My Congressman At "Work"
It's no secret that I'm not a big fan of my Congressman, Bill Sali. While I don't agree with a lot of his priorities, I've always thought that he was a man of principle -- he tends to vote his conscience, even when it might be politically unpopular. This week, though, he voted for something popular that seemed to go against his principles as previously expressed to me by his spokesman.
Back in October, Rep. Sali voted "Present" when Congress passed a resolution recognizing "the religious and historical significance of the festival of Diwali" (a Hindu festival). This came soon on the heels of Congressman Sali's controversial statements in opposition to having a Hindu prayer open the Senate earlier this year. Considering he had voted "Yes" on a similar resolution honoring Ramadan, I wrote to Mr. Sali's spokesman asking about the difference between the two votes. Here's what he said in return (previously posted by me at the Idaho Statesman's website):
Congressman Sali’s vote indicates that he neither approves nor disapproves of the resolution. Rather, it indicates he thinks the issue involved was unnecessary for House consideration. The problem we’re experiencing now is that the House is getting into the habit of recognizing the celebrations and rituals of many religions, which seems in a way rather condescending and, perhaps more substantively, is unnecessary in a country where freedom of religion is intrinsic to our way of life. Our Founders established a government that honors and protects liberty of religious practice for persons of all faiths. For more than two centuries, brave men and women have died to defend this freedom. Consequently, highlighting one ceremonial day after another seems not only redundant but also patronizing to the practitioners of the faith traditions followed in our great, free Republic.Fair enough. Very idealistic, I thought. Well, it turns out he wasn't really that idealistic, in that he voted "Yes" this week on a resolution honoring Christmas. Is that surprising? No, but it is just a little bit disappointing. I can respect a man who stands up for what he believes in, even if I don't agree with it. To see a man like that turn into just another politician who says one thing and does another, though, is just sad.
Update 1455 14 December: Congressman Sali's spokesman, Wayne Hoffman, responded to my concerns thusly:
The content of the Christmas resolution is entirely consistent with Bill's work. Congressman Sali has been extremely involved in addressing human rights issues. He has been active on the issue of human trafficking (the 21 st century human slave trade), is a member of the Task Force on International Religious Freedom and the House Human Rights Caucus, two groups that have consistently worked to secure human rights around the world. You will note that, in addition to recognizing the importance of Christmas and recognizing the role played by Christians and Christianity in the formation of the U.S. and western civilization (which is entirely consistent with many, many statements Bill has made), the resolution also rejects the bigotry and persecution that has been directed against Christians.Once again, I'll have to take Congressman Sali at his word, since there's no hard evidence otherwise. Still, it'll be interesting to see how Mr. Sali votes on future resolutions expressing support for non-Christian groups that also might call for rejecting bigotry and persecution of said groups.