Posted Wednesday night, December 20, 2017.
Working on a post reacting to one of Roy Moore’s supporters comparing that lawless, ignorant bigot favorably to the Founding Fathers---seriously. “The Founding Fathers?” I want to ask this supporter. “Which one, specifically. Jefferson? Hamilton? Franklin? George Washington?” In doing my homework, I came across this passage in Ron Chernow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Washington. Moore ran for the Senate pretty much on a Only Us Right Wing Christians are Real Americans platform. Here’s Chernow:
One thing that hasn’t aroused dispute is the exemplary nature of Washington’s religious tolerance. He shuddered at the notion of exploiting religion for partisan purposes or showing favoritism for certain denominations. As president, when writing to Jewish, Baptist, Presbyterian, and other congregations---he officially saluted twenty-two major religious groups---he issued eloquent statements on religious tolerance. He was so devoid of spiritual bias that his tolerance even embraced atheism. ‘’’’when he needed to hire a carpenter and a bricklayer at Mount Vernon, he stated that “if they are good workmen,” they could be “Mahometans, Jews, or Christian of any sect, or they may be atheists.” He took pleasure in dropping by Sunday services of other denominations. In Bishop White’s word, “If there was no Episcopal Chuch in the town which he happened to be, he would attend services of any other denomination with equal cheerfulness.”
Washington loathed religious fanaticism, and on that subject he sounded like a true student of the Enlightenment. “We have abundant reason to rejoice that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition,” President Washington wrote to one Baltimore church. “Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.” A convinced supporter of the separation of church and state, Washington declared that “no man’s sentiments are more opposed to any kind of restraint upon religious principles than mine are.”
We know Moore’s feelings about “Mahometans.” Same as most Right Wingers. He hates them and views them as an existential threat to the United States, even ones who are born citizens of the United States. He’s been accused of anti-Semitism, but we know that’s not true because, as his wife assures us, their attorney is a Jew. As for Washington’s view of what he doesn’t call religious liberty in the last quote in the passage from Chernow’s book but that’s what it is: he saw it as something others have and it was not for him to infringe upon it whereas to the Religious Right religious liberty is the liberty to restrain others’ religious principles and force them to live according to “Christian” principles. But other than that, Moore and Washington are two peas in a pod.