Paul Ryan and the Phantom Dog Whistle

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

During certain hours on just about any given day on MSNBC, just about everything a Republican might say is a “dog whistle.” The dogs, of course, being the GOP base.

The day before Election Day 2012, MSNBC began its noon hour talking about how Paul Ryan questioned Barack Obama’s religion over the weekend, suggesting that the president might not be Christian. Seems like an odd closing argument, doesn’t it? Smacks of desperation even!

Except that’s not what Paul Ryan did this weekend.

During a conference call to supporters of Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition, Congressman Ryan talked about the religious-liberty fight on our hands on account of the Obama administration’s unprovoked attack on Americans whose consciences consider contraception, sterilization, and even abortion immoral. He was referencing the Obamacare Department of Health and Human Services mandate issue the Romney-Ryan campaign also happened to put an educational video out about this weekend. 

What set MSNBCers off was Ryan’s description of the Obama vision for America as one “that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty and compromises those values — those Judeo-Christian, Western civilization values that made us a great and exceptional nation in the first place.”

“Why didn’t he just call the president an Islamic Terrorist?” was a question asked during the mid-afternoon schedule on MSNBC.  

As it happened, Ryan left nothing about that “Judeo-Christian” reference to imagination or conspiratorial interpretation during the Faith & Freedom session. On the same call he explained that “my church is suing the federal government — Catholic churches, hospitals, and charities, are now suing the federal government just to maintain and preserve our religious freedoms.” He stated clearly what I would hope remains a consensus — maybe even on MSNBC: “We should not have to sue our own government to keep our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.”

Americans today have to sue our federal government in order to continue to freely exercise the God-given freedoms our Constitution exists to protect. That’s shocking. That’s the Obama administration — an administration that has had ample opportunity for second thoughts here, but the president has instead doubled-down on eroding religious liberty and bragged about it. And we’ll see soon whether or not the Obama administration and its allies have sufficiently confused and scared people away from the scandalous facts of its policies. 

By the way, MSNBC: If you want to survey some of those lawsuits, here is your background research, courtesy of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.