Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) is now disputing Adam Serwer’s suggestion that the presidential explorer may have a “Sharia law problem” with his conservative Republican base because he attempted to increase minority home ownership in Minnesota, including a program that would have made it easier for Muslims to purchase homes. As Serwer’s piece explains, “many Muslims hold that the paying or charging of interest is prohibited, which makes it difficult to purchase a home in the United States.” Banks have begun offering “Sharia compliant” products “which structure the payments in a sort of house-buying layaway plan” and in 2004 — with Pawlenty’s urging to increase minority home ownership — the Minnesota Housing Financing Agency “decided to partner with a local group, the African Development Center, in ‘developing culturally sensitive products,’ that would allow Muslims to enter the market.”
But as Ben Smith reports, Pawlenty is now denying he ever approved the partnership and says he dissolved the program as soon as he heard about it:
“This program was independently set up by the Minnesota state housing agency and did not make any mention Sharia Law on its face, but was later described as accommodating it,” the spokesman, Alex Conant, said. “As soon as Gov. Pawlenty became aware of the issue, he personally ordered it shut it down. Fortunately, only about three people actually used the program before it was terminated at the Governor’s direction.”
Pawlenty’s objection: “The United States should be governed by the U.S. Constitution, not religious laws,” Conant said.
But that’s not what Pawlenty tells Christian audiences in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he’s been using his personal faith (he is an Evangelical Christian) to build support for a presidential bid. In fact, during an interview with Christianity Today in late January, Pawlenty argued that elected officials should apply their faith to government:
I started with the perspective of someone who says that faith is separate from public law and public service; it really isn’t. We have, as a country, a founding perspective that we’re founded under God; our founding documents reference and acknowledge God, and acknowledge that our rights and privileges come from our Creator. […]
I remind people that our country is founded under God, and the founders thought that was an important perspective.
During a recent address to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, Pawlenty proclaimed, “The Constitution was designed to protect people of faith from government, not to protect government from people of faith.” He added, “we need to be a coutnry that turns toward God, not a country that turns away from God.”