George Allen strikes a risky blow for tolerance, sticks with church that lent space for Muslim prayers

Maybe it’s time to change our opinion of ex-Senator George Allen (R-VA). In 2006 he became a poster child for racial insensitivity (to put the best face on it) when he called a heckler at a town hall meeting “macaca.”

Now he wants his seat back and faces a tough fight against former governor Tim Kaine. The last thing he needs is a primary challenge from the tea party right. But that’s what Allen risked when he brushed off suggestions that he leave the Aldersgate United Methodist Church after it opened its multi-purpose room to a local mosque that needed prayer space while its new facility was being built.

Church pastor Jason Micheli has been slammed by Mike Huckabee and others for his ecumenical spirit, and several members have left the church because of it. But not Allen, who deflected the idea of the church being an issue, saying,

“We feel that the issue that has arisen in recent weeks within our church is a matter for the church family. We understand that good people will have differing opinions on this, but as I stated when entering this Senate race I will endeavor to focus on the concerns that I hear from Virginians as I travel across the state listening to them and discussing the future.”

It seems a long time since a prominent Republican political figure said that religious issues were not a public matter; longer still since one stood up for the right of Muslims to worship in a Christian facility. So three cheers for George Allen.

(Jon Stuart covered the church’s decision hilariously here.)

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