Newt’s Problem

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Demagogue’s intellectual that he is, Newt Gingrich has a way of putting his finger on a problem that creates a problem for himself. To wit, here’s what he had to say to David Brody the other day about threats to our civilization:

In a sense, our Judeo-Christian civilization is under attack from
two fronts. On one front, you have a secular, atheist, elitism. And on
the other front, you have radical Islamists. And both groups would like
to eliminate our civilization if they could. For different reasons, but
with equal passion.

Now no national politician has been more vociferous than Newt in backing efforts to prevent American courts from applying Sharia law, as Oklahoma voted to do last fall, lest radical Islamists get their way. But specifically prohibiting the application of Sharia among all religious arrangements that come before courts (e.g. Jewish halacha) is a blatant violation of the First Amendment’s ban on singling out particular religious groups for disfavor.

To do it right, you’d have to do what the 19th-century Blaine amendments did: go after a specific religion (in those cases Roman Catholicism) by prohibiting aid to all religious schools (knowing that only the Catholics had their own school system). But if you ban the application of all religious law, then you play right into the hands of the secular, atheist elite. Oy, oy, what’s a poor Newt to do?

  • Jimbino

    Excuse me, but I am one of the “atheist elite” and a libertarian who would prohibit government aid to ALL schools, not only religious ones. On the other hand, if a voucher system were instituted, I would not oppose vouchers for parents to choose religious schools. cf Milton Friedman, atheist, libertarian, proponent of educational vouchers and no friend of public education.
    In spite of his many flaws, Newt may well be a right-thinking person who would like to get the gummint out of many facets of our personal lives, including education of our children.

  • Mark Silk

    Once upon a time, Newt was something of a libertarian. Back around 1990, when I was doing a stint as an editorial writer for the Atlanta Constitution, he used to come in from time to time to meet with us. I recall once asking him why a libertarian like him went along with the religious right agenda. Without skipping a beat he replied, “They’re part of our coalition.” Now that he’s found religion, I’d say he’s less likely than ever to lift a finger to get the gummint our of our personal lives. In other words, don’t hold your breath.