Sarah Palin courts controversy with religiously charged statements about torture

Published: Monday, April 28 2014 4:20 p.m. MDT

Sarah Palin: If I Were President 'Waterboarding Is How We'd Bap

Former Alaska governor and 2008 vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin made some waves when a video of her speech at the National Rifle Association’s “Fight Rally” surfaced on the Internet over the weekend.

“If I were in charge,” Palin said more than six minutes into her speech, “they ('intolerant, anti-freedom leftist liberals') would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”

While Palin’s remarks, which were given on April 26, were received with loud cheers by those in attendance, her likening of an act some consider a form of torture with another act believed by many to be a sacramental expression essential to Christian salvation drew criticism from many for being religiously tone-deaf.

“Not only is this woman, putatively a Christian, praising torture, but she is comparing it to a holy sacrament of the Christian faith,” The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher wrote on Sunday. “It’s disgusting — but even more disgusting, those NRA members, many of whom are no doubt Christians, cheered wildly for her.”

“I’ve long defended Palin against the offensive treatment she’s received at the hands of a blatantly biased media,” The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway wrote. “But that hardly means she must be defended at all times.”

Hemingway then goes on to describe the spiritual significance — a significance that she believes should not be taken lightly — that baptism represents.

“Is waterboarding how we baptize terrorists? However powerful waterboarding might be (and whether or not it is defensible, a good idea or achieves the goals of those who advocate its use), it doesn’t hold a candle to the power of the Christian baptism, as historically understood.”

According to a report by NBC, the backlash against Palin’s remarks, even within the religious community, have fallen on deaf ears.

"Would I make it again?” Palin told NBC News in response to the criticisms of her metaphor. “Why wouldn't I, yeah, absolutely. Terrorists who want to annihilate Americans, innocent Americans, our children — whatever it takes to stop them. If I were in charge, I'd be stoppin' em."

“I don't really see Palin as a traditional banana-republic fascist,” The Hill’s Bernie Quigley, who has been supportive of Palin in the past, wrote Monday. “She just defaults on occasion to that archaic portion of the brain controlled by this tribal, proto-European substate which Franz Kafka so eloquently documented.”

Palin’s controversial comments come at a time when some, such as The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, are questioning her relevance and influence within the Republican Party.

“Four years after using her unique position to propel a number of conservatives” Costa wrote Monday, “Palin is today a diminished figure in the Republican Party … Even as she travels to Iowa and elsewhere to bolster her handpicked candidates, her influence in these midterm elections has been eclipsed by a new class of stars and her circle has narrowed.”

Palin’s approach to conservatism comes in direct contrast with rising stars in the Republican party, such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul whose fervent civil libertarian views have caused him to publicly decry NSA domestic spying policies, drone warfare and yes, torture.

JJ Feinauer is a web producer for Moneywise and Opinion on DeseretNews.com. Email: jfeinauer@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: jjfeinauer.

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