An Indiana congressman accused Democrats of waging a “war on Christianity” Monday, as a debate over religious tolerance at the U.S. Air Force Academy erupted in shouts and finger-pointing.
Work in the House of Representatives ground to a halt for 30 tense minutes after Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., blasted Democrats for trying to use a $409 billion defense spending bill to take a stand against “coercive and abusive” proselytizing at the academy’s Colorado Springs, Colo., campus.
Academy officials have acknowledged dozens of complaints about incidents of religious intolerance in recent years, prompting an ongoing investigation. But Hostettler said legislation condemning the situation was part of a “long war on Christianity” being waged by “the usual suspects, Democrats.”
“Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can’t help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians,” Hostettler said.
Democrats burst to their feet, pointing and shouting.
Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc., demanded that Hostettler’s words be “taken down.” That’s a rare parliamentary sanction for a breach of decorum. Had it been approved by a House vote, it would have taken away Hostettler’s right to speak for the rest of the day.
Confused murmurs rumbled through the chamber, as Republicans huddled around a stoic Hostettler and Democrats rallied around Obey.
At one point, Rep. John “Jack” Murtha, D-Pa., wandered across the aisle, put his imposing, former Marine’s frame just behind the seated Hostettler and said that he goes to church as often as Hostettler does.
Pointing into Hostettler’s face, Murtha, a Vietnam veteran, kept repeating: “Ever been to combat? Ever been to combat?” Hostettler stayed seated and Murtha walked away scowling.
Pitiful, on all accounts. This is good, I suppose:
On a mostly party-line vote, the House rejected an amendment by Obey that would have strongly condemned “abusive religious proselytizing” and demanded that the academy submit plans to congress to fix the problems.
By a voice vote, they approved a compromise version by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., which strikes any condemnation of the academy but requires reports on the religious climate to be submitted to lawmakers. Final action is now pending in the U.S. Senate, where the provision might or might not survive.
I see no need to rebuke the ‘academy,’ but would appreciate them following up on the issue. At some point, Republicans are not going to get away with demonizing Democrats on this issue. I think that started today.
*** Update ***
Oh, good grief. Yes, Rep. Hostettler is the same guy we talked about the other day.