A Joe Biden staffer suggested that orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims who adopt traditional values are “intolerant,” that their beliefs should be “taboo,” and that they should be disqualified from serving on the Supreme Court.
Politico contributing editor Adam Wren noted that President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett “was a trustee at a South Bend private school that described ‘homosexual acts’ as ‘at odds with Scripture’ & said marriage was between ‘one man and one woman’ years after Obergefell v. Hodges.”
Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, responded, “Wait, why is this news? Isn’t this the standard position for any orthodox Catholic?”
Wait, why is this news? Isn't this the standard position for any orthodox Catholic? https://t.co/wBVPKo3ZrA
— Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid) September 28, 2020
At this point, the Biden staffer chimed in. Nikitha Rai, deputy data director for Pennsylvania at Biden’s campaign, responded to Hamid, saying, “Unfortunately, yes.”
Hamid responded, “to be fair, it’s the standard position for any orthodox Muslim or Jew as well…”
“True,” Rai acknowledged. Yet the staffer insisted that this perspective must be marginalized. “I’d heavily prefer views like that not be elevated to SCOTUS [the Supreme Court of the U.S.], but unfortunately our current culture is still relatively intolerant. It will be a while before those types of beliefs are so taboo that they’re disqualifiers.”
Rai has locked her account since tweeting those statements, but Jeremy McLellan, a Catholic comedian, captured screenshots. “Here’s a [Joe Biden] staffer saying that orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Judaism should be made ‘taboo’ and driven from the public sphere,” McLellan noted. “Beneath all the talk of ‘interfaith’ and ‘pluralism,’ this is what they really believe.”
Here’s a @JoeBiden staffer saying that orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Judaism should be made “taboo” and driven from the public sphere. Beneath all the talk of “interfaith” and “pluralism,” this is what they really believe. pic.twitter.com/PrN8S1qaLG
— Jeremy McLellan (@JeremyMcLellan) September 29, 2020
The three Abrahamic faiths do indeed all preach that homosexual acts are sinful and they present definitions of marriage that are at odds with the idea of same-sex marriage. Orthodox versions of Christianity — Roman Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox — preach that sex is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman, a relationship that provides a small taste of the union between Christ and the Church. Judaism and Islam also teach that homosexual acts are sinful.
Many who identify themselves as Catholic, Protestant, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim have accepted the modern sexual revolution and the idea that homosexual acts are morally equivalent to heterosexual acts in marriage. Yet these are heterodox positions, outside the traditional teachings of the three Abrahamic faiths.
Rai has suggested that only heterodox religious believers — or secular Americans — should be allowed to serve on the Supreme Court. This would exclude anyone who believes that homosexual activity is sinful or that marriage is between one man and one woman.
In these tweets, Rai suggested that presidents and the U.S. Senate should apply a religious test for Supreme Court nominations and confirmations. The Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for service in government. Article VI Clause 3 reads in part, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Biden should fire Rai for her comments.
“Biden should fire Nikitha Rai, his deputy data director who said Orthodox Catholics, Jews and Muslims should not be allowed to serve on the Supreme Court-wants for future ‘those types of beliefs are so taboo they’re disqualifiers’. Biden should fire [her] for anti-religious bigotry,” Huckabee tweeted.
Biden should fire Nikitha Rai, his deputy data director who said Orthodox Catholics, Jews and Muslims should not be allowed to serve on the Supreme Court-wants for future “those types of beliefs are so taboo they’re disqualifiers”.Biden should fire him for anti-religious bigotry.
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) September 29, 2020
This bigotry is tragically widespread. In the book So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States? sociology professors George Yancey and David Williamson painstakingly document the presence of bias against conservative Christians, proving that it is as real as animus against Muslims and Jews. Indeed, Yancey’s most recent research shows that animus against Christians leads some people to support LGBT activism, even when they have a low opinion of LGBT people.
The loathing for conservative Christians can spill over into loathing for traditional Muslims and Jews when it focuses on the alleged “anti-LGBT” animus of traditional believers.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has branded conservative Christian nonprofits like Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Family Research Council (FRC) “hate groups” due to their beliefs on marriage and sexuality, listing them along with the Ku Klux Klan. ADF has won nine Supreme Court cases in seven years. A terrorist attempted to kill everyone at FRC, thanks to the SPLC’s “hate map.”
The SPLC is quite mainstream. Big Tech companies like Amazon use it to screen out “hate groups.” Schools across America receive its “Teaching Tolerance” materials. Democratic senators have cited the SPLC to demonize Trump’s administration and judicial appointees. In once case, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said of Barrett, “The dogma lives loudly” within her so she can’t be trusted. In another, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that Russell Vought is “really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about,” because he thinks Muslims do not go to heaven.
The kind of anti-religious bigotry Rai espoused is the same kind of bigotry the SPLC weaponizes, and it appears to be making inroads in the Democratic Party.
While Joe Biden is a practicing Roman Catholic, he espouses positions on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage that clearly contradict orthodox Catholicism. Despite his Catholic identity, Biden has remained silent on the horrific attacks against Catholic statues and churches amid the George Floyd riots this summer, and he even chose Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) — who notoriously demonized the Catholic fraternal order the Knights of Columbus — as his running mate.
Biden may not harbor animus against traditional religious believers himself, but he proudly allies with those who weaponize the SPLC against conservative Christians. He needs to condemn anti-religious bigotry and at least publicly reprimand Rai.
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.