At a news conference today, Mitt Romney urged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to disavow the remarks of his endorser Robert Jeffress, a Religious Right leader who has called Mormonism a “cult.” People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch has reported on Jeffress’ remarks about Mormonism, as well as his derogatory comments about Catholicism, Judaism and Islam. At the urging of PFAW and other groups this weekend, Romney tepidly denounced the “poisonous” rhetoric of another Right Wing figure, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer.
After endorsing Romney at the press conference, New Jersey governor Chris Christie tied Jeffress’ anti-Mormon bigotry to the Islamophobia that met his appointment of a Muslim judge in New Jersey, adding, “Any campaign that associates itself with that type of comment is beneath the office of President of the United States, in my view.”
People For the American Way today echoed Romney’s appeal to Perry, but also urged both candidates to disavow endorsers who have perpetuated misinformation about and fear of American Muslims. In particular, Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, who has endorsed Romney’s last two presidential bids and introduced him at last week’s Values Voter Summit, has pushed dangerous anti-Muslim rhetoric. In a pamphlet titled Shari’a Law: Radical Islam’s Threat to the U.S. Constitution, for instance, the ACLJ pushes the myth of a “Sharia” threat to the U.S. Constitution and asserts that “devout Muslims cannot truthfully swear the oath to become citizens of the United States of America.”
“Mitt Romney is right to criticize his rivals for silently standing by and accepting bigotry,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “Now it is time for him to apply those standards to his own campaign. The truly courageous position for Romney to take would be to stand up against religious bigotry of all stripes – including the GOP’s increasingly prevalent scapegoating of American Muslims.
“Romney endorser Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice has suggested that devout Muslims cannot become true citizens of the United States. Sekulow himself has perpetuated the debunked claim that the Constitution is under a threat from Sharia law and was a leader of the extremist backlash against the building of an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, including overseeing the ACLJ’s lawsuit attempting to stop the community center’s construction.
“Last weekend, Mitt Romney called Sekulow a ‘treasure.’ If Romney wishes to show that he is a true champion of the American values of religious freedom and tolerance, he must apply the same standard to his own endorsers as he does to those of Rick Perry.”