President Donald Trump did not invent the "big lie"--the idea that if you just say something over and over again with enough conviction people will start to believe it even if it isn't true--but members of his administration and his supporters have refined it to an art form.
Consider a recent example from South Carolina. Americans United is suing state and federal officials there over a Trump administration decision to allow a taxpayer-funded foster-care agency called Miracle Hill Ministries to work only with likeminded conservative evangelical Protestants.
AU's client in this case is Aimee Maddonna, a mother of three children (two of them with special needs) who was turned away from volunteering with kids in foster care at Miracle Hill for no other reason than that she's Catholic. According to officials at Miracle Hill, Maddonna's faith is the "wrong" kind of Christianity.
Just to be clear: A taxpayer-funded entity that has a contract from the state to provide services told a woman to leave because of her religion. To most reasonable people, this looks like a clear-cut case of discrimination.
Many people would also see it as a short-sighted policy. Miracle Hill's goal should be to find loving homes for as many children as possible. But by applying an exceedingly narrow religious test to volunteers and potential foster parents, the agency dramatically reduces the pool of people who may take in a child who needs a home.
Yet, according to an official at Miracle Hill, the agency is not discriminating and its policies are good for kids. Sandy Furnell, a spokesperson for Miracle Hill, told NBC News recently that Maddonna is not the victim of discrimination.
"There are multiple agencies that work with prospective foster families," Furnell said. "We are not preventing anyone from fostering."
Furnell added, "What we do is work with coreligionists who share our mission." Allowing the agency to do this, she said, is "adding to the diversity of options."
Let's consider both of these claims. The claim that Miracle Hill is not discriminating is absurd on its face. The classic definition of discrimination is treating someone unfavorably because of factors about themselves--their race, their gender, their religion, their country of origin, their sexual expression, etc. That is exactly what happened to Maddonna.
Furthermore, the argument that "she could have gone somewhere else" is offensive. It's exactly...