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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Jonah Goldberg pleads: Don't make the theocrats angry

Driven by the deep personal fear which characterizes virtually everything that he thinks and writes, Jonah Goldberg today attacks the Anti-Defamation League and its Director, Abraham Foxman, for warning of the obvious but alarming threat posed by religious extremists, who are exerting more and more influence every day over America's political institutions and are doing so with the goal of whittling away and ultimately eliminating the church-state separation.

The ADL's Foxman gave a speech last week "directly attacking several prominent religious right groups and challenging their motives, which he said include nothing less than 'Christianizing America.'" He identified the odious Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council as two of the leading crusaders in this plainly theocratic movement.

The compelling urgency of this problem is self-evident, as the polling data cited by Foxman in his speech makes conclusively clear:

According to the survey, 70 percent of weekly churchgoers and 76 percent of self-described Evangelicals agreed that “Christianity is under attack” in this country — a conclusion that is hard to square with their growing influence in Congress, the White House and the courts, he said.

Sixty-nine percent of Evangelicals and 60 percent of weekly churchgoers said there should be “organized” prayer in public schools, according to the survey, and 89 percent of Evangelicals agreed that religious symbols “like the Ten Commandments” should be displayed in public buildings. More ominously, only 26 percent of
Evangelicals and 31 percent of weekly churchgoers agreed that “courts should protect church-state separation.”


We are talking here about a group of religious fanatics which, despite its extremism, is gaining more and more power over America's domestic policies and is shaping federal law in almost every sector to comport with their religious dogma. The fact that only a small minority of this movement believes that the church-state separation should be preserved says all one needs to know about their ultimate goals -- goals which they are closer than ever to achieving, with 3 years still remaining in the Administration which is giving them a virtual free run at shaping domestic policy.

But Goldberg is petrified that the ADL, by criticizing this theocratic movement, will make them angry. He thus melodramatically laments that the ADL "is making a horrible, horrible mistake." He then launches this telling, name-calling criticism of the ADL's stance:

Indeed, it strikes me as a form of cowardice to turn your energies against philo-Semtic (sic) Christian conservatives at a moment when real anti-Semitism is thriving in so many other quarters. Liberalism isn't Judaism and Judaism isn't liberalism. He'd be well advised to keep that in mind, for the sake of Jews and liberals alike.

Goldberg apparently thinks that, "for the sake of Jews," the ADL should avoid criticizing "Christian conservatives" because to do so is to associate itself with liberalism, which can only endanger Jews. He argues that the theocratic longings of Christian conservatism ought to be ignored by the ADL because the group's energies are better directed towards fighting what he calls "real anti-Semitism thriving in so many other quarters."

What powerful forces exhibiting "real anti-Semitism" does Goldberg think the ADL should be condemning instead of the church-state attacks being launched by the American Religious Right? Where are these threatening circles of "real anti-Semitism" which the ADL can do anything about? Goldberg doesn't say. Is it found among impotent, powerless Ward Churchill-type academicians? Among Muslim rioters in the French slums? Among clownish neo-Nazi groups with membership lists in the hundreds?

In case Goldberg hasn't noticed, Christian conservatives are the dominant political force in the United States. They control the White House, the Senate Leadership and the House. Virtually no domestic political decision of any significance is made without their prior approval.

The notion that it is cowardly to stand up to this powerful group, but would be somehow brave to castigate some fringe neo-Nazi group or International A.N.S.W.E.R. rally of 20 people, is exactly backwards. The ADL's decision to finally denounce this genuine, significant threat to religious and political freedom took courage precisely because doing so required Foxman to condemn the most powerful political group in the United States.

Indeed, the ADL's courage is starkly illustrated precisely by contrasting it with Goldberg's rather pathetic fears. It is the warrior Goldberg who, unsurprisingly, is the coward here. He is counseling that the Christian conservatives not be criticized because they will get angry and provoking that reaction should be avoided for "the sake of Jews." By admirable contrast, Foxman is alerting people to a threat posed by this group notwithstanding its power and undeterred by the prospect that they will not like him for it. "Cowardice" is what is driving Goldberg, not Foxman. And, as is so often the case, Goldberg knows that he is driven by fear, which is what causes him to label others as "cowards."

With George Will's column this week warning of the threat of social conservativism and the ADL's condemnation of this same threat, it is becoming increasingly clear that people are finally awakening to the severity of the threat posed by these thinly disguised theocrats. For the last 4 years, the same fear which is still causing Goldberg to wet himself has deterred all but a few from publicly warning of the agenda of this movement, but as Bush's popularity whittles away, so, too, is this fear. And finally, the true agenda -- and rapidly increasing power -- of these religious extremists is being recognized.

UPDATE: Goldberg's petulant, substance-less reply to this post, published in the Corner, is here. My response to his reply, to the extent a response is possible in the face of whiny, incoherent anger, is here.

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