Ever hear of the Feminist Majority? Just the sort of people Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson held responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attack because they "make God mad." Well, it's the Feminist Majority, more than any other organization in the U.S., that sounded the alarm that the Taliban's suppression of freedom, led by its harsh treatment of women, posed "a threat to humanity" that extended beyond the borders of Afghanistan and that "the Taliban and [Osama] bin Laden are interdependent and inextricable."
If Falwell and Robertson had listened to the feminists instead of attacking them, the two men might have recognized the frightening parallels between their brand of religious extremism and that spewed by the Taliban. Instead, they fanned the flames of hate. As Falwell put it before public outrage forced him to recant: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America--I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen."' Robertson heartily agreed. Although the Taliban are actually milder in their condemnation of abortion than these two, they doubtless would applaud Robertson for saying that the terrorists' success is owed to God's wrath over our courts permitting "35 [million] to 40 million unborn babies to be slaughtered." In the homophobia department, the Taliban agrees that gays are to be condemned, having buried five men alive under a crushing pile of stones for the "crime" of being homosexual, according to Amnesty International. And the Taliban undoubtedly shares Falwell's hatred of civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way for their opposition to state-imposed religion.
On the latter point, in a prison interview, Mahmud Abouhalima, convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, stated that his war isn't against Christians but U.S. "secularists" who are exporting their way of life to the Muslim world. As Abouhalima told UC Santa Barbara Professor Mark Juerensmeyer, living in America allowed him "to understand what the hell is going on in the United States and in Europe about secularism of people, you know, who have no religion." He said the U.S. would be better off with a Christian government because "at least it would have morals."
That view of the secular enemy, San Francisco Chronicle religion writer Don Lattin pointed out, is uncomfortably close to our own religious extremists' views and "remind[s] us that no religion has a monopoly on twisting spiritual truth." He said that there's a far distance between condemning secularists, as Falwell and Robertson did, and killing them, but noted the deep contempt that the two American religious leaders have in common with the Taliban toward those who might view religion in a different way.
For Robertson, the prime enemy is our court system, which has upheld the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state: "We have a court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye." The terrorists succeeded, Robertson said, because, "We have insulted God at the highest levels of our government. ... God Almighty is lifting his protection from us."
Forget building up the military. Ban the ACLU instead!
We owe Falwell and Robertson a debt for sealing the argument for the separation of church and state, given the specter of a state-empowered church run by men like them.
Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times