The Current Crisis

Bachmann and the Pope

I do not know what President Obama thinks about papal infallibility, but I have my suspicions.

By 7.21.11

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WASHINGTON -- It seems Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is under increased scrutiny for her religious views even as she climbs ever higher in the presidential polls. With Tea Party support she is now number two in the Republican polls, though she has only been in the race a short time. The numero uno, former Governor Mitt Romney, is himself the victim of gentler bigotry for his religious views. He is a Mormon. No, I did not say moron. I said Mormon.

What is Bachmann's transgression? She was until recently a member of a church that opposes homosexuality and gay marriage. It also takes issue with the Roman Catholic papacy. It is the Salem Lutheran Church of Stillwater, Minnesota. And by the way, it is no longer Bachmann's church. She now attends the evangelical church, Eagle Brook, in another part of Stillwater where she now lives. A close friend, JoAnne Hood, tells the New York Times that the Bachmanns, "are absolutely not against the gays." "They are just not for marriage" -- presumably not for gay marriage. As for their position on the Catholic papacy, Mrs. Hood is mum.

Well, I speak as a Roman Catholic. I do not know what the Salem Lutheran Church's complaint is, but if it is the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility I think I understand. The debate began in 1517 and got rather bloody. Yet over the last century or so it has become quite civilized. Actually, I would be rather surprised if any Protestant, or for that matter Jew, accepted papal infallibility. But that does not mean I would not vote for a Protestant or a Jew for president.

This sniping at Bachmann for the religious values for her former church is a bit hypocritical. In 2008 we elected as president a man who attended the church of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for 20 years. He remained a member until May 2008, when he resigned under fire. The Rev. Wright regularly spouted racist bilge and assessments of this country that were frankly anti-American. Some of those views were very close to those expressed here and abroad by President Barack Obama. I do not know what President Obama thinks about papal infallibility, but I have my suspicions. My guess is that he is against papal infallibility. He will stick with Jeremiah Wright's infallibility.

To those who would raise religious issues against Bachmann -- or, for that matter, Romney -- I shall take my stand with my colleague Seth Lipsky, who I suspect is another skeptic of papal infallibility. He cites the Founding Fathers. Lipsky avers that "The most emphatic sentence in the entire Constitution is the one that says '[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.'" The author of an indispensable book for navigating the turbulent times in which we live, The Citizen's Constitution: An Annotated Guide, Lipsky is an irrefragable judge in such matters. We should pay more attention to that generous and enlightened document, the Constitution.

Bachmann has, and that is why she is a growing force in the presidential race. She and the Tea Party movement recognize that the Constitution posits a blue print for liberty. Obama makes light of the Constitution. He is a progressive and views the constitution as dated. He would look to "experts" to govern us. He favors boards of regulators. They will rescue us from bankers and other Wall Street types, though it appears that earlier regulators and Wall Street types got the economy into its present fix. His regulators will also regulate the healthcare systems if he has his way, though regulators have a way of being bought off by those with the most intense interest in what they regulate -- for instance, healthcare. When the dust has settled and Mr. Obama gets his healthcare panels in place, you can be sure that the pharmaceutical industry and other healthcare professions will be there with all kinds of friendly and esoteric advice.

Regulators rarely are effective. They often slow down progress and always impede freedom. Think of friendly fascism. Bachmann and her Tea Partiers put their faith in the checks and balances of the Constitution, its separation of powers, its federalism. That is why she is forging ahead and she and the Tea Partiers are going to be a force to reckon with in this oncoming election.

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.