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January 18, 2012

Santorum staffer under fire for email about biblical propriety of female leaders

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/santorum_staffer_under_fire_for_email_about_biblical_propriety_of_female_le/

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Rick Santorum speaks at his NH primary election night rally, Jan. 10, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Mike Segar

What is with Republican presidential campaign staffers in Iowa? First there was Newt Gingrich’s Iowa political director resigning over his “cult of Mormon” comment. Now Rick Santorum’s coalitions director has gotten his boss in trouble for sending an email over the summer that asked, “Is it God’s highest desire, that is, his biblically expressed will … to have a woman rule the institutions of the family, the church, and the state?”

That’s actually an arguable biblical question. What isn’t clear from the reports I’ve seen is the context within which the email was sent. Was it really about whether God would approve of a female president, which is what Michele Bachmann’s camp claims. They say the email was an example of sexism that was at play in Iowa and led to Bachmann dropping out:

“We did believe that sexism — I use the stronger word misogyny — was at play,” said Peter Waldron, Bachmann’s faith outreach coordinator.

Three influential pastors called for her to bow out of the race, and numerous others said “that a female could not be a civil magistrate,” said Waldron, who lives in Florida and has worked six presidential campaigns dating to Ronald Reagan’s in 1980.

I’m not really buying that. Bachmann was never going to get the nomination, even if she hadn’t done so poorly in the state she was born. And just because pastors called for her to bow out doesn’t mean that they did so because they don’t believe that God would support a female president. (“God endorses ____.” Interesting concept.) Needs more context.

But what about the other question that this raises? The email was reportedly sent from a personal email account and between friends, not as part of the staffer’s campaign job. Even if the staffer sincerely believed that the Bible condemns female leaders, does the fact that it has created a controversy suggest that it’s not OK for people in politics—even political staffers—to discuss such things? Or is it only relevant here because political agendas are shaped by staffers and here one of Santorum’s might hold objectionable, though biblically arguable, views?

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