Virginia 5

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For connoisseurs of religion in congressional races, Virginia’s fifth district offers an interesting prospect this year. The fifth extends from liberal Charlottesville out into the state’s southern hinterland, known instate as Southside).
Goode.jpgThe incumbent is Virgil Goode, a Richmond native and Baptist who lives in Rocky Mountain, deep in the southwest corner of the district. Goode is a Democrat-turned-Republican who once upon a time was an enthusiastic backer of Doug Wilder, the first black governor of a Southern state since Reconstruction. In late 2006, however, he had his own special macaca moment, when he wrote his constituents a letter attacking Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, for choosing to do his private swearing-in ceremony by putting his hand on a Koran. Goode spun his remarks in anti-immigrant terms, contending that without immigration restriction, there would be many more Muslims in Congress. It read in part:

I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran…
The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.” Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

This bit of populist rabble-rousing was trumped by Ellison’s decision to use the Koran translation owned by Virginia’s own Thomas Jefferson and donated by him to the Library of Congress. Also, Ellison, an African American, was able to point out that he is a native of Detroit.
Perriello.jpgChallenging Goode is Tom Perriello, a native of the Charlottesville area and a social justice Catholic in the tradition of Maryland’s Sargent Shriver. With undergraduate and law degrees from Yale, he co-founded Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Faithful America, organizations dedicated to putting religious folks together to work on a range of progressive causes, national and international. In the brave new world of faith-based Democratic politics, Perriello is one of the freshest faces.


Here’s the text of Perriello’s first radio ad, running on Christian radio stations in the district:

In the book of Micah, the prophet asks, what does the Lord require of you? The answer: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. I’m Tom Perriello, and my attempt to answer this call has taken my life in some interesting directions … I’ve worked overseas to bring warlords to justice and to end the genocide in Darfur. Back home, I’ve founded faith-based organizations that bring Catholics and evangelicals together to improve wages and expand children’s healthcare for working families. And now I’m running for Congress in the community where I was born and raised because I believe we deserve leaders who will focus on right and wrong instead of right and left –- leaders who will do the hard work required to bring good jobs back to Southside, to expand access to health care, protect our Social Security, and find responsible, timely solutions in Iraq. I’m Tom Perriello, and I approve this message because these are the values and priorities I will take to Congress. Paid for by Perriello for Congress.

This is a battle of the two Virginias.

  • Gary Starr

    Part of the problem involves the interpretation of statutes prohibiting discrimination and how the parties characterize the acts which to one appears reasonable and to the other an act of discrimination. Subtlety and accommodation are difficult to explain to zealots.

  • Cindy

    Some see discrimination against a religion, others see exercise of sovereign prerogative to not aid an imperialistic political ideology disguised as a religion.

  • Dan

    I see a conflation of Islam and terrorism in your comment, Cindy. Keith Ellison’s Islam has nothing more to do with “imperial political ideology” than Christianity does with Eric Rudolph.

  • Cindy

    Nah, Dan, I actually didn’t have Keith Ellison in mind, nor what many would consider to be “terrorism”; rather, by “imperialistic political ideology” I was referring to the fact that most of the Qur’an is actually about politics rather than worship, and that the politics contained therein, particularly when taken in their context (which is provided by the Sunnah), is in fact imperialistic. Furthermore, we don’t need to impute imperialistic motives to groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood when it comes to their strategy for taking over the U.S., as we have it in writing for the record–and no, it’s not “terroris” in the violence sense, but stealth jihad, infiltration, immigration jihad, population jihad, economic jihad, political jihad, academic jihad, and so on. Relevant documents can be found on the investigativeproject website.
    Therefore, without directly supporting this Virgil Goode guy, that I know nothing about, I was suggesting that we shouldn’t jump the gun and assume “anti-immigrant remarks” –i.e., xenophobia or religious bigotry, when perhaps he’s merely informed about the nature of political Islam that’s found in the Qur’an and of even more importance to Muslims outside the US (thus immigrants) than American convert Muslims unfamiliar w/the Sunnah. I have no problem with any Muslim wishing to practice Islamic worship, it’s the political aspects, which as I said, constitute the majority of focus in the Islamic texts , that poses a threat, a very serious threat. This is one area where it’s important but difficult to keep religion and politics separate, so I usually try to use the expression “political Islam,” lest anyone think my complaint is Islam. Some people use the phrase “Islamism” for political Islam, but I think that’s kind of ambiguous to others who equate the term w/terrorism, so I don’t.

  • Rob Winslow

    When the Goode controversy arose, I sent the following letter to him, with copies to Congresspersons Mack and Pelosi (I never received a reply from anyone of them):
    (dated by hand—22 Dec. 06—and mailed that date)
    The Honorable Virgil Goode
    Congress of the United States
    70 East Court St., Suite 215
    Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
    Dear Mr. Goode:
    I have followed with some interest the controversy surrounding your letter of early December concerning Muslims and, by implication, Representative-elect Ellison of Minnesota.
    I speak not as a constituent of yours, but it is possible I may live someday in the Virgina congressional district you represent. I was born in Ohio in 1935, the first child of white, protestant, Anglo-Saxon parents, who raised me as an Episcopalian. My father’s family has been traced genealogically back to English forebears in the 15th Century or earlier. My ancestors, not on the Mayflower, came to New England before the United States of America existed. I am a college graduate and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, as well as holding a master’s degree. I am a vigorous and strong believer in the US Constitution, and I defend your right to write as you have done in your letter.
    Now I will tell you that I, as the person I’ve defined myself to be in the prior paragraph, find your letter despicable and un-American. The sentiments you express completely undermine the part of the First Amendment to our Constitution guaranteeing religious freedom, even as that amendment gives you the right to write as you have.
    It is my hope that you will do the honorable thing and resign from the Congress of the United States. In the event you do not, I urge my Representative to the United States Congress, Connie Mack, and the presumptive Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to effect your expulsion. I am mindful that I am asking for your elimination from the House of Representatives because you have written something with which I vehemently disagree, yet I support the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. The seeming conflict is resolved by my pointing to your clear willingness to abrogate an essential part of that amendment.
    Mr. Goode, you do not deserve to serve in one of our two highest elective bodies; you are a blot upon the United States of America. I defend your right as a private citizen to write and speak as you wish, but I protest your undercutting of essential American freedoms by disseminating bigotry and intolerance from your present position as an elected official.
    Very truly yours,

  • Dear Cindy,
    THANKS for participating in the dialogue.
    While I’ll leave it to others to debate with you about Islam, I am curious as to what (if any) destructive “political” forces you see arising out of Judaism and Christianity in America (and elsewhere). (Or is Islam the only dominant religion you see as being pernicious?)

  • Cindy

    Here we go again. You refer to “Islam the …religion…”, and the previous commenter wrote about “religious freedom,” but my point is that it is inaccurate and also to our peril that we continue viewing Islam as a religion, when it is largely (though not exclusively) a political ideology. Thus the expression “the Qur’an is our Constitution.”
    I’ll be the first to defend Muslim rights to free speech and full participation in the political process, as I believe the proper way to confront a dangerous ideology is by exposing, correcting, and instructing rather than by suppressing. (This is one problem I have w/Bush: restrictions on our liberties in order to supposedly protect our liberties.) I wish everyone had a Qur’an actually–that they might be more informed citizens.
    My argument is that it’s wrong to impute religious bigotry to someone who for all we know may be speaking against the Quran as a political book or against immigration of Middle Eastern Muslims as a matter of national security in protecting us from those with stated goal to replace our government and way of life. A head of household is not obliged to invite into his home a heavily armed stranger knocking at his door with a gun pointed at the homeowner’s child. Nor, to step back from the blatantly violent analogy, is the homeowner obliged to enter into a contract that would require him losing title.
    It’s flawed logic to assume that since our holy books happen to be religious in nature, that being against the Qur’an is being against a religion–since the Qur’an is a different type of book, it’s uniquely political. It’s wrong (false accusation) to say treating a Muslim differently is necessarily religious profiling when it could be ideological profiling.
    Islam is a political system that’s not just incompatible, but actually set against our democratic system and Constitution, yet Muslims have every right to believe in and even advocate for Islam, *but* we are not obligated to cheer it on, much less facilitate it. And those aware of the Islamic texts have protected rights to speak out about the nature of Islam — that it itself, rather than just its adherents, is political. Full information is what we need, not name-calling that chilling effect on expression (no one wants to be labeled a bigot) and requires judgmental reading of Goode’s heart, mind, and motives — it’s not clear why he is against Islam. Maybe elsewhere he made it clear, but not here. Could have absolutely nothing to do with religion. I’m not a bigot against reptiles for ex, if I say “no, son, you cannot have that rattlesnake in this house,” it’s just self-protection, that’s all, nothing against the snake’s right to be a snake, just not in my house.

  • The above response did NOT address my inquiry.
    One more time:
    While I’ll leave it to others to debate with you about Islam, I am curious as to what (if any) destructive “political” forces you see arising out of Judaism and Christianity in America (and elsewhere). (Or is Islam the only dominant religion you see as being pernicious?)

  • Cindy

    Sorry Vince, that long response was actually my *short* answer (!), after I deleted out some parts, and I see now I deleted the part that acknowledged what I’d think would be the obvious and would not need to be said, that oh yeah, there are plenty of “destructive ‘political’forces” as you say that arise out of Judaism and Christianity — whew, a list of them would be so long to mention. But right now Robert Mugabe (Catholic)/ZANU-PF comes to mind.

  • Cindy

    Oh, here’s the latest spiritually political Mugabe quote:
    “Only God who appointed me will remove me ? not the MDC, not the British.”
    (“elections” are still on in a few days, despite all the electoral cleansing and intimidation going on)