Joe Lapointe has worked as a sports reporter with the New York Times and a segment producer for "Countdown With Keith Olbermann'' on Current TV
Last week, after his sweep of three minor Republican nominating contests, right-wing radical Rick Santorum spoke the next day in a church. Behind him, were an altar and stained-glass windows. He looked live Reverend Lovejoy on the Simpsons.
On Friday, after President Obama offered a face-saving "tweak" on birth-control coverage for employees of Catholic institutions, right-wing propagandist Sean Hannity of Fox News escalated his religious demagoguery against the White House.
He opened his Friday night sermon in a Catholic church with statues and the crucifix behind him, the mouth of his smug mug spouting the usual holier-than-thou preaching that divides the world into saints and sinners.
Those of us who grew up Catholic (including those of us who served Latin Mass as altar boys) recognize the flavor of Catholicism pushed by opportunists like Santorum and Hannity.
It's from script of Father Charles Coughlin, the Michigan-based "radio priest" whose right-wing and anti-Semitic diatribes were finally silenced by the Church in the 1930s. Like Coughlin, Santorum and Hannity use religion to bully and intimidate others for political gain.
Another in this cult is William Donohue, president of the so-called "Catholic League for Religion and Civil Rights." Donohue is America's self-appointed lay pontiff who uses a pugnacious and sanctimonious tone to beat people over the head with The New Testament.
"Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular," Donohue said on MSNBC in 2004. "It's not a secret, OK? And I'm not afraid to say it."
Bully for you, you bully. Others aren't afraid to say other things. For instance: Santorum, Hannity and Donohue are the sort of American Catholics who drive other Catholics away from their church with mean-spirited, pig-headed dogma.
Their selective outage this time suggests that President Obama was forcing Catholics to go against their moral code by requiring their public institutions like hospitals to pay for birth control for their employees through their health insurance.
Even after Obama compromised and removed that mandate, groups like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said it wasn't enough. What these presumably celibate bachelors really want is elimination of all birth control and abortion.
And while conservative hypocrites like Santorum say they want to keep government out of our lives, his words have proven him a notorious homophobe who wants the government to tell men and women exactly what they can and cannot do in their bedrooms with their penises, their vaginas and their wombs.
You can't blame the right wing for stirring up another "culture war." Republicans planned to attack the President on economic issues, but the rising employment rate and soaring stock market have lessened the intensity of that discussion.
But dividing people by religion is a tried-and-true tactic that has work for centuries here and other places. It's what militant Muslims do when sending terrorists on missions to kill people in the name of God.
Where were Santorum, Hannity and Donohue on the phony flap over the "Ground Zero Mosque"? They certainly did not stand up for "religious freedom" in that case. Their selective outrage is as obvious as their political cynicism.
Santorum has used it to pander to the extremists of America's right-wing party. He knows the party's likely nominee, Mitt Romney, would prefer to stay away any religious discussion because he is a Mormon and Romney's faith could cost him votes in Red State Crackerland, also sometimes known as "The Bible Belt."
And do the Catholic Bishops have anything else to do besides meddle in and muddle up political matters? Assuming they've cleared up that whole pesky thing about Catholic clerics molesting boys, why don't they turn to attention to serious causes like hunger, poverty, war, capital punishment and public health?
There's barely a peep out of them. Perhaps they figured Jesus took care of it with the Sermon on the Mount. That group, along with opportunists like Santorum, Hannity and Donohue, are like the Pharisees who appear in the Bible as enemies of Jesus.
The Pharisees, you will recall, were political posers who pretended to be defenders of their faith. But their "values" were narrow and mean, their goals selfish. As Jesus said in the gospel of Matthew "Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"
There is enough religious strife in the world -- people make war over it -- without tinpot ayatollahs like Santorum, Hannity and Donohue trying to capitalize on it by opposing women's health.
Perhaps it would serve them right if Santorum rode his bigotry to an upset nomination. His defeat in November would be even more crushing than that of a Romney candidacy. After that, his idleness would allow him time to reflect on the separation of Church and State, examine his conscience and get to confession.
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