Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • Political Wisdom – Fights You Cannot Win, and more…

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 04:27 pm, December 21st 2011     &mdash      5 Comments »

    Three stories have hit me in the face this date.

    Gary Johnson leaves the GOP primary race to run as a third-party candidate. (Was he ever really in the GOP primary race?) This is essentially a statement of “I can’t win this thing so I might as well lose on my own terms.”  Or maybe its just a punt, I don’t know, but my point is the same.  In this move Johnson goes from having almost no influence on the direction the nation is going to having no influence whatsoever.  He’s not winning either way.

    Bob Vander Plaats endorses Rick Santorum. The guy that brought us Mike Huckabee has finally settled on his champion.  In faith heavy Iowa, one would think this is terribly important.  But Vander Plaats has been doing his best imitation of a bull in a china shop, and Evangelicals in Iowa appear to be a house divided.  No reports on the source of the division, but I would have to guess it is between those that want to back a winner and those that have a “principle” of some sort at stake.

    The Congressional deadlock on the payroll tax. Said the WSJ:

    The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.

    Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he’s spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.

    That’s not a bad summary of the situation and it leads to the point I really want to make.  This situation has arisen because the combative new congresspersons are unwilling to compromise in the short term.  It almost seems like they would rather fight than win.

    The constant strain through these three stories is a desire and deep passion for the ideal outweighing progress towards the ideal.  There are times where that matters, but never really in American political life.  Our system is designed to produce the compromise, which is never the ideal.

    This is very important to remember for the person of faith as they consider the candidates.  People of faith are definitionally people of the ideal.  That is much of what faith is about – an ideal to which we aspire – something that calls us to be better people.  But we must remember that not everyone shares those ideals with us and in a political system designed to create the compromise our ideals, on a societal level, will never be realized.

    When we consider candidates, we need to consider not who is ideal, but who can best advance the nation towards our ideal.  Those are two very different things.  Just some food for thought with voting now less than two weeks away.

    In Other News…

    Newt Gingrich still has some major structural problems.  But that is not keeping some people from saying some pretty outrageous things.  As reported in Christian Post, Associated Baptist Press and quoted here, The Hill:

    The president of South Carolina’s largest religious organization said Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith will be a bigger concern to voters in the “morally conservative” early-voting state than Newt Gingrich’s infidelities.

    Rev. Brad Atkins, the president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, which includes nearly 2,000 churches and a million members, told South Carolina’s Patch newspaper on Monday that both Romney and Gingrich could struggle in the Palmetto State because of these issues.

    “In South Carolina, Romney’s Mormonism will be more of a cause of concern than Gingrich’s infidelity,” Atkins said. “Conservatives can process and pray their way through the issue of forgiveness toward a Christian that has had infidelity in their life, but will struggle to understand how anyone could be a Mormon and call themselves ‘Christian.’ ”

    Yep, there it is again – theology is a bigger issue than infidelity?!  Words matter more than actions?!  That’s pretty astonishing when you come down to it.  Some people have a different spin:

    All of the stories about anti-Mormon prejudice serve to distract from Romney’s real Mormon problem, which we might as well call The Huckabee Problem. Mike Huckabee was a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2008 when he ran against the separation of church and state’s invisible wall. And that is this: There may no longer be a formal barrier to entry, but if you are thought of as a religious leader, American voters will be extremely reluctant to embrace your candidacy.

    Not sure I am buying this one.  There are not exact parallels between Mormon church structure and traditional Christian structure, but virtually every POTUS has served as a lay leader of some sort in their church, and that is all Romney has done.  His highest office, Bishop, sits somewhere between what traditional Christians would call an Elder (the highest lay office in traditional Christian churches) and a Pastor (the lowest clerical office) but it is still simply a lay leadership position and not at all out of line with what some elders in some churches do routinely.  Lott would be better off simply making the point that in general there is a greater aversion to religion in the public square period.

    But that is not stopping some people from pointing out that Romney is well positioned to win this thing.  As Romney advances his closing arguments both Michael Crowley and Ross Douthat are describing Romney paths to victory.

    But back to the issue of religion in the public square.  Romney’s faith is being targeted, directly, with only as single agenda in mind – same sex marriage.  Yesterday’s Michael Medved show featured lengthy discussions with the a couple of the atheist types that have been battling public religious Christmas displays this year.  They all cited Christian “bigotry” against homosexuals as something that made religion a negative force in society.  One was quite vehement in his opposition to Medved’s request for donations to The Salvation Army, and I cannot think of a more egalitarian or beneficial Christian organization.

    We of faith are facing a major battle in this area.  It is going to get much uglier than it already has been.  We can little afford infighting (or should I say glory hoarding?) and squabbling when we are confronted with this kind of fight.

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    Things Were In High Gear Last Week – What We Missed While We Were Doing All That Other Stuff

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:00 am, December 19th 2011     &mdash      3 Comments »

    Yep, it’s true, while we were defending “Evangelicals for Mitt” from , well, nothing really – pointing out that Newt Gingrich was a reactionary hothead and joined in the role by Rush Limbaugh, (which does not always help matters) there was a lot of stuff we did not get to talk about.  So much so, that we cannot give it all the treatment we would like, but we will try and pass it on to you as we sink, like hopefully everybody else, into the holiday mode.  For starters, let’s continue to…

    …Pile On Gingrich

    Are we supporters of Mitt Romney at this blog?  Unquestionably.  But that said, we try to be open minded about other candidates.  Our primary concern here is religious bigotry.  As such, we work hard to be serious about the other candidates, and to report on them as fairly as possible.  We will certainly back the Republican nominee whoever it is, and would be willing to switch candidates in the primary under the right circumstances.  But we have to join the chorus and state that Newt Gingrich is one that we would definitely NOT switch to in the primary.  (Although, at this point it would appear he is not be worth the effort.)

    Last Monday, Real Clear Politics reported, “Romney’s Next Target: Gingrich’s Temperament.”  Reading that now made me pass my morning beverage through my nose – Gingrich pretty much took care of that himself.  There is another problem – according to Politico:

    If at times Gingrich seems to be more focused on making the most of the political ride than on actually winning, his admirers say that’s no surprise.

    “I don’t think Newt needs to be president. I don’t believe he has an ambition to be president, in the sense of, ‘gosh, I’m so afraid to say the wrong thing,’” said Rick Tyler, a former Gingrich spokesman of more than a decade.

    Do we really want someone in the job, that laid back about having it?  In fact, one wonders if this is not an early sign of Gingrich withdrawing without withdrawing?  I mean he stands almost no chance against BHO.

    And then there is the fact that his relationship with Evangelicals is perhaps more complicated than Romney’sHe’s got some life issuesT.D. Jakes, flat out blasted him.  His religious contortionism seems to be an issue too.  The depth and sincerity of his current Catholicism is in question.  Evangelicals may be changing their attitude towards Catholics, but….

    Then there are the fidelity issues.  Newt has pledged to, “uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others.”  Well, we know he did not in his prior marriages, and then there is this fact that the pledge is coming later in this marriage, so what has gone before?  One Iowa pastor said:

    Iowa pastor who produced a satirical YouTube video criticizing Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for his three marriages says the former House Speaker can be forgiven for his mistakes, but not trusted as the president of the United States.

    It appears that Bachmann has become the “darling” of the Iowa Evangelical set.

    But Evangelicals Have A Few Problems Of Their Own

    We long ago predicted that if Evangelicals insisted on some sort of doctrinal purity test, the net result would be that they isolated themselves into a political ghetto of sorts.  Such appears increasingly to be the case.  The left continues to attack.  The institutions of Evangelicalism are moving left(?!) while those guys that endorsed Bachmann seem to matter less.

    We have long contended that Evangelicalism was far more diverse than the press would have us believe.  The MSM has always tended to focus on a specific, Iowa centric group of people as definitive of Evangelical everywhere, which simply is not the case.  I think we are going to see Rick Santorum have a bit of a surge here, as he will have broad appeal with a lot of Evangelicals that think about more than JUST labels.

    And Now To Romney

    When it comes to endorsements, Romney had a pretty doggone good week last week.  Joe Biden, of all people, defended his faith.  But then, Biden had not opened his mouth in at least ten minutes so he HAD to say something.  The Washington Examiner formally endorsedThe Hill, sorta, kinda did.  South Carolina’s Nikki Haley came out strong.  Her and Chris Christie make quite the Tea Party double-play, don’t they?  The Des Moines Register also endorsed.  And then while saying Mormonism was no obstacle to voting for a candidate, Franklin Graham – son and presumptive heir to Billy Graham’s influence – sounded dangerously close to an endorsement.  That’s a very good week going into the holiday stretch before Iowa.

    Politico proclaimed Mitt Romney began his “humanizing campaign.“  Look, I first met Romney in 2006 and I can promise you he was a flesh-and-blood human then, so I have no idea what they are talking about.  What did happen is that Romney increased his press availability and talked about his missionary experiences in France.  He has also continued to talk about his service as a bishop and his lovely family.  There was a mini-dispute about how hard Mormon missionaries really have it, but the WSJ of all places came to the defense of Romney.  The left, of course, wants to strike a slightly conspiratorial tone when it comes to Mormonism.  Mitt is determined; however, to outwork everybody else.

    Of course, the old problems remainespecially in Iowa, but Iowa is not the nation and strategy matters.  Which brings us to…

    …Religion Generally

    If anybody should understand the problems of sectarian disagreement, it is the citizens of Belfast.

    And the debate about the faith of the Founders continues, and likely will forever.

    Finally…

    We hope this is the last you will hear from us until after the Christmas holiday, though that is highly unlikely in this charged electoral environment.

    Just in case – MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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    “Leadership Is Seeing A Parade and Standing In Front Of It”

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:35 am, December 16th 2011     &mdash      10 Comments »

    That definition of leadership was once given to me by a very savvy political leader in Indiana.  It makes quite a bit of sense if one must get elected to fill a leadership position.  It also seems like the very essence of the republican form of government in which our elected officials are supposed to reflect the views of the public.

    But the public also needs leaders that help it actually shape its positions – form the parade, if you will, for the politicians to stand at the front.  These leaders are preachers, pastors, priests, pundits, professors, and of late talk radio show hosts.  It takes enormous energy to sift through all the information out there and come to a reasonable conclusion about something.   People, having other things to do, like it when someone does that for them.  These are positions of deep responsibility.

    Unfortunately, it is not a responsibility that many take seriously anymore.  Professors, protected by tenure, seem to be willing to say almost anything that will draw the additional income of honorarium, publishing and grants.  Preachers, pastors and priests have been frightened out of the political opinion business by an over zealous  IRS, or because they are sometimes as beholden to the their congregations as politicians are to their electorate.  Pundits and radio talk show hosts need ratings and ratings mean pleasing the audience – and so we are back to standing in front of parades.

    Never has this been more apparent than watching Rush Limbaugh this cycle.  He has ridden, while trying to appear to “lead,” every surge that has come and gone.  And he is just getting nasty as Gingrich starts to fade.  (Check Intrade – Newt is losing ground like a meteor plummeting to earth.)  Yesterday, when National Review editorialized pretty much “anybody but Gingrich,” Limbaugh responded with an intemperance that can be matched only by Gingrich himself:

    The establishment Republicans are dumping all over Newt Gingrich all over the place. National Review posted an editorial, Mr. Buckley’s magazine, it used to be conservative, and they had an editorial last night. They didn’t really recommend anybody, they just said not Newt. No way Newt. No way Newt. (interruption) They didn’t say. They implied Romney, of course. And then they kinda ruled out Perry, doesn’t have a chance, Santorum and Bachmann, maybe get a second look. But it was just anti-Newt.

    Accusing National Review of not being conservative is doing exactly what Brit Hume accused Gingrich of, “grabbing the first available weapon.”  Clearly Limbaugh views his audience as the bigots and bloodlusters out there and is playing to them.

    It’s sad really.  As the king of conservative political talk, the man who more or less invented the medium, Rush seems to have squandered the serious political capital he once held.  Last cycle he did the smart thing, this cycle he is pandering.  Rush was, and still could be, positioned to provide our nation with the kind of political education it needs so that we can continue to function as a well oiled machine of democracy.  He is instead apparently deciding to stand in front of the a parade that like the marching band in “Animal House” will end up at the butt end of a blind alley.

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    Neither Bloodlust Nor Bigotry Is Becoming The Party Of Grown-ups

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:41 am, December 14th 2011     &mdash      3 Comments »

    FACT ONE: In my lifetime, the Republican Party has very much become the party of grown-ups.  Democrats are all passion and causes and movements, while Republicans are the party that soberly accesses the situation, determines what can be accomplished in light of the facts and then tries to get that done.

    FACT TWO: The first two years of the Obama administration let entirely loose, for the first time really, all those passions and causes.  The first two years of the Clinton administration had tried, but Clinton was unwilling to engage in the jam down and so backed off.  The Chicago thugatics of Obama are a different matter.

    There is an art to conquering. It is not simply an exercise in raw power.  One must dominate, but do so just enough so as not to inflame the locals.  Otherwise revolt is all that can happen.  Obama overplayed his hand in the first two years of his administration and the revolt has begun.  The real question is whether we will overplay the revolt.  A revolt that is more violent, more unreasoning, and more dictatorial than the conqueror will only result in another revolt, setting up a cycle that never results in a stable society.

    In his latest display of intemperance on Monday, Newt Gingrich has revealed us to be a party on the verge of overplaying the revolt.  Gingrich drew near immediate and heavy fire from the likes of Charles Krauthammer and Brit Hume.  But such commentariat reaction is sinking into the rank-and-file quite slowly.  Hugh Hewitt devoted his Monday show to reaction, and it was most telling.

    FACT THREE: Mitt Romney has been the conventional wisdom front-runner for the Republican nomination for almost two years.

    Most of the reaction on the Hewitt show tried to defend Gingrich.  There were three lines of such defense.  The first was that Hewitt was “in the bag” for Romney.  Hewitt can take care of himself, but the fact that such was an argument reveals that much of the support for Gingrich is based in opposition to Romney and not necessarily love for Newt.

    The other two lines were predicated on opposition to Romney.  One was revealed in an email Hewitt read at the conclusion of the first hour (subscription required) which attacked Mormonism as a cult.  *SIGH*  Yes, bigotry remains a player in this primary, whether we want to look it square in the eye or not.  Gingrich is trying desperately to run away from this one, but as they say in the court room, “the bell has rung.”

    The third, and most frequent, line of argument was simply passion.  (with subscription you can also access the second and third hours)  People were clearly impressed with the combativeness Gingrich showed in his intemperance.  It was clear they wanted to hit back as hard as they felt they had been hit in the first two years of Obama – and they did not seem to care if the target of the punch violated Reagan’s 11th commandment or was anti-capitalistic – they just wanted to have their anger expressed vehemently.

    This is bloodlust in the political sense and threatens to make the revolt of this election the next step in the cycle of ever escalating revolt.  Rather than the “peaceful transition of power” which has separated this nation from so many others, and is the basis for our freedom, we stand on the brink of wider and wider swings in our political transitions.  Something that would make the base on which we all stand far less firm than we have come to enjoy.

    As the sober grown-ups, the Republicans have been the damper on the pendulum and maintained the base for all of us.  Neither the bigotry of anti-Mormonism nor the bloodlust expressed in support for Gingrich’s intemperance are pendulum dampening forces.  If the first two years of Obama prove anything, they prove that as Republicans we must hold our sobriety and reason even tighter.  The counter to a pendulum threatening to swing out of control is not to force it to swing more widely in the opposite direction, but to make it swing less in either direction.

    Does that mean Romney? – More than likely.  But for now I will settle for sweet reason.  Support Gingrich if you want, but you cannot defend what he said Monday.  To do so, at least in all the argument I have heard to date, is weaken the nation.

    POSTSCRIPT: George Will has joined the chorus of those excoriating Ginigrich’s comment.  And if it’s coming from Will, it ain’t about defending Romney.

    POST POSTSCRIPT, THE NEXT DAY: In his newsletter this morning, Jim Geraghty discusses efforts by the Obama campaign to collect emails of Republicans and use them to more or less harass people.  The collection is happening by having his supporters hand the emails addresses over.  Said Geraghty:

    I might credit the Obama campaign for knowing the psychology of their grassroots supporters. They’re FURIOUS that some people disagree with them and want to punish them somehow. Dissent stopped being patriotic on Jan. 20, 2009, apparently.

    More political bloodlust.  Sounds silly and is definitely unbecoming when it is aimed at you, isn’t it?

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    Evangelicals for Mitt has arrived: it’s the target of “an actual mainstream media hit piece”

    Posted by: Lowell Brown at 09:45 pm, December 12th 2011     &mdash      2 Comments »

    It was only a matter of time before Evangelicals for Mitt, well-known to most of our readers, came under MSM attack. After all, an influential website that challenges a favorite MSM narrative – Evangelicals won’t support Mitt Romney – could not realistically hope to escape the attention of outlets like Time Magazine’s Swampland Blog.  The charge in Mark Benjamin’s post is that there’s something very, very…well, fishy about the way David and Nancy French, EFM’s leaders, are so supportive of Governor Romney.

    Try this evidence and reasoning on for size:

    Though David and Nancy French deny it, campaign finance experts say the couple’s group looks like a thinly disguised extension of the Romney campaign. “They appear to be able to spend lots of money, but won’t say where it comes from,” says Fred Wertheimer, founder and President of Democracy 21. “It is circumstantial evidence, but it suggests this is a shell group for a Romney operation.”

    (Emphasis added.)  Pretty damning stuff, isn’t it?  The post goes on to detail EFM’s various connections with … Romney supporters and financiers. Benjamin also admits, with supporting quotes from a legal expert, that there is nothing unlawful in EFM’s apparent close ties to the candidate Nancy and David support.

    That’s enough snarkiness.  We fail to see the relevance of fully legal connections, friendships, and other ties between two activist writers and bloggers and a campaign they choose to support.  Why is it important?  There is an Evangelicals for Ron Paul organization too.  One wonders why that one doesn’t seem interesting to Swampland.  I can’t shake the suspicion that the folks at Time just couldn’t believe serious Evangelicals would actually support Romney so unreservedly.

    Not surprisingly, David French responded on his blog:

    Here’s the way Evangelicals for Mitt works.  When there is no presidential campaign we have the liberty to spend our own money and to raise money from friends to convince Mitt to run and to argue that he’s best equipped to repair our economy, defend life, and confront jihad.  The instant the campaign officially starts, we stop spending and raising money (thank you, John McCain for limiting my freedoms) and just run our little blog, write in other outlets, answer media inquiries, volunteer when we can, and talk to anyone who’ll talk to us.  We give the maximum donations to the campaign, but that’s it.

    In other words, we support a candidate for president, we put our money where our mouth is, we work hard, and we comply with the law.  Last time I checked, that was called “citizenship.”

    The Christian Post also ran an article on the Swampland post, with interviews from David and Nancy French; and David writes in more detail at NRO, and in even more detail at Patheos.  (The Patheos piece is a particularly devastating fisking of Benjamin’s work.)

    So there have it. Much ado about…well, you know the rest.

    (Full disclosure:  Article VI Blog derives 100% of its funding from John and me.  We remain open to offers of lavish financial support, however; there’s a lifestyle to which we’d like to become accustomed.  Just e-mail us!)

    John Chimes In…

    “Lavish?!” please Lowell, I was thinking more along the lines of “extravagant.”

    Anyway, It took me all night to figure out why Time bothered with this piece, after all, there is absolutely, positively nothing there.  Then it dawned me.  The cover story of the last, if not the current, issue of the magazine  features a picture of Romney and the title “Why Don’t They Like Me?”

    Time was following the religion angle on that question!  That’s the genesis of this blog post.  The implication is, “You have to pay Evangelicals for them to like Mitt.”  Once again, playing on suspicion or reservations since the out-and-out bigotry of some has been delegitimized.

    All of which makes this the funniest headline I have read in a decade or so:

    Romney uses Mormon faith to deflect attention from wealth

    “The Indianapolis Colts used their winless record to hide the fact that without Peyton Manning they really, really stink.”  You don’t emphasize a negative to hide a negative!  Time blogging about nothing and Reuters writing headlines that are absurd on their face.  It’s official, the campaign has entered The Twilight Zone.  Que the music.

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    This Election Has Surely Kicked Up A Notch – Or Two!

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:00 am, December 12th 2011     &mdash      1 Comment »

    Romney – Gingrich – Gingrich – Romney — The game, as they say, is afoot.  When the top two are so politically, but nowhere near personally, indistinguishable, this campaign has nowhere to go but ugly.  Snipe and counter-snipe.  Oppo dump and innuendo.  The question for this blog is will that ugliness get religious?

    Kathleen Parker said last week that the obsession with the not-Romney’s is “petty”:

    The result of these petty obsessions has been a pathological flirtation with a parade of lesser candidates who could replace Romney. This parade has persisted despite polls consistently showing Romney as the most likely to defeat Obama. It continues even though it’s perfectly clear the White House worries most about Romney.

    The obsession runs deeper than we may believe – some people are still talking about Christie?! We wrote last week about Mormon suspicion (Hugh Hewitt called it the Mormon “reservation”) and I find myself wondering if it is this phenomena that makes the petty so powerful.  Jim Talent in the aforelinked Hewitt interview said:

    Well you know, I think, I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t come up a lot when I talk to people.

    No, it doesn’t, because last cycle, and Jeffress this, have effectively rendered it illegitimate as a talking point, but so much of what is being discussed is in fact so trivial that one just has to wonder.  We have to keep this background in mind as we review the news.

    Of course, in Iowa, religion plays overtly – The Fix said so.  Of course, the usual suspects are behaving as usual.  (Is it just me or is Vander Plaats really starting to sound childish?)  The religion-hating Slate also sees it.   And Salon.  There are even personal religious appeals to Iowa voters.

    And while it may not come up vis-a-vis Romney (although and elsewhere), Mormonism sure does some up a lot generally.  Time magazine is taking a oblique shot at it, but what they fail to realize is that with religion and Romney it was all asked and answered last cycle.  It’s coming up in stories on entertainment and about jeans?!  Some say the answer is better coverage, but I think that’s a personal axe.  If Romney and Huntsman were not around, the “sensational” coverage of Mormonism would not exist outside of a few western states – and they could ask their neighbors for the truth.  We’re talking about Mormonism because we are talking about Romney, even when we are not talking about Romney.

    Then there are the stories about religion in the race generally.  Whether it be the NYTimes, ABC, UPI, or the Columbus Indiana Republic, everybody is writing about the religious voter and the race.  And a virtually all of them have an axe to grind – never taking religion on its own terms.  Some of it just gets silly.

    Gingrich is taking some religious fire too.  His structural problems remainPassion can only carry you so far.  The attack from inside the beltway is unparallelled.  Romney took a shot on something that actually kinda matters.  (If you can keep your promises in marriage, chances are good you’ll do it elsewhere.)  Even Trump needs more than Newt.  (The fact that Newt is more-or-less the last man standing at that thing should be a disqualifier in its own right.)  Some that are rooting for him, well….  And this has just got to make you laugh.

    So, yeah, religion is playing hard and heavy in the snipes and counter-snipes.  But while it does we cannot let that deter us from jointly dealing with what truly matters:

    Religious beliefs and cultural values do not justify the failure to uphold the human rights of homosexuals, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday.

    “Now, raising this issue, I know, is sensitive for many people and that the obstacles standing in the way of protecting the human rights of LGBT people rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural, and religious beliefs,” Clinton said.

    Religion stands to be crushed.  Not rendered irrelevant, crushed.  Our internal battles are not helping.

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