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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (RNS) A Republican congressman from Missouri is catching flak from some liberal religious leaders for saying last week that “at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God.”
U.S. Rep. Todd Akin made the comments during a radio interview Friday (June 24) with Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council.

Perkins asked Akin why he thought NBC cut the words “under God” from a pre-taped clip of the Pledge of Allegiance that aired during NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Open.

“Well, I think NBC has a long record of being very liberal and at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God,” Akin said.

Akin went on to say that the move was part of “a systematic effort to try to separate our faith and God, which is a source in our belief in individual liberties, from our country. And when you do that you tear the heart out of our country.”

The comments immediately made their way around the Internet, and the Rev. Krista Taves of Emerson Unitarian Universalist Chapel in Ellisville, Mo., said Akin’s comment “shows how very little he knows about liberals, and how very little he knows about God.”

“I’m a liberal because I love God and all God’s creation,” said Taves, whose church is in Akin’s district. “I value equality, fairness and compassionate justice because my faith informs my politics.”

Rabbi Jim Bennett of Congregation Shaare Emeth in St. Louis, which is just outside Akin’s district, said he was “deeply disturbed” by Akin’s statement, which he characterized as a “grotesque politicized attack.”

Akin spokesman Steve Taylor said the point Akin was trying to make was that conservatives believe rights are granted by God and it is the responsibility of government to aid in protecting them.

“Liberals believe rights are granted by government,” he said. “Congressman Akin believes those two concepts define the basic debate between the two ideologies.”

Akin’s comments were off the cuff, Taylor said, and with more time to articulate his point he could have “provided a more artful answer.”

(Jason Hancock writes for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

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