The Pastor problem

Rick Perry isn't the first presidential candidate to be embarrassed by a turbulent preacher.

So it turns out that Rev Robert Jeffress -- supporter and mentor of US presidential candidate Rick Perry -- doesn't just have a problem with Mormons. He's an equal opportunities hater. In a rant about Catholicism on his radio station last September he unleashed the C-word -- clearly a favourite of his -- calling the church to which a quarter of Americans belong "that cult-like pagan religion" and claiming that it derived from ancient Babylonian mysteries rather than "God's Word". "Isn't that the genius of Satan?" he asked. Not just a cult, then. A Satanic cult. And, for good measure, "a fake religion" too.

This revelation has the potential to cause even more trouble for Perry than the Mormonism row that has rumbled on for almost a week. Bill Donohue, who leads the Catholic League, called on Perry to reject Jeffress and his endorsement - something the candidate declined to do when challenged by Mitt Romney during a TV debate on Tuesday. Donohue called Jeffress "a poster boy for hatred, not Christianity".

In the last presidential campaign, Sarah Palin was forced to distance herself from an African pastor who pursued unconventional sideline as a witch-finder, while Barack Obama was put an in embarrassing position when footage emerged of his pastor, Rev Jeremiah Wright, saying "God damn America!" So the Jeffress row isn't unprecedented. Indeed, Donohue himself was involved in a controversy uncannily similar to the Jeffress/Perry imbroglio early in 2008.

It was Donohue's intervention that persuaded John McCain -- then the Republican front-runner -- to reject the endorsement of an Evangelical pastor named John Hagee. Like Jeffress, Hagee ran a Texas megachurch, and his views about Catholicism were just an uncompromisingly Paisleyite. He referred to it as "the great whore" that "drank the blood of the Jewish people". Doubtless there are parts of Texas where that kind of talk still goes down well. Hagee said other embarrassing things too, for example that Hurricane Katrina was divine punishment for "a homosexual parade" that had taken place in New Orleans shortly before.

McCain expressed himself "glad to have his endorsement" even after Hagee's remarks became publicly known. For McCain, who lacked credibility with the religious Right, having a prominent Evangelical fundamentalist in his camp was an important electoral asset, especially when facing a strong challenge from the former Baptist preacher Mick Huckabee. Until suddenly it wasn't.

So far, while distancing himself from the pastor's expressed view of Mormonism, Perry has made it clear that he still "respects" Jeffress and accepts his endorsement. A Perry spokesman went so far as to accuse Romney of "playing a game of deflection" in making anti-Mormon bigotry a campaign issue. Donohue's challenge may prove less easy to bat aside.

If that wasn't bad enough, a pro-secularism group, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, has complained to the IRS about Jeffress' use of his official church website to host videos supporting Perry's candidacy.The group claims that this constitutes an abuse of the church's tax-exempt status.

The "pastor problem" is a peculiar feature of modern US politics. Obama's relationship with Wright was long-standing, but other unhelpful endorsements look to be the result of carelessness on the part of candidates. It should not have been difficult for Perry's advisers to discover the hardline views previously expressed by Robert Jeffress about Mormonism, Catholicism, homosexuality and other sensitive issues, or to foresee that they might pose a problem outside those parts of the Southern States that have never mentally left the 17th century.

Given that a successful presidential campaign now seems to require that the candidate be endorsed by prominent, self-appointed, publicity-seeking Christian ministers (or at the very least, such endorsement is perceived to confer a distinct advantage) one would expect that they would be carefully vetted before being allowed to stand on stage and introduce someone-or-other The Next President Of The United States. But this doesn't seem to happen. Instead, it always comes as a great surprise to the candidate when a clip surfaces on YouTube of the pastor concerned saying something outrageous. Strange.

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Hate Brexit Britain? 7 of the best places for political progressives to emigrate to

If you don't think you're going to get your country back, time to find another. 

Never mind the European Union, the UK is so over. Scotland's drifting off one way, Northern Ireland another and middle England is busy setting the clocks back to 1973. 

If this is what you're thinking as you absentmindedly down the last of your cheap, import-free red wine, then maybe it's time to move abroad. 

There are wonderful Himalayan mountain kingdoms like Bhutan, but unfortunately foreigners have to pay $250 a day. And there are great post-colonial states like India and South Africa, but there are also some post-colonial problems as well. So bearing things like needing a job in mind, it might be better to consider these options instead: 

1. Canada

If you’re sick of Little England, why not move to Canada? It's the world's second-biggest country with half the UK's population, and immigrants are welcomed as ‘new Canadians’. Oh, and a hot, feminist Prime Minister.

Justin Trudeau's Cabinet has equal numbers of men and women, and includes a former Afghan refugee. He's also personally greeted Syrian refugees to the country. 

2. New Zealand 

With its practice of diverting asylum seekers to poor, inhospitable islands, Australia may be a Brexiteer's dream. But not far away is kindly New Zealand, with a moderate multi-party government and lots of Greens. It was also the first country to have an openly transexual mayor. 

Same-sex marriage has been legal in New Zealand since 2013, and sexual discrimination is illegal. But more importantly, you can live out your own Lord of the Rings movie again and again. As they say, one referendum to rule them all and in the darkness bind them...

3. Scandinavia

The Scandinavian countries regularly top the world’s quality of life indices. They’re also known for progressive policies, like equal parental leave for mothers and fathers. 

Norway ranks no. 2 of all the OECD countries for jobs and life satisfaction, Finland’s no.1 for education, Sweden stands out for health care and Denmark’s no. 1 for work-life balance. And the crime dramas are great.

Until 24 June, as an EU citizen, you could have moved there at the drop of a hat. Now you'll need to keep an eye on the negotiations. 

4. Scotland

Scottish voters bucked the trend and voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union. Not only is the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament a woman, but 35% of MSPs are women, compared to 29% of MPs.

If you're attached to this rainy isle but you don't want to give up the European dream, catch a train north. Just be prepared to stomach yet another referendum before you claw back that EU passport. 

5. Germany

The real giant of Europe, Germany is home to avant-garde artists, refugee activists and also has a lot of jobs (time to get that GCSE German textbook out again). And its leader is the most powerful woman in the world, Angela Merkel. 

Greeks may hate her, but Merkel has undoubtedly been a crusader for moderate politics in the face of populist right movements. 

6. Ireland

It's English speaking, has a history of revolutionary politics and there's always a Ryanair flight. Progressives though may want to think twice before boarding though. Despite legalising same-sex marriage, Catholic Ireland has some of the strictest abortion laws of the western world. 

A happier solution may be to find out if you have any Irish grandparents (you might be surprised) and apply for an Irish passport. At least then you have an escape route.

7. Vermont, USA

Let's be clear, anywhere that is considering a President Trump is not a progressive country. But under the Obama administration, it has made great strides in healthcare, gay marriage and more. If you felt the Bern, why not head off to Bernie Sanders' home state of Vermont?

And thanks to the US political system, you can still legally smoke cannabis (for medicinal reasons, of course) in states like Colorado.