Republicans continue to push back against the attacks on Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, coming from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and other House Republicans. Bachmann and other conservatives have suggested that Abedin is connected to a Muslim Brotherhood plot to infiltrate the U.S. government.
At a town hall with constituents on Sunday, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) stood up for Abedin, appealing to freedom of religion, which he called “one of the most cherished freedoms that this country has had since its beginning.”
In a video of the event put online by Think Progress, a woman can be heard voicing support for Bachmann and others who are “calling for an investigation to the Muslim Brotherhood’s possible infiltration into our federal agencies.” Sensenbrenner responded firmly:
Let me say that I do know Huma Abedin and I think that the comments that were made about her in that letter, whether or not they were taken out of context, were the wrong thing to do. She could not have gotten the job, either as then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s top advisor, or the job in the State Department, without passing a rather rigorous security clearance.
When the constituent later contended that “there’s a political ideology that’s a concern in Islam,” Sensenbrenner interrupted her:
Heidi, Heidi, Heidi, the First Amendment prohibits the government from making a distinction between what is “good religion” and what is “bad religion.” That’s none of the government’s business. Religion is a personal issue to every one of the people who lives in the United States, whether you practice a faith, how you practice a faith, whether you don’t practice a faith, whether you say you’re a member of a faith but you don’t practice it, it’s none of the government’s business. And this is the whole issue of religious freedom. And that has been one of the most cherished freedoms that this country has had since its beginning.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com