Ann Coulter's Faux Pas
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 04:55:41 AM EST
Ann Coulter has managed to become the star of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC.)  This is not easy to do at an event featuring presidential wannabes as well as the sitting Vice President of the United States.  She accomplished this by -- after being introduced by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney -- calling former Senator John Edwards a "faggot." The crowd reportedly "roared their approval" but the major media didn't report the slur.

I suppose this episode speaks volumes about the state of the conservative movement; the Republican Party; the media; and political discourse in America -- and that we will be hearing much more about it. So while we are waiting, I am reminded of a post I wrote last summer in which I discussed how Ann Coulter says that her Christianity is integral to everything she does - but reporters found that the church where she claims membership -- denies it.  And that unlike most people for whom their religion is a part of their public personae -- she makes no mention of her religion in her personal  bio.

Where is the religious right, when a high-profile bigotted, foul-mouth who claims to be  one of them -- lies about her church membership?

Here is what I wrote last summer:

Is author and pundit Ann Coulter on her way to becoming the new leader of the religious right?

Well, maybe not exactly.  Not yet anyway.  But if her new book is any indication, she wants to be a contender. Godless: the Church of Liberalism, is a vintage screed that like many a tome before it, riffs off of the central frame of the religious right for the past generation or so.

Her main argument is that liberalism is a religion. This is, of course, an indefensible conceit. But it  does help her to be able to say that liberals are busy chasing people of faith out of the public square. Her baseless claim is a variant on the frame that "secular humanists" are in a battle against Christianity, and of course, chasing them out of "the public square." This has been The Central Frame of the religious right for a generation. Christian right groups once went so far as to argue in federal court that Alabama school books advanced the alleged religion of "secular humanism" and therefore violated the establishment clause of the constitution.  The courts found that argument silly, and found for Mobile Alabama school board on that one.

Coulter's title also blatantly echoes a refrain from the McCarthy era as rightwing preachers and pols alike railed against "godless communism."  Claiming that liberals are godless is a silly old canard and easily debunked. But fortunately for Coulter, liberals and democrats are not very good at answering the charge. (I have discussed this point, among other places, here and here, so I will not belabor it at the moment.) So let's look for a promising place to start.

For today, rather than worry about defending liberalism against this silly screed, or trotting someone out to say "liberals are Christians too!" -- let's take a look at the credibility of the author. How godly, or more fairly, (not that she deserves it) how Christian is Ann Coulter? How can you tell? This is a question that has been taken up by several writers recently, but has not gained much traction. (I think that this underscores the lackadaisical way that liberals have generally  responded to stuff like this.

Media Matters for America recently raised the question this way:

In a June 8 Raw Story article, Media Matters staff member Max Blumenthal noted that, while Coulter's book "denounces liberalism as 'the opposition party to God,' " a spokesman for the church she professes to attend says that her congregation "do[esn't] really know her." Blumenthal quoted an April 17, 2005, Time magazine article, in which writer John Cloud "suggested that she has been a regular attendee of New York City's Redeemer Presbyterian Church, to which 'she brings a lot of people.' " Blumenthal then detailed his inquiry with the Manhattan church regarding Coulter's purported attendance there:

When contacted by Raw Story, however, Redeemer Presbyterian's Communications and Media Director Cregan Cooke could not confirm that Coulter had ever attended services at the church.

"The only thing I have heard is hearsay that she is an attender" of Redeemer, Cregan told Raw Story. "Our database shows that she is not a member. ... And I don't know anybody that would have seen Ann Coulter. We don't really know her."

Meanwhile, Bob Allen at Ethics Daily took the story further, reporting:
Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said while Coulter labels herself a Christian, most practicing Christians attend church regularly enough to be recognized by a staff member and talk openly about their church affiliation.

Parham said Christians should seek to follow the teachings of Jesus. "Authentic Christianity is not a weapon with which to bash political opponents," he said. "It's not the sole ownership of a political party. It's not gimmick to sell books."

Parham said "history is littered with those who misused Christianity for all kinds of selfish and harmful reasons."...  

In an interview on, Coulter is quoted as saying: "Although my Christianity is somewhat more explicit in this book, Christianity fuels everything I write. Being a Christian means that I am called upon to do battle against lies, injustice, cruelty, hypocrisy--you know, all the virtues in the church of liberalism.

Allen writes that "Contact persons for Coulter's publisher and Web site did not respond to e-mails asking about her religious affiliation before this story's deadline."  Indeed, there is no indication that I can find that Coulter has responded to any of this. If she thinks it will probably blow over -- she is probably right.

OK. What else do we know?  Well, we also know that Coulter is a Christian nationalist who justifies extreme views about war in the Middle East with these notions:  
"This is a religious war, not against Islam but for Christianity, for a Christian nation. When this nation was founded, there was nothing like it. Our founders said there is a God and we are all equal before God. The ideal of equality and tolerance is like nothing that has ever existed in the world before. That, too, is a Christian value. The concept of equality, especially when it comes to gender equality, was not invented by Gloria Steinem. It was invented by Jesus Christ. As long as people look long enough, they will always come to Christianity."

Let me just underscore, if anyone identifies themself as a Christian, I accept that. People have every right to define themselves as they will.  Who am I to say who is a Christian and who is not?  But that said, it is also fair to ask what kind of Christian is someone is -- especially someone in public life who makes a show of their Christianity; someone who says that Christianity is central to their identity, and that everything they do flows from that identity.

What I can piece together is this. Ann Coulter says she is a Christian; she says she attends Reedemer Presbyterian Church in New York City -- however the church says she is not a member and has no information that she has ever attended. She is however, a Christian nationalist, asserting the bogus notion that the U.S. was founded as a "Christian nation." (Of course, back in the good old days of preconstitutional America, you had to be a white male member in good standing of the correct sect to vote and hold public office. Ann Coulter being female and not a member of an established church, or any church for that matter would be out of luck. ) Unlike most people for whom their religioius identity is an important part of their private identity and their public persona, Coulter makes little effort to stress her Christianity except when scoring political points or make a sale.

She makes no mention of her Christianity in her bio on her personal web site.

What's more, the denomination of the church of which she claims to attend, is a tiny, far right denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, which broke away from mainstream Presbyterianism in 1973 over, among other things, ordination of women. The PCA still does not ordain women. One of the leaders of the schism was televangelist and Christian right leader, D. James Kennedy. Interestingly the question of her religious identity comes at pivotal time in the national conversation about the teaching of creationism. At at time when creationism and its stalking horse intelligent design have faced some significant set backs, D. James Kennedy's outfit is broadcasting an film this weekend, produced by Kennedy's in-house creationist think-tank, that seeks to blame Darwin and the theory of evolution for the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust. Among the "experts": in the film:  Ann Coulter.

So as of today, Ann Coulter stands as a self-identified  church-going conservative Christian who attends a conservative Presbyterian church in New York; part of a denomination that does not ordain women, and iis the institutional home to such Christian right leaders as D. James Kennedy, Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, former Bush advisor Marvin Olasky; Christian Reconstructionist author Dr. George Grant, antiabortion activist Rev. Joe Foreman, and  Institute on Religion and Democracy honcho Rev. James Tonkowich -- among many others. She seems as well-credentialed as any to be a leader of the religious right, and the media, liberals and Democrats are unlikely to challenge her.

So until proved otherwise -- Hail Ann Coulter! Leader of the Religious Right!

Be sure to check-out The Ann Coulter Repulsive Remark Resource Center.

I think the question isn't really whether Ann Coulter is a christian, it is whether Ann Coulter is sane or not!  You can't make mistakes like these (here, here, and here) without having someone question your sanity.

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 09:23:10 AM EST
Oh, I think she knows exactly what she's doing.  Perhaps she miscalculated a little with her remark about Edwards--she could have used any number of less offensive terms that would have been just as mean--but she is a master of self-publicity, and she knows what her adoring public loves about her.

She loves getting a rise out of people.  The more the left hates her, the more books she sells to the right-wingers.  I contribute to a mostly fundamentalist Christian message board (yeah, I'm a masochist) and while there are some fundies who are embarrassed by her others, while not exactly cheering her on, are attempting to justify her comments either defending her right to say it (as if anyone is trying to stop her) or reminding people of the nasty things left-wingers sometimes say.

I'll give this much to Ms Coulter.  She knows her audience.

by tacitus on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 01:26:26 PM EST

and I don't even play one on TV, so I am loath to judge people's sanity. I am not even really assessing her professed Christianity.

What I am questioning is her honesty.  If she is such a Christian, or at least plays one on TV, how come there is no evidence to support her claim of involvement in the faith?  

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 01:55:53 PM EST

That's not what I witnessed. What I heard was more of a mix of laughter and embarrased shock. In fact, if you watch her face, Ann Coulter doesn't seem all that confident that her  attempt at political humor was successful ...or appropriate.  You can see it hidden in her face.  Oh the tragedies of a life of ACOA-shame driven madness.  Watch it yourself at Crooks and Liars: ment-on-john-edwards-but-it-turns-out-you-have-to-go-into-rehab-i f-you-use-the-word-‘faggot’/
by cliffhammond on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 05:35:58 AM EST

has a certain Rashomon quality about it I suppose.  

The point still remains, that Coulter said it because she knew it would be at least well received by some, and provoke others. That's what she does when she throws red meat of homophobia to the crowd. Its an ancient trick of the demagogue. Its how she earns a living.

The question will still remain, how do we respond? We all agree this is not acceptable discourse, but who should be held accountable and how?

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 01:48:10 PM EST

You point out the hypocrisy of those defending Coulter while condemning people on the left like Michael Moore (who may be a rabble rouser, but has nothing on Coulter).

You highlight the tacit silence of those on the right as an indication of what much the Republican Party machine has come to stand for in recent years.

You do exactly what you've done in this article :-)

by tacitus on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 03:21:46 PM EST

How to respond is a mystery to me.  The press/MSM is of no help; they have long given up on trying to keep cranks like Ann Coulter out of the body politic.  They are content to sit back and let her say whatever she wants without any consequences (the Time feature on her from a few years back is a perfect example) while they collect their checks, pat each other on the back and live their well-off lifestyle disconected from average Americans.  If they are goaded into responding, they will engage in equivalence and say people on the Left say things just as bad, even though no one on the Left is even close to being as bad as Coulter (they will probably mention Michael Moore ).

Maybe we have to keep mocking Coulter (I hope South Park will do an episode on Coulter some day).  It's too bad that somebody high-profile like Al Franken can't write a funny book showing how crazy Coulter's worldview is to average people.

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 05:00:07 PM EST

Writer Dennis Perrin has a different idea of what could be done about Ann Coulter (bottom of post)...

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 07:44:58 AM EST

Glenn Greenwald posted excellent commentary about this, noting that in her comments, Ann Coulter revealed the true face of the "conservative" movement. There apparently is nothing she can say that will cause her followers to repudiate her comments, and I doubt very much that Mitt Romney will do so.

by khughes1963 on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 12:51:32 PM EST

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