Tag: Family Research Council

Republican Insider Explains How Religion Destroyed the GOP

Source:Alternet

Author: Mike Lofgren / Viking Press

Link:https://www.alternet.org/republican-insider-explains-how-religion-destroyed-gop?src=newsletter109undamentalism and how the GOP devolved into anti-intellectual nuts. 

Emphasis Mine.

Having observed politics up close and personal for most of my adult lifetime, I have come to the conclusion that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism may have been the key ingredient in the transformation of the Republican Party. Politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes—at least in the minds of its followers—all three of the GOP’s main tenets: wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war.

The following exceprt is reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of the Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from “The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted,” by Mike Lofgren. Copyright © 2012 by Mike Lofgren.

Religious cranks ceased to be a minor public nuisance in this country beginning in the 1970s and grew into a major element of the Republican rank and file. Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa presidential caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. Unfortunately, at the time I mostly underestimated the implications of what I was seeing. It did strike me as oddly humorous that a fundamentalist staff member in my congressional office was going to take time off to convert the heathen in Greece, a country that had been overwhelmingly Christian for almost two thousand years. I recall another point, in the early 1990s, when a different fundamentalist GOP staffer said that dinosaur fossils were a hoax. As a mere legislative mechanic toiling away in what I held to be a civil rather than ecclesiastical calling, I did not yet see that ideological impulses far different from mine were poised to capture the party of Lincoln.

The results of this takeover are all around us: If the American people poll more like Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution, scriptural inerrancy, the presence of angels and demons, and so forth, it is due to the rise of the religious right, its insertion into the public sphere by the Republican Party, and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary beliefs. All around us now is a prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science. Politicized religion is the sheet anchor of the dreary forty-year-old culture wars.

The Constitution notwithstanding, there is now a de facto religious test for the presidency: Major candidates are encouraged (or coerced) to share their feelings about their faith in a revelatory speech, or a televangelist like Rick Warren will dragoon the candidates (as he did with Obama and McCain in 2008) to debate the finer points of Christology, offering himself as the final arbiter. Half a century after John F. Kennedy put to rest the question of whether a candidate of a minority denomination could be president, the Republican Party has reignited the kinds of seventeenth-century religious controversies that advanced democracies are supposed to have outgrown. And some in the media seem to have internalized the GOP’s premise that the religion of a candidate is a matter for public debate.

Throughout the 2012 Republican presidential campaign, Mitt Romney was dogged with questions about his religion. The spark was a hitherto obscure fundamentalist preacher from Texas, Robert Jeffress, who attacked Romney’s Mormonism by doubting whether he could really be considered a Christian. The media promptly set aside the issues that should have been paramount— Romney’s views on economic and foreign policy—in order to spend a week giving respectful consideration to an attention-grabbing rabble-rouser. They then proceeded to pester the other candidates with the loaded question of whether they thought Romney was a Christian. CNN’s Candy Crowley was particularly egregious in this respect, pressing Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann for a response and becoming indignant when they refused to answer. The question did not deserve an answer, because Crowley had set it up to legitimate a false premise: that Romney’s religious belief was a legitimate issue of public debate. This is a perfect example of how the media reinforce an informal but increasingly binding religious test for public office that the Constitution formally bans. Like the British constitution, the test is no less powerful for being unwritten.

The religious right’s professed insistence upon “family values” might appear at first blush to be at odds with the anything but saintly personal behavior of many of its leading proponents. Some of this may be due to the general inability of human beings to reflect on conflicting information: I have never ceased to be amazed at how facts manage to bounce off people’s consciousness like pebbles off armor plate. But there is another, uniquely religious aspect that also comes into play: the predilection of fundamentalist denominations to believe in practice, even if not entirely in theory, in the doctrine of “cheap grace,” a derisive term coined by the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer .. By that he meant the inclination of some religious adherents to believe that once they had been “saved,” not only would all past sins be wiped away, but future ones, too—so one could pretty much behave as before.  Cheap grace is a divine get- out-of-jail-free card. Hence the tendency of the religious base of the Republican Party to cut some slack for the peccadilloes of candidates who claim to have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and reborn to a new and more Christian life. The religious right is willing to overlook a politician’s individual foibles, no matter how poor an example he or she may make, if they publicly identify with fundamentalist values. In 2011 the Family Research Council, the fundamentalist lobbying organization, gave Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois an award for “unwavering support of the family.” Representative Walsh’s ex-wife might beg to differ, as she claims he owes her over one hundred thousand dollars in unpaid child support, a charge he denies.

Of course, the proper rituals must be observed before an erring politician can obtain absolution. In November 2011, at a forum sponsored by religious conservatives in Iowa, all of the GOP presidential candidates struck the expected notes of contrition and humility as they laid bare their souls before the assembled congregation (the event was held in a church). Most of them, including Cain, who was then still riding high, choked up when discussing some bleak midnight of their lives (he chose not to address the fresh sexual harassment charges against him, which surely would have qualified as a trying personal experience preying on his mind). Even the old reprobate Gingrich misted up over some contrived misdeed intended to distract attention from his well-known adventures in serial matrimony.

All of these gloomy obsequies of repentance having been observed, Gingrich gave a stirring example of why he is hands-down the best extemporaneous demagogue in contemporary America. Having purged his soul of all guilty transgressions, he turned his attention to the far graver sins bedeviling the American nation.
If we look at history from the mid-1960s, we’ve gone from a request for toleration to an imposition of intolerance. We’ve gone from a request to understand others to a determination to close down those who hold traditional values. I think that we need to be very aggressive and very direct. The degree to which the left is prepared to impose intolerance and to drive out of existence traditional religion is a mortal threat to our civilization and deserves to be taken head-on and described as what it is, which is the use of government to repress the American people against their own values.

That is as good an example as any of cheap grace as practiced by seasoned statesmen like Gingrich—a bid for redemption turned on its head to provide a forum for one of the Republican Party’s favorite pastimes: taking opportunistic swipes at the dreaded liberal bogeyman. How quickly one forgets one’s own moral lapses when one can consider the manifold harms inflicted on our nation by godless leftists!

– – – – – – – – – –

Some liberal writers have opined that the socioeconomic gulf separating the business wing of the GOP and the religious right make it an unstable coalition that could crack. I am not so sure. There is no basic disagreement on which direction the two factions want to take the country, merely how far it should go. The plutocrats would drag us back to the Gilded Age; the theocrats to the Salem witch trials. If anything, the two groups are increasingly beginning to resemble each other. Many televangelists have espoused what has come to be known as the prosperity gospel—the health-and- wealth/name-it-and-claim-it gospel of economic entitlement. If you are wealthy, it is a sign of God’s favor. If not, too bad! This rationale may explain why some poor voters will defend the prerogatives of billionaires. In any case, at the beginning of the 2012 presidential cycle, those consummate plutocrats the Koch brothers pumped money into Bachmann’s campaign, so one should probably not make too much of a potential plutocrat-theocrat split.

Most of the religious enthusiasts I observed during my tenure on the Hill seemed to have little reluctance to mix God and Mammon. Rick Santorum did not blink at legislative schemes to pay off his campaign contributors: In 2005 he introduced a bill to forbid the National Weather Service from providing weather forecasts for free that commercial forecasters—like AccuWeather, a Pennsylvania- based company which had contributed to his campaign—wanted to charge for. Tom DeLay’s purported concern about the dignity and sanctity of human life, touchingly on display during the controversy over whether Terri Schiavo’s husband had the right to tell doctors to remove her feeding tube after seeing her comatose for fifteen years, could always be qualified by strategic infusions of campaign cash. DeLay’s quashing of bills to prohibit serious labor abuses demonstrates that even religious virtue can be flexible when there are campaign donations involved.

One might imagine that the religious right’s agenda would be incompatible with the concerns for privacy and individual autonomy by those who consider themselves to belong to the libertarian wing of the Republican Party—the “don’t tread on me,” “live free or die” crowd that Grover Norquist once called the “leave me alone” conservatives. Given their profound distaste for an oppressive and intrusive federal government, one would think they might have trepidations about a religious movement determined to impose statutory controls on private behavior that libertarians nominally hold to be nobody’s business, and particularly not the government’s business.

Some more libertarian-leaning Republicans have in fact pushed back against the religious right. Former House majority leader Dick Armey expressed his profound distaste for the tactics of the religious right in 2006—from the safety of the sidelines—by blasting its leadership in unequivocal terms:

[James] Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies. I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid. There’s a high demagoguery coefficient to issues like prayer in schools. Demagoguery doesn’t work unless it’s dumb, shallow as water on a plate. These issues are easy for the intellectually lazy and can appeal to a large demographic. These issues become bigger than life, largely because they’re easy. There ain’t no thinking.

Armey had previously been an economics professor at several cow colleges in Texas, and when he came to Congress in 1985, libertarian economics was his forte. I do not recall religious issues motivating his political ideology; instead, economics was what gripped him, particularly the flat tax, which he tirelessly promoted. I believe his departure from Congress was impelled not only by the fact that he was not on the inside track to become Speaker, but also because of his disillusionment with the culture wars, as his passionate denunciation of Dobson suggests. But later, Barack Obama’s election and the rise of the Tea Party induced a miraculous change of heart in Armey, as no doubt did the need to raise money for his lobbying organization, known as FreedomWorks. By 2009, Armey had become a significant voice of the Tea Party. As such, he attempted to declare a truce between fiscal and social conservatives, who would thenceforth bury their squabbles and concentrate on dethroning the Kenyan usurper in the Oval Office. That meant soft-pedaling social issues that might alarm fiscally conservative but socially moderate voters, particularly women, who lived in the wealthier suburbs.

In September 2010 Armey took one step further in his reconciliation with the people he had called thugs and bullies when he announced that a GOP majority in Congress would again take up the abortion fight, which was only right and proper for those who held such a sincere moral conviction. When the Republicans duly won the House two months later, they did precisely that. State legislatures across the country followed suit: Ohio, Texas, and Virginia enacted the most severe abortion restrictions in any legislative session in memory. Suddenly Armey didn’t seem to have any problem with social issues preempting his economic agenda.

The Tea Party, which initially described itself as wholly concerned with debt, deficit, and federal overreach, gradually unmasked itself as being almost as theocratic as the activists from the religious right that Armey had denounced only a few years before. If anything, they were even slightly more disposed than the rest of the Republican Party to inject religious issues into the political realm. According to an academic study of the Tea Party, “[T]hey seek ‘deeply religious’ elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates.” The Tea Party faithful are not so much libertarian as authoritarian, the furthest thing from a “live free or die” constitutionalist.

Within the GOP libertarianism is a throwaway doctrine that is rhetorically useful in certain situations but often interferes with their core, more authoritarian, beliefs. When the two precepts collide, the authoritarian reflex prevails. In 2009 it was politically useful for the GOP to present the Tea Party as independent-leaning libertarians, when in reality the group was overwhelmingly Republican, with a high quotient of GOP activists and adherents of views common among the religious right. According to a 2010 Gallup poll, eight in ten Tea Party members identify themselves as Republicans. Another study found that over half identified as members of the religious right and 55 percent of Tea Partiers agree that “America has always been and is currently a Christian nation”—6 points more than even the percentage of self-described Christian conservatives who would agree to that. This religious orientation should have been evident from the brouhaha that erupted in mid- 2009 over the charge that the Obama administration’s new healthcare reform plan would set up “death panels.” While there was plenty to criticize about the health-care bill, the completely bogus charge garnered disproportionate attention. Republican political consultants immediately recognized that they had found a classic emotional issue that would resonate with the same people on the religious right who had been stirred up over the Terri Schiavo case. The Tea Party, a supposedly independent group of fiscal conservatives outraged by Obama’s profligate spending plans, fell prey to the hysteria Republican Party operatives whipped up over end-of- life counseling. This self-unmasking of the Tea Party may help explain why, after three years in existence, public support for the organization has been dropping precipitously.

Ayn Rand, an occasional darling of the Tea Party, has become a cult figure within the GOP in recent years. It is easy enough to see how her tough-guy, every-man-for-himself posturing would be a natural fit with the Wall Street bankers and the right-wing politicians they fund—notwithstanding the bankers’ fondness for government bailouts. But Rand’s philosophy found most of its adherents in the libertarian wing of the party, a group that overlaps with, but is certainly not identical to, the “business conservatives” who fund the bulk of the GOP’s activities. There has always been a strong strain of rugged individualism in America, and the GOP has cleverly managed to co-opt that spirit to its advantage. The problem is that Rand proclaimed at every opportunity that she was a militant atheist who felt nothing but contempt for Christianity as a religion of weaklings possessing a slave mentality. So how do Republican candidates manage to bamboozle what is perhaps the largest single bloc in their voting base, the religious fundamentalists, about this? Certainly the ignorance of many fundamentalist values voters about the wider world and the life of the mind goes some distance toward explaining the paradox: GOP candidates who enthuse over Rand at the same time as they thump their Bibles never have to explain this stark contradiction because most of their audience is blissfully unaware of who Ayn Rand was and what she advocated. But voters can to some extent be forgiven their ignorance, because politicians have grown so skillful at misdirecting them about their intentions.

This camouflaging of intentions is as much a strategy of the religious right and its leaders—James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson, and the rest—as it is of the GOP’s more secular political leaders in Washington. After the debacle of the Schiavo case and the electoral loss in 2008, the religious right pulled back and regrouped. They knew that the full-bore, “theoconservative” agenda would not sell with a majority of voters. This strategy accounts for Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition (who famously said that God sent a hurricane to New Orleans to punish the sodomites), stating the following in October 2011: “Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. They’re forcing their leaders, the front-runners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election.” I doubt he thought the candidates held positions that were too extreme, merely that they should keep quiet about those positions until they had won the election. Max Blumenthal, author of Republican Gomorrah, argues that this is a “lying for Jesus” strategy that fundamentalists often adopt when dealing with the snares of a wicked and Godless world. Since Satan is the father of lies, one can be forgiven for fighting lies with lies.

Hence the policies pursued for at least two decades by the religious right on the federal, state, and local levels. It usually starts at the school board, after some contrived uproar over sex education or liberal indoctrination. The stealthily fundamentalist school board candidates pledge to clean up the mess and “get back to basics.” After a few years they capture a majority on the board, and suddenly “Catcher in the Rye” is heaved out of the curriculum and science teachers are under pressure to teach the (imaginary) controversy about evolutionary biology. This was the path to greater glory of Michele Bachmann: Her first run for public office, barely a dozen years ago, was for a seat on the school board in Stillwater, Minnesota. Up until then she had drawn a taxpayer-funded salary for five years working as an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service, not, of course, because she was one of those lazy, good-for-nothing government bureaucrats that Republican candidates routinely denounce. She was secretly studying the ways of the government beast so as to defeat it later on.

Bachmann, Rick Perry, and numerous other serving representatives and senators have all had ties to Christian Dominionism, a doctrine proclaiming that Christians are destined to dominate American politics and establish a new imperium resembling theocratic government. According to one profile of Perry, adherents of Dominionism “believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take ‘dominion’ over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world.” Note the qualifier: “stealthily.”

At the same religious forum where the GOP candidates confessed their sins, Bachmann went so far as to suggest that organized religion should keep its traditional legal privilege of tax exemption while being permitted to endorse political candidates from the pulpit. The fact that government prohibits express political advocacy is in her imagination muzzling preachers rather than just being a quid pro quo for tax-exempt status equivalent to that imposed on any 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. But for Bachmann and others of like mind, this is persecution of a kind that fuels their sense of victimhood and righteous indignation.

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of the Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from “The Party is Over” by Mike Lofgren. Copyright © 2012 by Mike Lofgren

 

 

Advertisements

FOCUS: Frank Rich | What Does Ireland’s Same-Sex-Marriage Vote Mean for the US?

Source: NY mag via RSN

Author: Frank Rich

Emphasis Mine

Most weeks, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich speaks with contributor Alex Carp about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week, the magazine asked him about Ireland’s vote on same-sex marriage, the GOP primary circus, and why, exactly, Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley is running for president.

 

reland’s vote to approve same-sex marriage redefines that country’s relationship to another historically powerful institution: the Catholic church. Does what happened in Ireland hold any implications for the U.S.?

Not directly. Same-sex marriage is well on its way to being a done deal in America. But the fact that the Church has lost its once-tight hold on the Irish populace does have some resonance. That power had been enormous: Homosexuality was not decriminalized in Ireland until 1993, and divorce wasn’t legalized until 1995. The decline in the Church’s civic authority in Ireland is directly attributable to its loss of moral authority owing to scandal, some (though hardly all) of it involving pedophilia. The effect on the Church’s clout was rapid and devastating. Roughly 62 percent of Irish voters approved of same-sex marriage, an unimaginable phenomenon two decades ago.

It’s worth noting that as the Irish voted, a scandal broke open involving one of the most politically well-connected and moneyed organizations opposing gay and women’s rights in America: the Family Research Council, the evangelical Christian propaganda and lobbying organization founded by James Dobson. The organization’s Washington operative Josh Duggar was confronted with multiple allegations that he had molested children when he was a teenager. Duggar, who is now 27, is also a reality-show star on the TLC series 19 Kids and Counting, itself a religious-right propaganda effort in opposition to birth control. Before the revelations, Duggar had sidled up to Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee, who continues to defend him even after the revelations of his assault on children. Duggar has now resigned from the Family Research Council, but perhaps on a small scale, this latest scandal will further undermine the hold that family-values hucksters still have on GOP stands against gay and women’s rights.

Fox News, which will broadcast the first Republican presidential debate later this summer, plans to limit invitations to the top ten candidates only.  (The count of likely candidates currently stands at 18.) Is Fox’s control over this event good for the GOP, or not? 

Potentially very good indeed. Say what you will about Fox News, Roger Ailes is one of the most brilliant showman that television has ever seen. Should he take advantage of this opportunity, it’s a win for both his network and his party.

Right now, that would not seem the case. The announced plan for the August 6 debate, in which the field is narrowed to ten by some loosey-goosey formula of unspecified opinion polls, promises a tedious result: a rushed round robin of rapid-fire talking points and canned one-liners. No one would watch except Fox’s elderly hardcore audience and the political press. Worse, there’s a real possibility that Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson — beards needed by a GOP eager to demonstrate that it isn’t hostile to women or African-Americans — may not even make the cut. The ensuing controversy would turn an otherwise instantly forgotten event into a public-relations disaster for Republicans.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The primary debates are not subject to the tight Presidential Debate Commission rules that govern the debates in the run-up to the election. Ailes can do whatever he wants. Nothing else is happening in August. Why not turn this ho-hum event into dynamic television? Why not put all 18 candidates on stage to slug it out in a daring new format not built around static flag-decorated podiums? Why limit the running time to two hours? Why stick to the dutiful and predictable moderators Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace? What about a Great Republican Debate Marathon that would bring in an unexpectedly large audience, allow a real testing of the contenders’ wit and policy positions, and put the tightly controlled campaign of Hillary Clinton on the defensive? This would seem to be a no-brainer. And there is no one in television news or television fake news who has the ability of Ailes to pull it off.

What would the format be? One outside-the-box idea might be to bring back the boxes of the old game show Hollywood Squares. Allow the candidates to dress however they want and to use props if they care to. (Of the 18 candidates, surely one of them must be an amateur puppeteer who can help bring back the glory days of the Squares fixture Wayland Flowers and Madame.) The prized real estate of center square, once monopolized by the late, great Paul Lynde, must be assigned on the basis of talent, however, not polling — which means it must go to Donald Trump, a proven prime-time entertainer and a master of Friars Club–vintage insult humor. Just in recent weeks, he has mocked Fiorina for getting “viciously fired”from Hewlett-Packard, called Jeb Bush a “total fool,” and said of Marco Rubio, “I don’t even know how he could be running for office.” Would people tune in? You betcha. But Ailes is such an original, he could probably devise an ingenious format of his own. The 75-year-old media guru who first came to prominence as the guy who miraculously repackaged the woebegone Richard Nixon for television in 1968 has a chance here for a triumphant last hurrah.

Martin O’Malley is expected to announce his bid for the White House on Saturday. Bernie Sanders is the more obvious Hillary foil — why is O’Malley running for president?

To be vice-president? Hard to imagine that will happen either. O’Malley’s big calling card was his record of reducing violent crime in Baltimore when he was the city’s mayor. As David Simon — who slammed O’Malley in The Wire has been tirelessly pointing out since the killing of Freddie Gray, O’Malley’s policing policies helped pave the way for the city’s implosion this year. And Baltimore is as violent as ever: there have been some 30 homicides just since Gray’s death. What’s more, O’Malley was so unpopular in his own state before leaving the governorship this year that his hand-picked successor lostthe 2014 race to the Republican, in one of the country’s bluest states.

O’Malley’s rationale that he will offer an alternative to the left of Clinton is vitiated by Bernie Sanders, a more convincing left-Democrat than he is. But at least he adds a third participant to what promises to be among the most little-watched and mirthless primary debates in the history of the genre. Not even Roger Ailes could spice them up.

See:https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1#inbox/14d9c30478206d86

GOP Insider: How Religion Destroyed My Party

 

Via AlterNet, Mike Lofgren’s book: The Party is Over (Viking Press) is reviewed.

Excerpts:

“Having observed politics up close and personal for most of my adult lifetime, I have come to the conclusion that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism may have been the key ingredient in the transformation of the Republican Party. Politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes—at least in the minds of its followers—all three of the GOP’s main tenets: wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war….

Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa presidential caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. Unfortunately, at the time I mostly underestimated the implications of what I was seeing…

The results of this takeover are all around us: If the American people poll more like Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution, scriptural inerrancy, the presence of angels and demons, and so forth, it is due to the rise of the religious right, its insertion into the public sphere by the Republican Party, and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary beliefs. All around us now is a prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science. Politicized religion is the sheet anchor of the dreary forty-year-old culture wars…

CNN’s Candy Crowley was particularly egregious in this respect, pressing Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann for a response and becoming indignant when they refused to answer. The question did not deserve an answer, because Crowley had set it up to legitimate a false premise: that Romney’s religious belief was a legitimate issue of public debate. This is a perfect example of how the media reinforce an informal but increasingly binding religious test for public office that the Constitution formally bans. Like the British constitution, the test is no less powerful for being unwritten…

the doctrine of “cheap grace,” a derisive term coined by the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. By that he meant the inclination of some religious adherents to believe that once they had been “saved,” not only would all past sins be wiped away, but future ones, too—so one could pretty much behave as before. Cheap grace is a divine get- out-of-jail-free card. Hence the tendency of the religious base of the Republican Party to cut some slack for the peccadilloes of candidates who claim to have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and reborn to a new and more Christian life. The religious right is willing to overlook a politician’s individual foibles, no matter how poor an example he or she may make, if they publicly identify with fundamentalist values. In 2011 the Family Research Council, the fundamentalist lobbying organization, gave Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois an award for “unwavering support of the family.” Representative Walsh’s ex-wife might beg to differ, as she claims he owes her over one hundred thousand dollars in unpaid child support, a charge he denies.

Some liberal writers have opined that the socioeconomic gulf separating the business wing of the GOP and the religious right make it an unstable coalition that could crack. I am not so sure. There is no basic disagreement on which direction the two factions want to take the country, merely how far it should go. The plutocrats would drag us back to the Gilded Age; the theocrats to the Salem witch trials.

Many televangelists have espoused what has come to be known as the prosperity gospel—the health-and- wealth/name-it-and-claim-it gospel of economic entitlement. If you are wealthy, it is a sign of God’s favor. If not, too bad! This rationale may explain why some poor voters will defend the prerogatives of billionaires. In any case, at the beginning of the 2012 presidential cycle, those consummate plutocrats the Koch brothers pumped money into Bachmann’s campaign, so one should probably not make too much of a potential plutocrat-theocrat split.

Some more libertarian-leaning Republicans have in fact pushed back against the religious right. Former House majority leader Dick Armey expressed his profound distaste for the tactics of the religious right in 2006—from the safety of the sidelines—by blasting its leadership in unequivocal terms:

[James] Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies. I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid. There’s a high demagoguery coefficient to issues like prayer in schools. Demagoguery doesn’t work unless it’s dumb, shallow as water on a plate. These issues are easy for the intellectually lazy and can appeal to a large demographic. These issues become bigger than life, largely because they’re easy. There ain’t no thinking.

Within the GOP libertarianism is a throwaway doctrine that is rhetorically useful in certain situations but often interferes with their core, more authoritarian, beliefs. When the two precepts collide, the authoritarian reflex prevails. In 2009 it was politically useful for the GOP to present the Tea Party as independent-leaning libertarians, when in reality the group was overwhelmingly Republican, with a high quotient of GOP activists and adherents of views common among the religious right. According to a 2010 Gallup poll, eight in ten Tea Party members identify themselves as Republicans…

Ayn Rand, an occasional darling of the Tea Party,…Rand proclaimed at every opportunity that she was a militant atheist who felt nothing but contempt for Christianity as a religion of weaklings possessing a slave mentality…

This camouflaging of intentions is as much a strategy of the religious right and its leaders—James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson, and the rest—as it is of the GOP’s more secular political leaders in Washington. After the debacle of the Schiavo case and the electoral loss in 2008, the religious right pulled back and regrouped. They knew that the full-bore, “theoconservative” agenda would not sell with a majority of voters. This strategy accounts for Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition (who famously said that God sent a hurricane to New Orleans to punish the sodomites)…

Bachmann, Rick Perry, and numerous other serving representatives and senators have all had ties to Christian Dominionism, a doctrine proclaiming that Christians are destined to dominate American politics and establish a new imperium resembling theocratic government. According to one profile of Perry, adherents of Dominionism “believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take ‘dominion’ over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world.” Note the qualifier: “stealthily.”

At the same religious forum where the GOP candidates confessed their sins, Bachmann went so far as to suggest that organized religion should keep its traditional legal privilege of tax exemption while being permitted to endorse political candidates from the pulpit. The fact that government prohibits express political advocacy is in her imagination muzzling preachers rather than just being a quid pro quo for tax-exempt status equivalent to that imposed on any 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. But for Bachmann and others of like mind, this is persecution of a kind that fuels their sense of victimhood and righteous indignation.

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of the Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from “The Party is Over” [3] by Mike Lofgren. Copyright © 2012 by Mike Lofgren

See:http://www.alternet.org/print/news-amp-politics/gop-insider-how-religion-destroyed-my-party

 

10 Ways Right-Wing Christian Groups Will Likely Shove Religion Down Your Throat This Year

From:The following piece comes from Church and State Magazine, published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

By:Simon Brown

“You don’t have to look far or wide to see signs that the Religious Right was resurgent in 2011.

From the halls of Congress, where the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly urged public schools to post “In God We Trust” displays in classrooms, to the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., that was attended by 3,000 fundamentalist Christian activists, the Religious Right’s influence loomed large.

Since 2012 is an election year, we expect the Religious Right to use this growing influence to wage an all-out war to shape the U.S. government into a body that will do its bidding.

With that in mind, here are 10 of the biggest challenges, issues and concerns that Americans United expects to confront in the coming twelve months.

Improper Involvement of Religion in the 2012 Elections

Religion has infiltrated the run-up to the 2012 elections on an unprecedented level. Virtually all of the Republican presidential candidates have spent considerable time courting votes from the Religious Right. Nearly all of the major contenders spoke at the Values Voter Summit, and most of those candidates also appeared at a forum in November focusing on “questions of the soul” that was held at a fundamentalist church in Iowa.

The Religious Right is also making a serious push to pick the Republican candidate for president. The Alliance Defense Fund held its annual “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” in October, an event designed to encourage churches to engage in illegal campaign intervention. Last year’s version featured a record number of participants, and activists assume that even more will join in fray in 2012. The Religious Right is also planning to hold voter turnout drives and distribute “voter guides” that pretend to be unbiased but are not.

Religious Right strategists dream of forging fundamentalist and evangelical churches into a disciplined voting bloc to effectively dominate the democratic process.

Sadly, the presidential campaign has already included expressions of religious bigotry. Influential Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress said in October that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, is a member of a cult and cited his affiliation as a reason not to support his candidacy.

Critics have also questioned President Barack Obama’s status as a Christian, charging falsely that he is a Muslim or at best an opponent of the Christian faith.

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution forbids religious tests for public office, and church-state separationists regard attacks such as these as a violation of the spirit of that provision.

School Voucher Onslaught in the States and Congress

The Associated Press reported that 30 states explored voucher subsidies for religious and other private schools in 2011, and that number is expected to grow this year. These efforts have been driven by wealthy right-wing organizations, such as the Alliance for School Choice, which advocates for vouchers nationwide and is run by right-wing activist Betsy DeVos. Her organization and its allies provide vast resources and public relations expertise to push for school vouchers in many states.

DeVos has lots of help from the Religious Right and the Roman Catholic hierarchy because parochial schools and fundamentalist academies would be the primary beneficiary of “school choice” programs.

There is an especially sneaky attempt at voucher legislation underway in Florida, where a ballot initiative set to be considered in 2012 would allow the state to give taxpayer money to religious organizations.

Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, president of the Americans United Board of Trustees, is a plaintiff in a case filed by AU and its allies to get the initiative off the ballot. He and others involved in the litigation say the proposed constitutional amendment misleads voters about its true effects.

Voucher bills may come up on the federal level as well. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) railroaded a voucher program for the District of Columbia through Congress in March, so it’s clear Americans United will have to carefully monitor federal legislation as well in 2012.

The Catholic Bishops’ Crusade for ‘Religious Liberty’

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a formidable new lobbying unit known as the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. The committee claims to be defending religious liberty, but critics say it actually seeks to preserve taxpayer funding for church-affiliated agencies while maintaining overly broad exemptions from various laws.

A representative of this committee testified in October before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution regarding the issue of religious liberty in America and made the case that Catholic-run organizations should be exempt from providing birth control or recognizing same-sex marriages but should still receive government contracts and funds. Republicans on the committee seemed willing to consider this position, but Democrats were very resistant to offering such broad religious exemptions and government money.

The Pew Research Center found that Catholic lobbying organizations are the most powerful among Washington religious lobbies as they comprise 19 percent of all faith lobbying. As a result, the Ad Hoc Committee will certainly be one to watch in 2012.

Improper Religious Proselytizing in Public Schools

Some elements of the Religious Right hate the public school system because it doesn’t allow them to indoctrinate students with their version of Christianity. As a result, they look to add prayer or other religious activities to the school schedule whenever they can.

In Missouri, for example, voters will face a religion amendment on the 2012 ballot that, if passed, would open the door for religious activities on any and all public property, including schools. The proposal is so open-ended that school children might have the right to refuse to do homework on religious grounds.

In Florida, a bill is advancing through the state legislature that would let local school boards allow students to offer prayers at school events. Originally the measure stated that the prayers must be non-sectarian but that language was removed. The legislation has been offered several times before and could pass, although AU’s Florida chapters, the ACLU and the Anti-Defamation League all oppose the measure.

Moreover, the Religious Right is always trying to stack public school curriculum and textbooks with religious material and going on creationism crusades, which observers expect will continue in 2012.

‘Faith-Based’ Funding and Hiring Bias

Despite pleas from Americans United and allies, President Obama has yet to act on his campaign promise to make major civil rights and civil liberties improvements to the Bush “faith-based” initiative. Speaking in Zanesville, Ohio, in 2008, he said, “If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion.”

Americans United has written to Obama asking him to keep his promise, but he has yet to do so. This issue is likely to remain an ongoing concern in 2012.

Related faith-based funding controversies are also likely. For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is considering a new rule allowing the use of taxpayer funds for the construction and repair of religious buildings overseas.

AU has submitted comments to USAID urging the agency to withdraw the proposed rule.

Government Promotion of Religious Symbols

In an election year, politicians often look for easy ways to show their religiosity and that has already begun at both the state and federal levels.

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution in November that reaffirmed “In God We Trust” as the official motto of the United States and encouraged its display in public schools and other public buildings. The action came even though, as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) pointed out, no one had suggested that this is not the motto of the United States.

That same month, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), introduced a bill that would order the Secretary of the Interior to add a Franklin Delano Roosevelt prayer to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Roosevelt offered that prayer on D-Day as the United States began the military operation that liberated Europe.

Another religious display issue has arisen in Montana, where a large statue of Jesus erected by the Knights of Columbus sits on national forest land. The U.S. Forest Service had planned to remove the statue, but is facing resistance not only from the Knights but also from U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), who wants to save it.

In Georgia, the state legislature will consider a bill that would require all vehicle license plates to be emblazoned with “In God We Trust” unless drivers pay extra to cover up the message.

As election season heats up this year, it is likely these types of efforts will only increase.

Attacks on Religious Minorities

The Religious Right says frequently that America is a Christian nation (despite ample evidence to the contrary), so anyone who doesn’t share that movement’s belief in its special brand of Christianity is often marginalized.

The best example of attempts by the Religious Right to marginalize minorities is anti-sharia legislation. In 2010, Oklahoma passed the so-called “Save Our State Amendment,” which bars enforcement of Islamic law. It received 70 percent of the vote.

Church-state experts note that the U.S. Constitution already bars government support for religion in most cases, so such legislation is unnecessary.

The law has been challenged in court on the grounds that it singles out Muslims for discrimination. Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case in May, and it is now before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

While Oklahoma has taken one of the rashest stances in discriminating against Muslims, it is clear that many other elements of the Religious Right would like to see similar laws enforced nationwide and could make a push for that in 2012.

The Marriage War

The Religious Right, along with the Catholic hierarchy and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), are out to fashion state marriage policy so it reflects their doctrinal teachings. They are firmly committed to the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman only, and they are fighting in the courts, in the statehouses and in Congress to make sure the law continues to define marriage according to their theology.

The highest profile case is the challenge to California’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage that is working its way through the federal court system. More than 40 states have already banned same-sex marriage, but the outcome of this case could set a precedent for reversing that trend. The Supreme Court may take up the issue in 2012.

There is also a referendum in the works in North Carolina that could be on the ballot in May and would, if passed, put a ban on gay marriage into the state constitution.

A referendum banning same-sex marriage is also on the November ballot in Minnesota.

‘Personhood’ Amendments Here, There and Everywhere

Multiple states have faced attacks from groups seeking to pass “personhood” amendments, and that trend looks to continue in 2012.

The latest state to consider one of these amendments is Mississippi, which voted it down in November. Had the measure passed, it would have declared fertilized eggs to be people, made abortion illegal in virtually all instances, including cases of rape and incest, and it would have banned some forms of birth control. So broad was the language of the amendment that women who miscarried could have been subjected to criminal investigations.

Keith Mason, co-founder of Personhood USA, which is a sponsor of these amendments, has said that his organization may attempt another shot at a Mississippi ballot initiative and that his organization is pushing for “personhood” amendments on the 2012 ballots in Ohio, Florida, Montana, Oregon, California and Nevada.

Religiously Based Censorship

The Religious Right is always on the lookout for books, movies, artwork and other aspects of culture to ban based on their religious convictions.

In late 2010, Speaker John Boehner and his allies called for the removal of an exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery after they learned that it contains a short video of a crucifix with ants crawling on it, as well as works of art with sexual themes. The museum bent to Boehner’s pressure and removed the video.

In Missouri last summer, a school district banned Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Fiveand Sarah Oeckler’s Twenty Boy Summer because a local professor complained that the books advocate principles that are contrary to the Bible.

Similar Religious Right ventures are likely in 2012.

* * *

This is only a short summary of some of the issues Americans United faces in the upcoming year.

In summing up the challenges, AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said, “This could be a uniquely challenging year for Americans United, with political candidates claiming God’s endorsement and lawmakers poised to vote on all manner of unconstitutional affronts to the First Amendment.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/153657/10_ways_right-wing_christian_groups_will_likely_shove_religion_down_your_throat_this_year_?page=entire