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This Week in God

<p>First up from the God Machine this week is a look at a popular Republican governor, facing criticism from his own party because his administration
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R)

First up from the God Machine this week is a look at a popular Republican governor, facing criticism from his own party because his administration had the audacity to hire a Muslim-American employee.

At issue is Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's (R) decision to appoint Samar Ali as international director at the state's Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD). Ali, a 30-year-old lawyer, is a former White House fellow who grew up in a small town in Tennessee, before getting undergraduate and law degrees from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where she was student-body president. She's also a Muslim.

And for some Republican activists, that's a problem. In fact, it's such a problem, that several Republican Party county organizations have passed resolutions criticizing Haslam for hiring Ali, among other people the right doesn't like.

The county GOP resolutions denounce Ali as an expert in "Sharia compliant finance.""Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has elevated and/or afford [sic] preferential political status to Sharia adherents in Tennessee, thereby aiding and abetting the advancement of an ideology and doctrine which is wholly incompatible with the Constitution of the United States and the Tennessee Constitution," the Williamson resolution, dated July 10, 2012, states.

Kevin Kookogey, chairman of the Williamson County Republicans, told TPM his own party's governor just doesn't understand "the threat of Shariah." Kookogey, in all seriousness, added that Haslam administration officials "seem willing to accept the claims and defense of the Muslim Brotherhood at face value, refusing to even consider that, perhaps, those bent on destroying Western Civilization might just be infiltrating our institutions."

For its part, the Haslam administration doesn't seem to care about the resolutions approved by county Republican committees. One official said, "We have absolutely no plans to dismiss [Ali]. On the contrary, we are proud of her hire and lucky to have her as part of our team."

Also from the God Machine this week:

* To put it mildly, the Christian conservatives were eager to exploit the tragic violence in Aurora yesterday, blaming the murders on, among other things, the absence of state-sponsored prayer in public schools and government-endorsed Ten Commandments displays.

* Rick Warren, the mega-church pastor and author, announced this week he will host another forum for the presidential candidates, just as he did in 2008. The date has not yet been set, and neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney has formally agreed to participate.

* David Barton's "The Jefferson Lies" was named the "Least Credible History Book in Print" this week. Barton is a pseudo-historian who's become a celebrity within the religious right movement.

* And a federal judge this week agreed that Muslims in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who've been trying for months to get a permit to use their new mosque, "should be allowed to worship there in time for Ramadan," which began on Thursday (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).