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Does GOP TN GOV candidate believe Islam is a 'cult'?

Earlier today we wrote that ahead of next week's Tennessee gubernatorial primary, Rep. Zach Wamp, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and current Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey were thought to be essentially tied in the polls.

And then there's this video that has surfaced of Ramsey at a July 14th event, questioning whether Islam is, perhaps, a "cult."

"You could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion or is it a nationality, way of life or cult, whatever you want to call it," he said, responding to a question about Muslims that are "invading our country."

The New York Times' Lede blog framed it this way: "Mr. Ramsey, who hopes to win the Republican nomination for governor in a primary next month with support from Tea Party activists, was asked by a constituent this month to explain his position on the 'threat that’s invading our country from the Muslims.' As Jeff Woods of The Nashville Scene reported, a tape of the exchange posted online shows the lieutenant governor responding, 'I’m all about freedom of religion,' before casting doubt on Islam’s credentials as a religion...."

Here's a partial transcript with the questions and answers in the YouTube clip:

QUESTION: I had an opportunity as I mentioned to you earlier to talk with Richard Foy (sp?) the other day, a representative from this area. He made a point that is of national concern at least in my mind and in my heart that is more of a national threat than it is to (inaudible) the state of Tennessee, we've got a threat that is invading our country from Muslims. What's your stance on that?

RAMSEY: OK, well absolutely. Right now, I've been in Rutherford County where this all got started. This is so ironic. This, this is one of those questions that I ran for 17 months and nobody ever asked me about this until about a month ago, three weeks ago, in which, what happened is they're trying to put a mosque into Rutherford County. I don't know if y'all know this or not.

Now, I'm all about freedom of religion. I value the First Amendment as much as I value the Second Amendment as much as I value the Tenth Amendment and on and on and on. But you crossed the line when, when they start trying to bring Sharia law here to the state of Tenn, in the United States. We are a law- we live under our Constitution and they live under our Constitution. But it's scary if we get there. It's always arguable- and I've been studying this issue, but I'll be right up front with you, like I say until two weeks ago, three weeks ago, nobody ever asked me about this on a governor's race. And why do you ask about that? Til this mosque started coming in up there.

I've been trying to learn about Sharia law, I've been trying to learn about what going on-, it is not good if that's what's going on. Now, you could argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality way of life, or cult whatever you want to call it.But certainly, we do want to protect our religions, but at the same times, this is something that we are gonna to have to face.

Right now, though, the most ironic part of what's happening in Rutherford County is I'm in the real estate business, you want to get something re-zoned, if you want to get something put in-, that's a three-month process. They approved that in 17 days ["mmm" from audience] in Rutherford County. The least they can do is back up, and say, let's, let's see what we're doing over there, (inaudible) 53,000 square foot mosque in the middle of basically a neighborhood and they did it all almost overnight 5:16. So that has become an issue, and what an issue. I've tried to study up on it. But I've read enough about Sharia law to know that it's crazy.

QUESTION: 22 communities have been established under Sharia law, and it's expanding rapidly.

RAMSEY: I'd be willing to say, stay tuned that when I'm governor we'll pass some kind of resolution or law or whatever it takes to say that it doesn't-, I don't see how it applies anyway, cause we're about the Constitution. Just enforce our Constitution when they try to push that down our throats.