care about the same things that somebody does who is rooted in the community.”
It is, of course, extremely unusual to hear any American publicly suggest disenfranchising millions of his fellow citizens who lack the financial resources to own property. It’s equally rare to hear an American argue that citizens who can’t afford to own property are necessarily less concerned with their community’s wellbeing.
Let’s also not forget that Fischer is a fairly high-profile figure in conservative media – in recent years, a wide variety of Republicans from the U.S. Senate and U.S. House have appeared on Fischer’s program. In advance of the 2012 presidential race, roughly half the Republican candidates in the field cozied up to Fischer, despite his extremist views.
And yet, this is the same guy who’s sympathetic to the idea that only those wealthy enough to own property should be allowed to have their voices heard in American elections.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* An Oklahoma minister filed a lawsuit challenging a state license plate featuring a young Apache warrior shooting an arrow skyward, claiming that the image is a religious message that’s inconsistent with Christianity. A federal judge this week rejected Bethany pastor Keith Cressman’s argument (thanks to my colleague Will Femia for the tip).
* Pastor Mike Lewis, a Baptist minister in Vacaville, California, was accused this week of “encouraging three homeless people in his church’s care to throw a Molotov cocktail through the front window of his ex-girlfriend’s parents’ house.” His ex-girlfriend also alleges that the pastor vandalized her car and set fire to her shrubbery. Lewis has denied the allegations (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
* Politically conservative Roman Catholics have complained that Pope Francis hasn’t spoken out enough on hot-button social issues, though that changed this week when the pope addressed abortion. “It is horrific even to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day,” he said during his yearly address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, a speech known as his “State of the World” address.
* And speaking of the Catholic Church, the Archdiocese of Chicago said this week it will “release 6,000 pages of documents detailing what it knows about decades of clergy sex abuse allegations and how it handled them.”
* And Ernest T. Jones, the new running backs coach for the University of Connecticut’s football team, raised eyebrows recently when he said he intends to focus on imposing Christianity on student athletes. “We’re going to make sure they understand that Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle, that that’s something that is important,” he said. The University of Connecticut is a public university and its employees cannot legally proselytize to students.