I’ll admit I never would have expected it, but during a town hall meeting on Sunday, Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of the 5th Congressional district came to the defense of Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, in the face of vicious and bigoted accusations by Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota that Abedin is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Rep. Sensenbrenner called Rep. Bachmann’s attacks on Abedin “the wrong thing to do.”
During the town hall, a constituent lauded Rep. Bachmann’s baseless anti-Muslim witch hunt about a supposed Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government and called on her congressman to support Rep. Bachmann’s efforts. Instead of agreeing with the constituent as many would have expected from one of the nation’s most conservative members of the House of Representatives, Rep. Sensenbrenner instead used the opportunity not only to defend Abedin, but also to advocate for the larger idea of religious pluralism in America and the separation between church and state.
Here’s a transcript of the exchange between Rep. Sensenbrenner and his constituent.
SENSENBRENNER: Let me say that I do know Huma Abedin and I think that the comments that were made about her in that letter, whether or not they were taken out of context, were the wrong thing to do… I think the Constitution in saying that there shall never be a religious test for any office of trust and profit under the United States meant that people should not be judged on the basis of their religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs. That was Thomas Jefferson that put that in the Constitution — I think he was right.
CONSTITUENT: I think that there’s a political ideology that’s a concern in Islam that is concerning and that should be looked at and we should know that this person is not a threat…
SENSENBRENNER: Heidi, Heidi, Heidi, the First Amendment prohibits the government from making a distinction between what is “good religion” and what is “bad religion.” That’s none of the government’s business. Religion is a personal issue to every one of the people who lives in the United States, whether you practice a faith, how you practice a faith, whether you don’t practice a faith, whether you say you’re a member of a faith but don’t practice it, it’s none of the government’s business. And this is the whole issue of religious freedom. And that has been one of the most cherished freedoms that this country has had since it’s beginning.
And here’s video of the exchange.
I’ll give Jim Sensenbrenner the credit he deserves – he could have taken the easy way out and agreed with his constituent, but instead he chose to educate that constituent about what our nation’s Constitution really says when it comes to religious freedom and tolerance.