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Now to her sly questioning of biblical authority: “The same conservative Christians claim that the Bible teaches them that the government should outlaw gay marriage and stem cell research. But why should the government carry out some Biblical injunctions and not others?”

Liberals love to negate clear biblical teaching regarding life, morality and marriage by citing passages that don’t make sense if taken out of context. For example, then-Sen. Barack Obama mocked the Bible’s relevance for politics in a 2006 Washington, D.C,. speech: “Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK …? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?”

During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama cited the Sermon on the Mount to claim that Jesus would support homosexual civil unions.

But here’s Mrs. Townsend’s own take: “The Bible is certainly open to interpretation. For example, most churches in America today don’t require us to gouge out our eyes if we look lustfully at someone, or to cut off our hand if we use it a sinful way. And yet, right there in Matthew 5:27-30 are clear instructions.” Most churches?

Anyone reading the Sermon on the Mount should understand that Jesus was not speaking literally but setting an impossible standard to show that no one can be perfect enough to earn his way to heaven. We are all sinners who need a Savior who died in our place. Saying that Jesus gave “clear instructions” here is like insisting that God must be a bird because Psalm 91 says: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.”

The Bible is an unmatched mix of history, poetry, morality, metaphor and the greatest love story of all time. It really isn’t that difficult to discern when a passage is descriptive, prescriptive or poetic.

But you have to read it for understanding, not for a hit-and-run grab like Mrs. Townsend’s attempt to mock Rick Perry.

Robert Knight is a senior fellow at the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.