February 28, 2017
Tom Perez, the newly-elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has often used fiery and explicitly religious rhetoric in an effort to help various liberal causes, an aspect of his style that critics say got little attention during his successful campaign to lead the DNC.
“If it’s true that [Minnesota Rep. Keith] Ellison’s controversial religious beliefs helped make Perez the winner in the DNC race, that is quite ironic. Perez himself has a history of, shall we say, eccentric views in politics, religion and the co-mingling thereof that I think would come as a surprise to many people,” said Mark Patterson, executive director of the conservative Center for Worker Freedom.
The fiery side came out, for example, in a 2013 speech at an AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles in which Perez declared that it was “God’s will” that the liberal agenda be enacted. It was Perez’s first major address since becoming labor secretary under President Obama.
“It is not possibly God’s will that people showing up in the coal mine were not going to be able to see their children graduate and not get to their grandchildren’s wedding. It is not possible that it is God’s will that women are making 77 cents on a dollar. It was impossible to me that it is God’s will that 11 million people are living in the shadows, immigrants who should be in the sunshine with the passage of comprehensive immigration reform,” Perez shouted from the lectern.
Such comments weren’t out of character for Perez, who has often expressed similar views. He has a decidedly ecumenical view of religion as well, arguing that all major ones are inherently liberal. At another AFL-CIO event in 2015, this time at Gallaudet University, he said the Muslim Koran, among other major religions’ holy books, required that the federal minimum wage be higher.
“This is really about biblical teachings. This is about what is taught in the Quran and what is in the Torah and what we learn about making sure we ‘do unto others.’ … This about who we are as a nation,” Perez said in an emotional speech.
At other times has referred to “our Muslim-American brothers and sisters subject to post-9/11 backlash.”
Ironically, Perez won the DNC chairmanship, in part, because many in the party saw him as less controversial in terms of religion compared with Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the other top candidate. Ellison is a Muslim whose past comments on Middle Eastern policy and association with the Nation of Islam caused him trouble in the race.
Yet Perez has long professed to be driven by his religion. He is fond of quoting the Martin Luther King Jr., line: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” the implication being that liberalism will win out eventually because it is morally righteous.
At the same time, he has argued that things have changed very little since the civil rights struggles in the 1960s. “Crosses are still burned in yards across the nation’s heartland, because of an individual’s skin color, or because of who they love or because of where they come from,” he said at a 2010 AFL-CIO speech to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro counter sit-ins.
At the time of those comments Perez was the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for civil rights, and thus literally the person in charge of prosecuting such crimes.