The "forces of the secular left," Newt Gingrich told churchgoers on Sunday, "will regard what I am saying as a horrifying assault."
Oh, tosh. I went to a club meeting of the secular left, and no one there even remotely thought what Newt Gingrich said about religion was horrifying -- let alone an assault.
Mind you, they did think the proposed law in Virginia by Republicans that in essence allowed state-sanctioned rape against women was an assault. (A literal one, in fact!)
They also thought that U.S. House Republicans' attempt to change the definition of rape to "forced rape" (as opposed to, apparently, the unforced kind) was another horrifying assault. Again, on women -- who had been actually assaulted.
And House Republicans blocking funding which would provide life-saving cancer screenings and HIV tests to women, they thought those were really horrifying assaults, too.
They even thought that leaving out women from the recent Republican-led Congressional committee meeting on women's health was a horrifying assault. On women.
But no, no, the "secular far left" did not find Newt Gingrich's statement a "horrifying assault."
They just found it stupid.
And pandering to the religious far right. And mere political rhetoric by a desperate candidate trying to salvage his failing candidacy.
But mostly stupid.
After all, Mr. Gingrich referred to a "50-year assault" by those trying to alienate people of faith. In fact, the First Amendment created that principle of the separation of church and state well over 50 years ago. Providing you consider 1789 more than 50 years ago.
It's also stupid -- and pandering and desperate -- because while referring to "the secular left," he describes them as having "frankly a religious fervor." Of course, there's nothing "frank" about pandering, but it's stupid to insist someone is secular and religious in the very same sentence.
It's stupid, too, because by trying to smear liberals as secular, which is long-time Republican code for "Godless," he risks painting himself as the Ghost of Joseph McCarthy. It's not "horrifying" that he does this (after all, this is Newt Gingrich, the man who was convicted of an ethics violation, and who loves God and family so much he started three of them. Families, that is, not three Gods. Though who knows...?) It's also not an "assault," because when you're as far down in the polls as Newt Gingrich is, spitting into the wind isn't assaulting anyone but yourself.
But it's most stupid because when he says, "Because their version of the truth is to have a totally neutral government that has no meaning" -- he is ignorantly confusing government (whose purpose is to be neutral and fair to all, protecting all citizens equally) with religion.
This is a stupid confusion that so many on the radical far right make. Including Republican leaders, most recently Rick Santorum.
On Sunday, a fine day for preaching, Mr. Santorum (R-God) blasted a famous speech by President John Kennedy that had clarified the separation of church and state. Candidate Santorum told George Stephanopolous on ABC -- in his most presidential, graceful language:
"To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up."
Never mind that that's not what President Kennedy said and that any American can come into any public square and make their case. Never mind that it's the U.S. Constitution that establishes how laws must be made without following religious doctrine. Never mind that people of all faiths can believe whatever their personal God tells them.
Never mind all that -- the stupidity is that Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and the radical members of the religious far right don't understand the Constitution and don't understand America and don't understand following secular laws and don't understand that the Founding Fathers they love to misquote actually fought the War for Independence to bring freedom to all, and that before them, the Pilgrims came to the New World to escape religious doctrine being forced upon them.
While Rick Santorum stands on his faux-pulpit with barf bag in hand, and while Newt Gingrich and far right Republicans promote religious intolerance, they simply don't understand what the former American President said:
"We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief."
The thing is, it wasn't President John Kennedy who said that. It was President Ronald Reagan. Patron saint of the far right.
That Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and the intolerant far right Republican Party don't understand any of this and don't seem to care about what America actually is -- that the government must be blindly secular to allow religious freedom for all -- that's what so stupid.
The horrifying assaults of the GOP? Nah, that's just limited to their attacks on women.
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/relisberg