Marsha Blackburn brags about 'religious liberty' honor after backing Muslim ban

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The Tennessee Republican senator has been selective in her backing of religious freedom.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) boasted Sunday that she received an "award" for her work on behalf of international religious liberty. But the GOP senator has a history of repeatedly stoking Islamophobia and has pushed to discriminate against Muslim people in the United States.

21Wilberforce, a self-described "Christian human rights organization dedicated to defending the universal rights of religion, belief, and conscience for all people," publishes an annual congressional scorecard. Based on her voting record in the 116th Congress, the group designated Blackburn a "Notable Leader," along with 23 other senators and 39 representatives from across the political spectrum.

"Thank you @21Wilberforce for recognizing me with this award," she tweeted. "It is extremely important to keep fighting for religious liberty around the globe."

While Blackburn has been an outspoken critic of China's treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim groups, accusing them of "religious persecution," at home she has repeatedly promoted an anti-Muslim agenda.

In December 2015, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump demanded a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."

He never indicated which representatives would make that assessment or how, but Blackburn repeatedly endorsed his proposal.

"The majority agrees that if we have to call a timeout while we get that in place, that it's common sense and we ought to do that," she told a New Hampshire news outlet in June 2016.

After the Trump administration prohibited refugees from several mostly-Muslim countries in January 2017, Blackburn not only backed his "most responsible approach," but ran ads attacking her 2018 Democratic opponent for his opposition to the "Trump immigration ban."

She also was listed as a speaker for a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-Muslim extremist group and told a right-wing voter guide that "Islamic law" poses a threat to the nation and the U.S. Constitution.

In 2015, she opposed teaching seventh graders about "the world of Islam" in Tennessee's public schools, calling it "indoctrination."

"It is reprehensible that our school system has exhibited this double-standard, more concerned with teaching the practices of Islam than the history of Christianity," she said at the time. "Tennessee parents have a right to be outraged and I stand by them in this fight."

Blackburn shared the "Notable Leader" designation with a prominent Muslim American lawmaker, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). In 2019, Blackburn publicly accused Omar of being antisemitic (for a tweet criticizing a Michael Bloomberg campaign donor).

A spokesperson for Blackburn did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

A spokesperson for 21Wilberforce noted in an email that "the political views and positions of those members of Congress that scored high on the IRF Congressional Scorecard are not reflected in the algorithm that formed the basis of the selection. Scores only reflect their votes on legislation related to international religious freedom."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.