Muslim Comedian Claims Santorum Sounds Like 'the Taliban' When Talking Church and State

According to Muslim comedian and CNN regular Dean Obeidallah, Rick Santorum speaks the language of "the Taliban" when he talks about the intersection of church and state in America. On CNN Sunday night, liberal host Don Lemon decided to have a religious discussion for Easter Sunday, and his first question was about the separation of church and state.

Obeidallah has attacked Santorum in the past, and found a way to bring him into the discussion. He referred to Santorum "saying the Bible and our laws must comport," adding later that "He was saying the same things honestly that the Taliban would say, that religious scripture and the laws of that state must agree."

First of all, Santorum had said he was opposed to homosexuality because of "Judeo-Christian values that are based on biblical truth," a quote which Obeidallah used as fodder for his argument that Santorum wants the Judeo-Christian equivalent of Sharia law in America. He also knocked the candidate for insisting that civil law must comport to "God's law."

However, Santorum could well have referred to "God's law" as the same concept that appears in Martin Luther King's "Letter From a Birmingham Jail," where he argued man-made laws must conform to the "law of God,"  or natural law, in order to be just. And, in fact, Santorum has made this exact point before.

However, Obeidallah remains insistent in pushing this outlandish theory that Santorum wants something like a Christian theocracy – and Don Lemon was content to let him spout it.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on April 8 on Newsroom at 6:18 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

DON LEMON: We're going to do the obvious thing here. Everybody's doing it. All the morning shows did it. This Easter Sunday, let's talk religion and politics. And it may not be appropriate dinner table talk, but what about on the campaign trail? Political comedian Dean Obeidallah, CNN contributor Will Cain. What was that snarky comment you said before the break, Will?

WILL CAIN, CNN contributor: What did I say? He said he looked like Fred Savage. People tell him that. I said I loved Winnie. That's a compliment. Winnie was my childhood love.

LEMON: Oh, no. We were talking about your lack of necktie. It's Easter Sunday. Dress appropriately.

CAIN: Oh that comment? Right. Right.

LEMON: All right. Now to the task at hand. This morning on Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer talked about mixing religion and politics with Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Take a look.

(Video Clip)

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS News: Do you think there's too much religion in politics today?

TIMOTHY DOLAN, Catholic Cardinal: No, I don't think so at all. I think – I think politics – just like business, just like education, just like arts, just like culture – only benefits when religion, when morals, when faith has a place there. I think the American – the public square in the United States is always enriched whenever people approach it, when they're inspired by their deepest held convictions.

(End Video Clip)

LEMON: Dean, do you think most Americans feel that way? I mean, this is – this is more than the separation of church and state here that we're talking about.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, political comedian: I think – I don't think most people have a problem with faith or a candidate that's got moral and convictions. That's actually a good thing. I think the difference is when it doesn't – when it no longer maybe influences your decisions, but actually your decisions, your policy decisions, are based on Scripture. Like Rick Santorum's saying the Bible and our laws must comport.

To me, that went beyond any kind of accepted view of politics and religion. There was no longer separation of church and state. He was saying the same things honestly that the Taliban would say, that religious scripture and the laws of that state must agree. So, I think that went too far. But, of course, people – if morals and ethics are what religion's about, and (Unintelligible) to be a better person, that's a great candidate. It's a great elected official for us to have.

LEMON: But you said, you – I've heard you say this before. It's not just about religion. It's about the right religion? How did you phrase that?

OBEIDALLAH: Absolutely, that's absolutely right. I think for some of the people, I'm going to be blunt. Some of the leaders in the evangelical community in the South, that it's not about having faith. It's not about having morals. Faith to them is their faith. You must pray like them, you must think like them, you must kneel like they do. And if you don't, then your faith doesn't matter.

Like Mitt Romney, I think there's no doubt people would think is a good person, a good moral man, a loyal husband. You know, his business practice, maybe there's some issues there, but never unscrupulous. Never unscrupulous like embezzler or something like that. I mean, and I'm not mocking Romney.

Yet, he is attacked for his faith. I mean, you know, Reverend Jefferies, one of the leaders in the evangelical movement, said that Mormonism is a cult. And that's the most demeaning thing. That's saying it's specious or has no validity at all as a religion. And so, you hear that from some people and what they're saying is, it doesn't matter if he's a good guy, has good morals, a person you can trust. He's not our faith, so we can't trust him.

LEMON: Yeah.

OBEIDALLAH: And that's what's wrong to me. The same thing with Muslims. I mean, you know, the attack on Obama, the whisper campaign continues. Mississippi, Alabama, recent polls, 50 percent think he's Muslim.

LEMON: Will?

CAIN: Well, you know, I think we have talked about this in the past, Don. I think that something people describe as fundamental to who they are, at the core of they are, and we have seen presidents use this quote over and over, it informs every decision I make – and we're talking religion here.

I think something that is that fundamental, someone asking to be put into a leadership position, deserves scrutiny. I think it deserves judgment. Do I think it should be the single driving factor on how you cast your vote? No. But I think we have stepped entirely too far into political correctness if we assume that religion shouldn't be a part of that judgment process.

LEMON: Okay, just real quickly here – Will first – do you think that religious organizations should push issues or support candidates?

CAIN: I think religious organ – yes. Yes. The answer is yes. I mean, obviously, religious organizations have issues that are deep part of their ideology. And if they see candidates supporting those ideas, I think there's nothing wrong with them supporting those candidates.

LEMON: Dean?

OBEIDALLAH: I hate to agree with Will, but yes, I do agree with him. And I think absolutely. Of course, freedom of speech, why should it be limited to a religious group not having that same right?
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014