Congressional candidate’s comments about Muslims, women draw spotlight

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Two years ago Jody Hice published a book explaining his Christian worldview and detailing his plan to save America from “cultural erosion.”

In “It’s Now or Never: A Call to Reclaim America,” the former Baptist minister says radical Islam poses an existential threat to America and proposes stripping some Muslims of their First Amendment rights to religious freedom.

Hice’s book is coming under the microscope now that he is locked in a Republican primary runoff for Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, which stretches from Gwinnett County to the South Carolina border. He is facing off against Mike Collins, a trucking company executive from Jackson.

In recent weeks, People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch and Mother Jones — both left-leaning groups — have posted reports online spotlighting parts of Hice’s book and some things he told the news media about women serving in politics. Critics say Hice’s comments about women and Muslims are offensive and bigoted. His supporters say the conservative radio talk show host is speaking the truth and that his comments are being twisted.

Hice declined a request for an interview for this article, but he answered written questions sent to his campaign. Hice wrote he was strictly referring to jihadists in his book and had carefully distinguished “between the Muslim faith and radical Islam as a political force.”

“Radical Islam is an enemy dedicated to our destruction whether by subverting our institutions or by violence,” he said. “Only fools will allow it to use the Constitution itself to overthrow our government and enslave our people. I make no apology for saying so.”

In one chapter of his book, titled “Radical Islam,” Hice writes there are radical and violent parts of Islam that call for world domination along with the destruction of the U.S. Constitution. And he says those who embrace Islam’s radical teachings have no right to First Amendment protection.

“Although Islam has a religious component, it is much more than a simple religious ideology,” he says. “It is a complete geo-political structure, and as such, does not deserve First Amendment protection. To grant it such is to give protection to another governmental system, one that is in direct conflict to our constitutional establishment.”

A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Muslim advocacy organization, called Hice’s comments “un-American.”

“What you really need is for Republican leaders at the local, state and national level to come out against these kinds of extremist, bigoted views,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a CAIR spokesman. “When you are telling people that citizens of a certain faith should be denied the protections of the Constitution, you are un-American. You can’t be more un-American than that.”

Hice’s supporters agree that jihadists can pose threats to America and don’t deserve protection under the First Amendment.

“I wholeheartedly agree that what they would say would be in contrast certainly with the Constitution,” said Steve Ramey, a co-chairman of the Gwinnett Tea Party, which has endorsed Hice. “Any discussion that they would have amongst themselves as jihadists would be sedition and traitorous to our nation.”

Collins called Hice’s writings about Islam “divisive and demeaning.”

“The problem is that when you say some Americans’ religious rights aren’t worth protecting is that you set a dangerous precedent and the question becomes who gets to decide the next religion or denomination that doesn’t get constitutional protections,” Collins said in an email.

Hice and Collins are locked in a tight fight to replace U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, who won the backing of the district’s voters four times and established himself as one of the most conservative members of Congress. During the campaign leading up to the May 20 primary, Hice tried to establish himself as the heir to Broun, telling voters he would apply the four-part litmus test the congressman used to judge legislative proposals, including that they fit the “Judeo-Christian biblical principles” upon which the nation was founded. Hice discusses similar cultural and moral issues as well as current affairs on his radio talk program, “The Jody Hice Show.”

Hice was the top vote-getter among seven candidates in the primary, taking 33.50 percent of the vote. Collins drew 32.99 percent of the vote to force a runoff on July 22.

The winner will face Democrat Ken Dious, an Athens attorney, in November.

Hice is also attracting attention for some comments he made in a 2004 Athens Banner-Herald article about women serving in politics.

“If the woman’s within the authority of her husband, I don’t see a problem,” Hice told the newspaper about women in positions of political power.

Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, a feminist group, said Hice’s views are out of the 19th century.

“His comments are so antithetical to the majority of people he would be representing because they are so demeaning, so disrespectful, so offensive to women in his district,” she said. “I am just surprised and frankly appalled that he would run for office holding the views that he holds.”

Hice said his comments in the newspaper reflected his view that married people who want to run for public office should have discussions with their spouses in advance, considering political campaigns can be time-consuming, stressful and costly. Hice dismissed O’Neill’s criticism, noting he has been endorsed by Concerned Women for America, a conservative political group.

“What do you expect the president of a consistently left-wing organization to say about a conservative Republican?” he said of O’Neill. “Everybody understands that when she attacks me she is just doing her job. I would be kind of disappointed if she didn’t attack me.”

Collins also took aim at Hice for his comments.

“Jody’s remarks on women running for office are sexist and unbecoming of a candidate seeking a seat in Congress,” he said.

Hice’s supporters rejected the criticism. Among them is Covington resident Gene Williams, who cast an early ballot for Hice this week. Williams, an evangelist who founded the Concerned for the World ministry, said he knows Hice and his wife and accepts Hice’s explanation of what he meant.

“I have no reason to call him a liar there, so I just have to accept what he says,” Williams said. “I know his wife. She loves him dearly. She feels free and she doesn’t feel like she is a slave in any way.”