To The Herald-Whig:
I don't write many letters to the editor, but I laughed so hard when I read the president of the local tea party bragging about being a good, conservative Catholic in a recent letter in this paper I felt compelled to put my thoughts down. He was defending the appearance of a well-known anti-Muslim speaker here in town to warn about the dangers of Muslim immigrants. The tea party fellow should be a little better versed in history.
Right-wing nativism first took root in this country in the 1830s when men such as Samuel F.B. Morse (telegraph inventor), Elijah Lovejoy (Illinois abolitionist martyr), and Reverend Lyman Beecher (father of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher) wrote of "the foreign Catholic menace" plotting to take control of the United States. Catholics couldn't be good Americans because they owed allegiance to a foreign potentate (the pope). Catholics, they warned, were clannish and set up their own school systems. Immoral activities took place in convents and monasteries. The republic would fail with the unfettered influx of horrible Catholics from Ireland and Germany!
Of course, it turned out that Catholics can be fine Americans. The republic did quite well. The right-wing nativism of the today's tea party movement is just as repugnant today as it was in the 19th Century. I know many fine Muslims in the community as well as Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons and Jews. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington are all on record as saying that freedom of religion applies to all groups.
Anyone can parse through the writings of any religion and come up with things out of context that make the religion appear unappealing or silly. A good American doesn't participate in religion bashing.