Family Leader walks back bizarre slavery claim

A leading religious right group in Iowa called The Family Leader continues to push something called “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family.” It’s the latest in a series of pledges Republican presidential candidates are expected to sign if they hope to earn votes from far-right social conservative leaders and activists.

There’s quite a bit wrong with “The Marriage Vow,” but one of the more striking issues is the fact that it makes the case that slavery was bad for African-American families, but at least the children of slaves grew up in two-parent households.

Over the weekend, the group walked it back.

The suggestion that African American babies may have somehow been better off under slavery touched off sharp criticism from liberals and commentators, who noted that U.S. slaves had been forbidden from marrying and were often sold at auction and separated from their family members.

On Saturday, in a note forwarded to reporters by the Bachmann campaign, the group, the Family Leader, apologized for the reference.

“After careful deliberation and wise insight and input from valued colleagues we deeply respect, we agree that the statement referencing children born into slavery can be misconstrued,” said Julie Summa, a spokeswoman for the Family Leader. “We sincerely apologize for any negative feelings this has caused, and have removed the language from the vow.”

As apologies go, this isn’t exactly impressive. The problem isn’t that the group’s language could be “misconstrued”; the problem is that the group’s argument was ahistorical gibberish.

That said, what about the two Republican presidential candidates — Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum — who already signed onto the ridiculous pledge? As Faiz Shakir noted, Bachmann “is now claiming that she never agreed with the anti-slavery language,” though she never raised any objections and signed the pledge anyway. Santorum, meanwhile, hasn’t commented.