Nobody Could Have Predicted

Last week, I wrote a post about an incoherent claim from Focus on the Family’s Steve Jordahl in which he mashed together the infamous DHS report, the current hate crimes bill in the Senate, and an amendment added to the National Defense Authorization Act by Rep. Alcee Hastings that “would prohibit the recruitment, enlistment, or retention of individuals associated” with hate groups by the US military to claim that the “hate-crimes bill may target pro-life servicemen and women.”

As I wrote in that post:

[E]ven though this claim is utterly incoherent and fundamentally nonsensical, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see it get picked up by others in the right-wing echo chamber and quickly establish itself as part of the narrative.

So imagine my complete lack of surprise when I saw this:

Opposition is surfacing to a move in Congress that could categorize pro-life organizations and their members as dangerous.

Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America (CWA) has written a letter to Congress, urging defeat of the measure. “An amendment has been added to the Defense Authorization Bill that would prohibit the recruitment, enlistment, or retention of military personnel who are connected to groups associated with what the amendment calls ‘hate-related violence,'” she explains.

Wright recalls the recent Homeland Security report on right-wing extremists, which inferred that people associated with single-issue groups are potentially problematic. In the 1990s, Wright says the Department of Justice initiated a politically driven investigation against pro-lifers and religious leaders based on them being pro-life.

CWA has even dashed off a letter [PDF] opposing this amendment and sent it to members of Congress:

On behalf of Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) 500,000 members nationwide, I am writing you today to respectfully raise concerns with an amendment offered by Representative Alcee Hastings to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 which would prohibit recruitment, enlistment or retention of military personnel connected to groups associated with “hate-related violence.” The language in this amendment is vague and unclear and raises constitutional questions.

The Hastings amendment on its face targets people “associated or affiliated with” certain groups. However, the Constitution gives individuals the right to associate and the Supreme Court has determined that the government cannot penalize an individual for “mere association” without proof that a person shares the illegal aims of the group. The Hastings amendment appears to prohibit recruitment, enlistment or retention of military personnel simply based on one’s affiliation with a particular group that the Attorney General disfavors.

CWA urges you to oppose this amendment in its present form and to clarify the language in this amendment on the House floor or during conference process to make it more consistent with current Department of Defense policies and the Constitution.

You can read Hastings’ amendment here [PDF] and, if you do so, you’ll see that it explicitly defines “hate groups” as those that advocate violence against others based on race, religion, or ethnicity, engage in criminal activity, or advocate armed revolution against the government or that are otherwise “determined by the Attorney General to be of a violent, extremist nature.”

The language is in no way “vague and unclear” and contains no threat to constitutional rights to association – it simply, and logically, prohibits the military from recruiting those who are associated or affiliated with violent extremist groups. 

But that doesn’t matter to the Right, which apparently thinks that it has found yet another non-issue over which it can raise and ruckus and try to set off a “controversy” for political gain. 

Look for this issue to start picking up steam in the days and weeks ahead.