Oct 17, 2012

Expect a new round of church-state problems in the state legislatures soon.

The Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a right-wing outfit in Washington, D.C., has announced the creation of “religious freedom” caucuses in nine state legislatures – Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Tennessee. And the group is planning to establish similar operations in all 50 states by the end of 2013.

If these caucuses were really in favor of religious freedom, of course, that would be great. But they aren’t. These are theocracy-minded folks dedicated to advancing the Religious Right’s definition of religious liberty and undermining the wall of separation between church and state. They want the right to impose their religion on the rest of us.

The EPPC’s American Religious Freedom Program is headed by Brian W. Walsh, a graduate of TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Regent University School of Law. With that kind of credential, you don’t have to wonder what his take on church-state relations is. Walsh hopes to unite fundamentalist Protestants and ultra-conservative Catholics to dominate government policy.

The EPPC program’s top priority right now seems to be undermining the Obama administration’s requirement that American women have access to contraceptives as part of the nation’s medical care reform. But other ominous goals are on the agenda, including removal of strong church-state separation provisions from state constitutions, promoting voucher subsidies for religious schools, ensuring taxpayer funding of church ministries (even if the ministries refuse to comply with government rules and the public interest) and displaying religious symbols on public property.

In the press release announcing the new caucuses, Walsh touted the “nonpartisan” character of the movement. But “nonpartisan” is not the word that comes to mind when you look at the details. In Kansas, for example, the caucus includes 26 Republicans and one Democrat. In New Hampshire, all 27 caucus members are from the GOP.

This is a well-organized political operation, and we can expect hard fights over some of these vitally important issues.

Gird for battle!