A tweet by Vivek Ramaswamy that reads @VivekGRamaswamy Pray for the community in Perry, Iowa this morning. 🙏🏾 🇺🇸

Vivek Ramaswamy prays and panders his way through Iowa  

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GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy apparently never got the memo that performative and meaningless “thoughts and prayers” are no longer an acceptable response to gun shootings.

Last Thursday, after yet another horrifying shooting occurred at Iowa’s Perry High School — where a sixth grader was killed and five others were injured before the teen shooter turned the gun on himself — Ramaswamy handily announced he was rescheduling his campaign to . . . a prayer. Via social media, no less.

He subsequently prayed in person at a prayer circle at a campaign event, stating, “God please help our country.” What made Ramaswamy’s reaction so pusillanimous was his prediction: “Tomorrow, if not later today, you’re going to hear calls for ‘Stop the guns, that’s the problem,’ sweeping under the rug this real ailment at the heart and soul of our nation and our culture that has spread to the entire next generation and to the unit of the family. The loss of purpose.” Right, Ramaswamy. We wouldn’t want to actually do anything practical to reduce gun massacres, such as rational gun safety laws. Why take action when by praying you can pander to your religious base and also ensure nothing happens to earn the wrath of the gun lobby? No surprise then that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds likewise offered up her “prayers.” 

Ramaswamy has been outdoing himself pandering against abortion rights, as well. He’s been the most vocal of the GOP candidates against allowing an exception to the Texas abortion ban in the case of Kate Cox, the Texas woman who was carrying a wanted but doomed pregnancy and had to go out of state for her medically necessary abortion care. Last week, he re-upped his cruel commentary. In talking on NBC News about physicians who testified that Cox’s pregnancy was nonviable, he decided he knew better and would continue to practice medicine without a license.

“With due respect, you are overlaying a lot of assumptions to say that’s not a viable pregnancy,” Ramaswamy remarked. “That’s not a correct characterization; the facts are still out. And I’m not firsthand in the room with her and her doctor, but I don’t think that’s an accepted fact at all that that was not a child who was going to be born. That child absolutely could have been alive if that pregnancy was taken to term.”

The facts show the cavalier callousness of Ramaswamy’s facile analysis.  Only half of pregnancies involving Trisomy 18 fetuses are able to be carried to term. If born, the median survival rate is a few days;  90 to 95 percent don’t survive beyond the first year. That’s because their condition is tragically incompatible with life. Cox, who wants more children, was warned that complications from the pregnancy could endanger her ability to carry future pregnancies. She had already visited the emergency room three times for severe cramping and unidentified fluid leaks. Leaking fluid indicated her water had likely broken, putting her at risk of a severe bacterial infection, which can turn into sepsis and be fatal. Cox had additional risks due to prior C-sections.

Chillingly, it’s not just Ramaswamy making this argument. It’s been totally embraced by the anti-abortion movement and its shills in public office. These include Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who goaded the Lone Star Supreme Court to cruelly and irrationally rule against interpreting the state’s abortion ban exception to include Cox’s plight. Among the justices ruling against Cox was Christian extremist John Devine, who, the Guardian reports, was arrested 37 times for harassment of abortion clinics and fought to display a Ten Commandments monument in his courtroom.

Christian nationalists and their allies who are incompatible with compassion and human rights shouldn’t be in positions of power — whether legislative, executive or judicial — and must be called out on their cruelty.

P.S. Kudos to Iowa secular activist Justin Scott, who identified himself as an atheist and challenged Ramaswamy last week at a campaign event on his so-called number one truth, “God is real.” Again showing he has no sense of irony, Ramaswamy had the gall to name Thomas Paine — the author of The Age of Reason, a trenchant take-down of the bible and revealed religions — as an inspiration. Ramaswamy was apparently attempting to “play nice” with atheists by this allusion and by describing Paine as an “atheist.” But, of course, this just shows Ramaswamy’s ignorance, since Paine was not an atheist, but a Deist in the classic sense of the Enlightenment despite Teddy Roosevelt famously reviling him as a “dirty little atheist.” Ramaswamy was apparently proud of his response because he tweeted the exchange. If Ramaswamy is such a fan of Paine, maybe he’ll donate to the fund by the Thomas Paine Memorial Association to finally erect a monument to Paine in Washington, D.C.? Let’s not hold our breath.

FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.