Theocratic Pol Indicted on Terrorism Related Charges
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jan 16, 2008 at 07:54:20 PM EST
Back in the 1980's then-Rep. Mark Siljander (R-MI) was one of America's leading theocratic politicians. He was a high profile member of the Christian Right, and a close political ally of Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Today he is the posterboy for how the Framers of the Constitution and the ratifying states got it right when they proscribed religious oaths and tests for public office; protected the rights of individual conscience; discouraged religious supremacism and resolutely separated church and state.

Diarist Addison, over at Daily Kos writes:

In a story that unites the terrorism, theocrats, and lobbyists, former Reagan-appointed UN delegate and Michigan Congressman Mark D. Siljander (R) has been indicted on charges of involvement in a terrorist fundraising ring that raised and sent $130,000 to an al-Qaida affiliated group that aimed to kill American troops in Afghanistan. Siljander, who served from 1981-87, had been hired as a lobbyist for the group in their attempt to get off the United States' list of registered terrorist groups.

At any given moment, one person's fundamentalism is another person's heresy. (The most orthodox of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Mormons, Muslims and so on, for example, agree on little other than male supremacy; oppose gay rights and reproductive, rights not to mention more enlightened approaches to sexuality and separation of church and state.) While disagreements are eternal, so must be the recognition that no one's religious fundamentals are necessarily a good prescription for public policy, let alone as constitutional principles.

The Kansas City Star reports:

A Kansas City grand jury has charged a defunct charity in Columbia with sending money to an Afghan terrorist with ties to al Qaida and the Taliban.

The indictment, returned early this afternoon, also accuses a former U.S. congressman of money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

The new charges also accuse Mark Deli Siljander ... of receiving $50,000 from the charity in 2004. Siljander, who operates a Washington D.C. public relations firm, was hired to lobby Congress to remove the charity from a U.S. Senate Finance Committee list of non-profit organizations suspected of being involved in supporting international terrorism.

The Detroit Free Press added that

The 42-count indictment also names as defendants five men connected to the Islamic American Relief Agency in Columbia, Mo. The agency closed in October 2004, the statement said.

The indictment charges IARA with sending approximately $130,000 to help Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom the United States has designated as a global terrorist. The money, sent to bank accounts in Peshawar, Pakistan in 2003 and 2004, was masked as donations to an orphanage located in buildings that Hekmatyar owned.

Authorities described Hekmatyar as an Afghan mujahedeen leader who has participated in and supported terrorist acts by al-Qaida and the Taliban. The Justice Department said Hekmatyar "has vowed to engage in a holy war against the United States and international troops in Afghanistan."

The charges "paints a troubling picture of an American charity organization that engaged in transactions for the benefit of terrorists and conspired with a former United States congressman to convert stolen federal funds into payments for his advocacy," said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein.

Siljander's lobbying group is Global Strategies, Inc. Its list of "References" includes former president George H.W. Bush, and sitting members of Congress from both parties.  No doubt, the tale of Siljander will be told in some circles as a cautionary tale about the temptations of Beltway Insiderism. For others, it will epitomize the problem of the Culture of Corruption in which public officials use and abuse public office to gain experience and contacts that become highly saleable commodities after they leave office.

The framers of the Constitution understood well, when they put forward Article 6, that just because a politician swore an oath to uphold Christianity or any of its factions, that did not inherently mean that that man was honest, competent, or even true to his own faith.  Swearing to uphold the Constitution has become the standard: for all of the right reasons.

The right to believe as we will, as epressed in the First Amendment and in Article 6 also extends to our elected officials. Not only are they not required to believe anything specific, or to say that they do, but a deeper understanding of the nature of beliefs is at work here. Not only do many people not live up to their stated beliefs or moral standards, but perhaps more importantly, the views of most people change over time. That was certainly the experience of most of the framers of the Constitution, efforts by various religious and non-religious factions to put them in little boxes not withstanding. Thus the men who wrote the Constitution understood that the imposition of cookie cutter declarations of orthodoxy were rediculous on their face. Religious oaths were as preposterous and tyrannical as state churches to a society of free minds. Today, the Christian nationalists, and other theocratic factions, and those who enable them, make their careers demagoguing theocratic politics. Some are more serious about it than others.

Mark Siljander is a fine poster boy for how wrong we can be if we base our support for a candidate, a political faction or even a political party, primarily on supposed fealty to religious orthodoxy. It ought to give even the most religiously orthodox and politically conservative of the Religious Right, pause: A man once thought to hold firmly to true conservative Christian principles in national office would one-day, apparently trade on that office to become a lobbyist for alleged Islamic terrorists.

is a cautionary tale not only for theocratic pols, but for the professional panders in Washington (and elsewhere) who seek to sell us not only candidates, but on the idea that faith is or should be, a political commodity.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Jan 17, 2008 at 12:52:09 PM EST

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