On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Grow Yucca in NYC) compared religious freedom advocates to Americans who twisted scripture to defend white supremacy, race-based slavery, and segregation. She suggested that Republicans would dismiss Jesus Christ as a radical and condemned the Trump administration for giving religion a bad name.
“It’s very difficult to sit here and listen to arguments in the long history of this country of using scripture and weaponizing and abusing scripture to justify bigotry. White supremacists have done it, those who justified slavery did it, those who fought against integration did it, and we’re seeing it today,” Ocasio-Cortez declared at a hearing entitled, “The Administration’s Religious Liberty Assault on LGBTQ Rights.”
She went on to suggest Republicans would condemn Jesus Christ Himself.
“And sometimes, especially in this body, I feel as though if Christ Himself walked through these doors, and said what He said thousands of years ago, that we should love our neighbor and our enemy, that we should welcome the stranger, fight for the least of us, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into a kingdom of heaven, He would be maligned as a radical and rejected from these doors,” AOC declared.
She contrasted her faith with that of traditional Christians.
“And I know, and it is part of my faith, that all people are holy and all people are sacred, unconditionally. We love all people,” AOC insisted. “There is nothing holy about rejecting medical care of people, no matter who they are on the grounds of what their identity is. There is nothing holy about turning someone away from a hospital. There’s nothing holy about rejecting a child from a family. There’s nothing holy about writing discrimination into the law. And I am tired of communities of faith being weaponized and being mischaracterized because the only time religious freedom is invoked is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.”
She turned to Evan Minton — a female who identifies as a man and who is suing a Catholic hospital in California for not performing a hysterectomy. During the hearing, Minton accused the Trump administration of having “singled me out” by issuing a Health and Human Services (HHS) ruling protecting the consciences of medical professionals who refuse to perform abortions, hysterectomies on healthy women, or other controversial services.
“I’m tired of it. My faith commands me to treat Mr. Minton as holy because he is sacred, because his life is sacred,” AOC declared. Turning to Minton, she added, “Because you are not to be denied anything that I am entitled to. That we are equal in the eyes of the law and we are equal in my faith in the eyes of the world.”
“But what this administration is advancing is the idea that religion and faith is about exclusion,” she argued. “It is not up to us to deny medical care, it is up to us to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to protect children, and to love all people as ourselves.”
Ocasio-Cortez would have more credibility on these issues if she actually followed the tenets of the church to which she claims to belong, the Roman Catholic Church. If “there is nothing holy about rejecting medical care of people … turning someone away from a hospital [or] rejecting a child from a family,” then why does AOC staunchly support abortion, which denies unborn children medical care, hospital visits, and a family? If she believes that “all people are holy and all people are sacred,” why does she support the killing of any person in the womb?
AOC insisted that Republicans would reject Jesus as a “radical,” but she twisted Jesus’s teachings to make them political. Jesus was actually far from a radical when it comes to politics — He angered His Jewish contemporaries by refusing to take up arms against the Roman authorities, and He insisted that His followers should pay taxes, even though the Romans were abusing the Jews through tax-farming at the time. Jesus’s commands that His disciples love their enemies, welcome the stranger, and care for “the least of these” have to do with private charity, not government attempts to redistribute wealth or force citizens to love one another.
This is not to say Jesus would have been a Republican. Republicans would have been just as frustrated with Jesus’s insistence that transformation of the heart, rather than government reform, is the key issue. Hucksters like Jim Bakker are just as wrong to say “Trump is a test (for) whether you’re even saved” as liberals are when they use Jesus’s temporary exile in Egypt as a political trump card on immigration issues (as AOC has done).
As for religious freedom, Ocasio-Cortez’s rhetoric obscures the real issues. Catholic hospitals are not arguing for a right to turn someone away — they are asking for the right to refuse to perform surgical procedures that they believe cause harm to a person. Minton, for instance, wanted to have her healthy uterus removed in pursuit of transgender identity as a man. Yet the Catholic Church considers this kind of elective sterilization to be harmful, the very opposite of “health care.” It takes a similar view of the killing of unborn babies.
This is not “bigotry” or “discrimination,” and it is certainly nothing like defending slavery or white supremacy. If a Catholic hospital refused to treat Minton for a broken bone or some other malady due solely to her transgender identity, that would be discrimination. Yet Catholic hospitals refuse to carry out elective sterilizations on anyone because the church believes such procedures to be harmful, regardless of gender identity.
AOC, who claims to be Catholic, should know this. If she were to follow the teachings of Saint Paul, she should at least bear with the believers who think sterilization is harmful and abortion is murder (I Corinthians 8). Instead, she demonizes them, while quoting Jesus’s command to “love our enemy.”
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.