Paul Ryan’s confused effort to interpret America as a Christian nation

VP Candidate Paul Ryan

November 5, 2012:

Republican VP hopeful Rep.Paul Ryan (R-Wis) saved an impassioned pitch to religiously motivated voters as a last-minute attempt to sway potentially independent voters by using faith-based fear tactics to accuse President Barack Obama of undermining religious freedom in America.

“This is a huge election,” Ryan is quoted in a Huffington Post story. “Please know that Mitt Romney and I understand the stakes. We understand the stakes of where this country is headed. We understand the stakes of our fundamental freedoms being on the line, like religious freedom — such as how they’re being compromised in Obamacare.”

One issue. Dueling topics. 

Notice that the desperate candidate cannot manage to stick to one topic at a time. He is objecting to a provision in the Obama Health Care plan that requires religious-based organizations to offer coverage in their health plans for birth control.

The Supreme Court already decided these issues

Those arguments were already decided and elevated to the Supreme Court, which ruled the health care provisions in Obamacare to be consitutional. The Supreme Court further denied hearing a specific case (SOURCE: ACLU) ‘that the ACA’s individual mandate provision violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a statute that precludes federal laws from placing a “substantial burden” on religious exercise unless the government has a compelling interest in enacting the law.

The courts determined there was no substantial burden placed on any faith-based organizations by the requirement to include birth control in their employer-managed health care plans.

So Paul Ryan’s argument is with the Supreme Court, not Barack Obama. The Supreme Court is notably more conservative in its leanings than our current President, so if Ryan wants to complain about the impingement of health care laws on religious freedom, he should castigate the same court that upheld a case in the Citizens United ruling that corporations have the same free speech (ne: spending rights on political campaigns) as people. Or perhaps it is time for Ryan to parrot the statement of Mitt Romney who said, “Corporations are people” with a related version that says “Churches are people too.” That would follow the same false logic in contending that religious freedom is not an individual right but a corporate right of churches and religiously-based organizations to wield in the administration of individual rights. In other words, individuals have no access to rights accept those determined by the corporations or faith-based organizations for whom they work. And frankly, that is where we are in America, right now.

Which is really ironic, because that brand of thinking places specific organizations as moderators of access to individual rights, which is a far worse (and currently real) form of rights infringement than government standards, which at least apply to all citizens equally.

A calculated misdirection of anger

But Ryan chooses to misdirect his anger at Obama, for politicl points. The Huff Post story says Ryan “added that Obama’s vision was “a path that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty and compromises those values — those Judeo-Christian, Western civilization values that made us a great and exceptional nation in the first place.”

Nutspeak and dog-whistles

That’s just nutspeak and dog-whistle threats to rally the GOP’s religious base, which is so confused by its own interpretations of the United States Constitution that many Americans are driving around with bumper stickers that show the Statue of Liberty holding up a Christian cross as a symbol of protecting religious freedom.

America’s so-called religious base is confused

That’s as confused as you can get. That bumper sticker alone shows that a big chunk of Americans do not even understand the concept of religious freedom, much less its interpretation in the public space.

Which is why thousands of churches still flaunt their political leanings, preaching to parishioners to “get out the vote” with tricky little conservative videos and thinly disguised pulpit talks throwing words around about abortion, gay rights and even the right to fight wars as real Christian values.

On the face of his statements, Paul Ryan seems confused in his inability to keep his political views separate from his religious desires. “President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith,” said the narrator in a Romney campaign ad in August. “Mitt Romney believes that’s wrong.”

Here Ryan likely is obscuring the real defense he is trying to make. Ryan’s own source of faith is the Catholic religion, a tradition that has publicly stated that all other churches and faiths pale in comparison to the one true faith. Coming from such a doctrinal tradition, it must be difficult for a conservative Catholic such as Paul Ryan to bite his tongue in public on a number of issues. The most significant may be his proposed partnership with devout Mormon Mitt Romney. Catholics are far from reconciled to Mormonism even as a brand of Christianity, much less one on par with the Roman Catholic tradition, for instance.

It seems Paul Ryan is cast with a dual or triple role on his hands. To reconcile his idea that religious freedom is at risk is to simultaneously an attempt to justify that his own church accepts the religion of his future superior, Mitt Romney. Some argue that Romney’s own faith requires him to place religious ideals before all other duties.

Never a clear case. On purpose. 

So we might forgive a little confusion on Paul Ryan’s part, acting his role as altar boy on a national stage that is far too complex for even he or Mitt Romney to handle. That is why that cannot make a clear case, or else they refuse (the most likely scenario) to make a clear case for all that they oppose. Because deep down, they oppose each other.

But rather than admit these deep inner conflicts in their personal and professional ideologies, they prefer to use the general confusion of the public’s lack of religious sophistication along with their own twisted brand of obscured political ideology to confuse people into “voting their values” whatever those may be.

So we find out a strange truth: This isn’t religious freedom they’re worried about, but religious differences they are afraid to expose, and the intolerances lurking just below the surface.

They use this confusion and fear to bury the public’s ability to distinguish truth from the fiction Ryan and Romney are trying to sell.

It’s too bad so many people are confused enough to buy it. Because America’s ultimate value as a nation is not so much its exceptionalism as its acceptionalism. That is real religious freedom. Freedom for all, not just the noisiest, most powerful Christians, and the Mormons they conveniently include when power is at stake.

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