First up from the God Machine this week is a bold new faith-based suggestion from the Republican Party's favorite idea man -- Newt Gingrich -- about a new approach to national security. TPM reported yesterday:
After an EgyptAir plane carrying 66 passengers disappeared en route from Paris to Cairo, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested Thursday night the U.S. create a test for airport workers to see if they "believe in Sharia." Asked by Fox News host Sandra Smith, standing in for Megyn Kelly, whether he's confident in the country's ability to vet airport workers, Gingrich replied, "No, no, no."
The Georgia Republican said he's fairly confident in TSA officials' ability to "stop people who are stupid" from bringing weapons onto airplanes. Gingrich added, however, that airports need to create "the right standards."
More specifically, the former Speaker argued, "You know, the first test -- and this is very hard to do -- the first test ought to be, are we dealing with people who believe in Sharia and who want to impose Islamic supremacism?"
In case the problem with Gingrich's bold new idea wasn't obvious, Wonkette explained, with tongue firmly in cheek, "Because one of the laws of Sharia Law is that if someone asks you if you believe in Sharia Law, you have to say yes."
Right. Applying religious tests to airport workers is a bad idea on its face, but it's especially problematic when trying to identify those who may pose security threats -- because if you ask them, "Hey, do you want to impose Islamic supremacism?" they're very likely to say, "Nope."
Why not at least subject these employees to security backgrounds checks? That's a great idea -- which was already implemented many years ago.
There is, of course, a broader context to all of this. The former Speaker is apparently eager to be considered for the vice presidential nomination under Donald Trump, and with the Republicans' presumptive nominee running on a platform with highly controversial anti-Muslim plans, Gingrich has an incentive to push ideas like religious tests for airport workers: they're the sort of thing that might impress the GOP candidate.
That does not, however, mean they're ideas with merit.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Struggling to keep a denomination together: "Amid reports that United Methodist leaders are considering dividing over LGBT equality disputes, the denomination's top bishop on Tuesday asked members to recommit to remaining together, even though he described their community as having a 'broken heart' and in the views of many being 'out of time.'"
* The Pope continues to say things that will not improve his popularity on the right: "Pope Francis has blasted employers who do not provide health care as bloodsucking leeches and he also took aim at the popular 'theology of prosperity' in a pointed sermon on the dangers of wealth. Referring to businesses that hire employees on part-time contracts so they don't have to provide health and pension benefits, Francis said Thursday that was akin to sucking the blood from their workers' veins, leaving them 'to eat air.'"
* It'll be interesting to see the kind of scholarship this produces: "With an increasing number of Americans leaving religion behind, the University of Miami has received a donation in late April from a wealthy atheist to endow what it says is the nation's first academic chair 'for the study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics.'"