We’re just a few months removed from the 2012 elections, and the Religious Right is already hard at work trying to lure churches into partisan politics for the 2014 elections.
This week, Mat Staver’s Liberty Counsel, which is affiliated with Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University, said it is gearing up to help fundamentalists take “dominion” over the United States and make us a “Christian nation.”
In a news release on its website, Liberty Counsel said it is merging with the Florida Faith and Works Coalition. That’s pretty scary, because the Faith and Works Coalition says on its website that “historically, America was established as a Christian nation and its policies were based on biblical principles. The guardian of those biblical principles has always been His church. And His church, in recent history, has passively abdicated its guardianship responsibility.”
That paints a pretty clear picture of the organization’s intent, which was reaffirmed in a statement from Art Ally, founder and head of the Faith & Works Coalition.
“The world is going to do what the world is going to do – the problem we have is, generally speaking, the church is not doing what God has commanded us to do,” Ally said. “God’s first commission to us, which has never been repealed, goes back to Genesis 1:28, where He commanded us to subdue and have dominion over all the earth.”
Liberty Counsel also said it appointed the Rev. Randy Rebold to head its “new outreach to pastors and mobilization of the church.”
This does beg one question – why, exactly, is Liberty concerned with “outreach” and “mobilization”? It seems safe to say those are code words for luring fundamentalist churches and pastors into partisan politics, something that Liberty Counsel has advocated in the past despite the prohibition against campaign intervention by houses of worship spelled out in federal tax law.
We are facing a serious threat here. We don’t know how much cash Liberty Counsel has because it claims to be a “church auxiliary” and therefore won’t disclose its assets, but The Washington Post says Liberty University now has $1 billion in the bank.
To make matters worse, Liberty Counsel’s efforts are far from the only threat to religious liberty. David Brody, of Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, reported recently that the American Renewal Project plans to target 12 swing states ahead of the 2014 election, with the goal of “organizing pastor briefings and voter registration drives across the country… It’s the latest attempt to restore America to its Judeo-Christian Heritage.”
The American Renewal Project was founded by David Lane, whom Brody described as “an influential evangelical Christian who operates below the radar.”
None of this is surprising, but it’s nonetheless appalling. It also shows why defenders of church-state separation can never let down their guard.
Fortunately, polls have shown that most clergy and most church-goers hate the politicization of churches, so there’s reason to hope that Staver, Lane and their allies won’t succeed.
Religious Right strategists pulled out all the stops in the elections last year, but their work didn’t pan out as well they would like. But that doesn’t mean the Religious Right agenda won’t dominate politics in the future, which is why we must remain vigilant in defending the wall of separation between church and state.