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Rand Paul's religious pandering reaches new level

How badly does Rand Paul want the religious right's support? He's been reduced to misquoting the First Amendment.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul address attendees during the Republican National Committee spring meeting at the Peabody hotel in Memphis, Tenn., May 9, 2014. (Photo by William DeShazer/The Commercial Appeal/AP)
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul address attendees during the Republican National Committee spring meeting at the Peabody hotel in Memphis, Tenn., May 9, 2014.
The time pressure on sitting U.S. senators is fairly intense. A lawmaker has to attend committee hearings, caucus meetings, and meetings with constituents. They have to invest time in fundraising. They have to talk to the media, both in D.C. and in their home states. They occasionally even work on legislation.
For senators weighing national office, the pressure is even more burdensome -- add extensive traveling to the already long to-do list.
But we learned this month that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), despite this grueling schedule, has somehow managed to write two books recently, both of which will be released in 2015. "Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America," will reportedly hit shelves in mid-May. The Courier-Journal recently reported on the other book on the way:

[The website of Paul's publisher, Center Street] says the senator will author Our Presidents & Their Prayers: Proclamations of Faith by America's Leaders. That book is due out on Sept. 8. In the 144-page book, "Rand Paul reveals the practices of each President of the United States and sheds light on how religion played a part in their governing and personal lives," the publisher's description says.

The religious right movement is looking for a presidential candidate to rally behind. It seems the junior senator from Kentucky believes he can be that candidate -- and if that means shameless pandering, so be it.
Speaking to a group of pastors last week, Rand Paul went so far as to say, "The First Amendment says keep government out of religion. It doesn't say keep religion out of government."
Oh my.
If the Republican senator is going to quote the First Amendment, he should probably read it first. The first 16 words of the Bill of Rights are as follows: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." As Thomas Jefferson later explained, the point of the language was to "build a wall of separation between church and state."
I don't have a problem with Rand Paul swearing fealty to constitutional language, but if he's going to do so, it's important that he at least get the language right. The senator claims to have deep, passionate beliefs about the First Amendment, but it appears we now have yet another issue that the Kentucky Republican addresses without any real depth of understanding.
That said, the larger political point of the senator's efforts is also coming into focus. Social conservatives and so-called "values voters" are looking for a standard bearer, and in general, this constituency doesn't see Rand Paul as a natural ally. Clearly, the senator hopes to change that impression, emphasizing his opposition to marriage equality, his opposition to reproductive rights, decrying the nation's moral crisis, misquoting the First Amendment, and even telling pastors, “We need a revival in the country. We need another Great Awakening with tent revivals."
Time will tell if this has the desired effect on the religious right, but in the meantime, one wonders if Paul's libertarian-minded allies will stop recognizing their one-time champion.