A tea party member protests in April 2009 in Franklin, Tenn., where members have recently criticized a Republican governor for having Muslim and gay staff. (Photo: Allison Stillwell)

Don’t try to tell members of a tea party group their membership is racist or otherwise intolerant. To them, the timing of their outrage — the moment a black man was elected president — was purely coincidental, or the result of Barack Obama forcing their hand by doing outrageous things (that a moment’s research shows he didn’t do, such as increase federal spending, plot against gun rights and so on).

So a report Wednesday in Talking Points Memo bearing the headline “Tennessee Tea Partiers To GOP Gov: Stop Employing Muslims, Gays, Democrats!” makes for interesting reading:

Conservatives and Tea Party activists in Tennessee have recently pushed several Republican Party county organizations to pass resolutions criticizing the state’s Republican governor for, among other things, employing Muslims, gay people and Democrats …

[One resolution] lists several grievances against [Gov. Bill] Haslam beside [Samar] Ali’s appointment [as international director at the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development]. The document faults the governor for retaining state employees hired under former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen; for retaining gay people who work in the Department of Children’s Services, and allowing them “to make policy decisions”; and for refusing to sign legislation opposing Agenda 21, a nonbinding UN plan concerning sustainable development that is the subject of numerous fringe conspiracy theories.

Sure, tea parties are purposely decentralized and free to craft their own, local platforms. But compare the actions in Tennessee with the widely available, public face shown by the preamble and list of “Ten Core Beliefs of the Modern-Day Tea Party Movement” (without explanations and supporting quotes) from teaparty-platform.com:

The Tea Party Movement is an all-inclusive American grassroots movement with the belief that everyone is created equal and deserves an equal opportunity to thrive in these United States where they may “pursue life, liberty and happiness” as stated in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

No one is excluded from participation in the Tea Party Movement. Everyone is welcomed to join in seeking to achieve the Tea Party Movement goals, which are as follows:

  1. Eliminate Excessive Taxes
  2. Eliminate the National Debt
  3. Eliminate Deficit Spending
  4. Protect Free Markets
  5. Abide by the Constitution of the United States
  6. Promote Civic Responsibility
  7. Reduce the Overall Size of Government
  8. Believe in the People
  9. Avoid the Pitfalls of Politics
  10. Maintain Local Independence

Never mind that the Muslim alleged by the tea partiers to be sneaking in Sharia law “is a lady who grew up in a small town called Waverly, Tenn., and was a member of 4-H when she was in high school,” according to Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney. Where in this tea party platform is the stuff about not hiring gay people?