Tea Party Blasts Congressman for Being Muslim

Bloggers point out that the Constitution is OK with that

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On Saturday, the Tea Party Nation sent a mass e-mail urging support of Lynn Torgerson, the Republican challenger in Minnesota's Fifth District. Torgerson is running against Democratic incumbent Keith Ellison, about whom the e-mail stated:

There are a lot of liberals who need to be retired this year, but there are few I can think of more deserving than Keith Ellison. Ellison is one of the most radical members of congress. He has a ZERO rating from the American Conservative Union. He is the only Muslim member of congress. He supports the Counsel for American Islamic Relations, HAMAS and has helped congress send millions of tax to terrorists in Gaza.

The sentence "He is the only Muslim member of Congress" has touched off a storm of controversy, with pundits wondering why the e-mail cites Ellison's religion as a reason to vote him out of Congress. Here's a sampling of the ire:

  • Let's Get This Straight  Jamil Smith at The Maddow Blog writes, "Whether or not they can prove that Rep. Ellison has 'helped congress send millions of tax' to Gaza, or whether the Congressman or the Council on American-Islamic Relations supports Hamas, that's besides the point. Because all Muslims are anti-American, right? Right? Being a Muslim, per the Tea Party Nation, is now a disqualifying characteristic for being a member of Congress."

  • Why Aren't More People Outraged?  "We're surprised this isn't getting more attention," Justin Elliott writes at Salon. "It's hard to imagine that this would not have made more of a splash if Phillips had targeted, say, a Jewish member of Congress for being Jewish or a Mormon member for being Mormon."

  • Plenty of Distortion Here, Besides the Muslim Thing  Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly writes that "as a factual matter, a great deal of this is wrong, or at least misleading. That last line was especially amusing--if the U.S. government sends aid into Israel, which in turn benefits people in Gaza, and Keith Ellison voted with congressional majorities on the spending bills, so he necessarily has 'helped congress send millions of tax to terrorists.'" But all of that aside, says Benen, "what difference does Ellison's religion make? We've reached the point in some conservative circles that simply identifying someone as Muslim is an insult. Or in the case of Tea Party Nation, a disqualifier for congressional service."

  • Keep in Mind: Tea Party Nation Is Not the Tea Party  At Think Progress, Ben Armbruster calls Tea Party Nation a "fringe tea party group," though he notes that it's also reported to be "the third largest tea party network." Armbruster adds that "many Tea Party activists widely criticized the group's founder, Tennessee lawyer Judson Phillips, earlier this year for trying to profit off a Tea Party convention."

  • George W. Bush Should Speak Against This  At Hullabaloo, Digby writes that "as I've been watching Condi Rice (and soon George W. Bush) on the circuit hawking books, it would be really nice if they stood up on this. Bush was a rotten president in almost every respect, but he did keep a lid on this sort of chauvinism and religious intolerance and he could show some moral leadership right now." Digby also cites Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution, which states that " no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • Ellison's Not Even the Only Muslim  At Talking Points Memo, Eric Lach points out what others have: "Ellison isn't the only Muslim member of Congress. Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) makes two."

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