In recent months, Republicans have stepped up their birther claims that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Many Republicans want Americans to believe that Obama is a secret Muslim out to destroy the country. That’s where GOP Rep. Jeff Landry comes in.
During an interview on Jay Selulow Live show, the Louisiana congressman accused President Obama of giving Muslims waivers to pass through airport security without being screened. Landry claims Obama is allowing this because he is giving Muslims a religious exemption. Landry says Obama is attacking Christianity by not allowing a religious exemption on contraception, but is gladly aiding Muslims.
SEKULOW: “How big of a deal, how big of an issue is this both in the body politics [sic] and among your constituents?”
LANDRY: “Down here in south Louisiana this is huge, this is very important to my constituency. I think the biggest problems that a lot of Americans are having out there is the hypocrisy of this administration. Remember, this is an administration who has no problem granting special status or waivers to Muslims as they go through TSA screenings. Look, as they believe that there is a need to grant them special rights as they go through the TSA screening based upon their religion, that’s fine, I’m ok with that. But then don’t turn around and attack Christians when they stand up and say ‘listen, we believe that the policies you’re putting in place violate our religious freedoms as well.”
I’d really love to know what evidence Landry has to prove his claims but I doubt he has any. His claim is not only outrageous like the birther claims, but it appears to be just as baseless. According to the TSA screening policy website, passengers have the right to complain if they believe their civil rights have been violated but it says nothing about a religious exemption for any group, including Muslims. This question has also been resolved in Congress. In November 2010, TSA Administrator John Pistole testified during a Senate hearing on Homeland Security about TSA policy. In a back and forth session with Arizona Republican Senator John Ensign, Pistole stated that no group of people has a religious exemption to pass through security unchecked. Here is the transcript of that testimony.
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R-NEVADA): “Are you going to, you know, allow certain groups to be exempted from that because of, you know, religious beliefs?”
PISTOLE: “Senator, we try to be sensitive to each individual and in groups that have particular sensitivities as to whether it’s head-wear or certain garb or sensitivities about being viewed or touched and everything. So we try to be sensitive to those issues. At the same time, the bottom line is we have to ensure that each person getting on each flight has been properly screened. And so we have options such as, if somebody does not want to go through the advanced imaging technology, it is optional. They would just do the walk- through metal detector and then–and have a pat-down that would identify any possible items.
They can request private screenings. So if they don’t want to be screened in public, they can go to a private area, have a witness with them.
And so we try to address those concerns in every way possible, recognizing, again, in the final analysis, everybody on that flight wants to be assured with the highest level of confidence that everybody else on that flight has been properly screened, and including me and you and everybody.”
ENSIGN: “I realize this is a difficult question for you, but–so are you going to make no exceptions, then?”
ENSIGN: “I know you’re trying to responsibly accommodate.”
ENSIGN: “But within those reasonable accommodations, OK, let’s just say that–that, listen, you know, my religious whatever does not allow me to be touched by somebody else, does not allow me to go through that screening. So what happens in those cases?”
PISTOLE: “So a very small percentage of people would have and will continue to receive pat-downs. So if somebody comes through…”
ENSIGN: “So they have to at least go through the pat-down, if not the screening?”
PISTOLE: “No, they–unless there is an alarm in the walk- through metal detector or they opt out of the advance imaging technology, they would in all likelihood never receive a pat-down. So it’s–the pat-down is only a very, very small…”
ENSIGN: “No, no, I–let me–maybe not (inaudible) my question. If somebody is–a random screening. I just got randomly screened at the airport. For whatever reason, my number seems to come up quite often.
But if that, you know, happens and either the imaging, OK, was one of the options or, you know, the pat down–let’s just say I don’t–I don’t want either of them because of religious–because of religious reasons. What happens to me?”
PISTOLE: “So while I respect and we respect that person’s beliefs, that person’s not going to get on an airplane.”
ENSIGN: “OK. And there will be no exceptions because of religion.”
Apparently, Pistole’s testimony was good enough for John Ensign, it should be good enough for every Republican. The fact is, the TSA screens every passenger. I’ve been at major airports before and I’ve not once seen any passenger slip through security unchecked. The line is slow and screenings are thorough. Even children are screened. If anything, people of Arab descent are checked more closely. They certainly aren’t allowed to bypass security because of religion. Landry is repeating a paranoid right-wing fringe claim. As a Congressman, you would think he’d know better, but he’d rather push a ludicrous claim in order to whine about Catholics not being exempt from the Obama contraception rule. I’m not sure Landry got the memo, but Obama revised his rule, giving Catholic institutions that religious exemption. The rule now only requires insurance companies to offer contraception to religious employees free of charge. When it comes to attacking President Obama these days, Republicans will say anything to score cheap political points. Speaking of religion, isn’t there a commandment that says thou shalt not lie?