But a Pawlenty spokesman told me that the governor has no intention of defending the program -- and that in fact, he shut it down himself as soon as he learned of 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 Pawlenty has a much more direct connection to Sharia law through his authorship of a 2001 bill to regulate the labeling and sale of halal meat. If you aren't familiar with halal, it is the designation given to meat that is slaughtered in accordance with Sharia law. The existence of a tiny lending program was threatening enough to lead to headlines like "Does Pawlenty Have a Sharia Problem?" It's pretty amazing that his sponsorship of the halal labeling law hasn't attracted the attention of Pam Geller and the islam-bashing fringe.
Minnesota's halal labeling law is good policy, was a bipartisan bill and passed unanimously (with one exception - bonus if you guess who before you click to find out.) If anything, Pawlenty's sponsorship of it speaks well of him as a legislator. But like most of Pawlenty's reasonable moments, it's probably something that will be a mark against him as he seeks the GOP nomination.
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