There has been a lot of talk lately about the GOP “abandoning” the Religious Right because of the party’s failures in the 2012 elections. But if the ranting of a Republican Party official in Michigan is any indication, Religious Right rhetoric still has a prominent place in the clubhouse.
Dave Agema, the Republican National Committeeman from Michigan, recently posted on his Facebook page an article by a Dr. Frank Joseph that lists all sorts of statistics that “everyone should know” about gays and lesbians, whom he says live a “filthy” lifestyle. As you might imagine, they’re not exactly flattering. Nor are they anything we haven’t heard before.
The “studies” that Joseph cites are literally not of this millennium. The most recent one is from 1994; the oldest goes all the way back to 1977. The Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups have published articles debunking the homophobic “research” spread by the Religious Right.
Agema apparently retrieved Joseph’s article from “Tradition in Action,” an ultra-traditionalist Catholic website that celebrates Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and seeks to return the United States and perhaps the world to being a “Christian civilization.”
It’s worth noting that Charlemagne, who lived from 742-814, pretty much embodied the merger of church and state. Crowned emperor by Pope Leo III, the Frankish monarch thought religion and government should march hand in glove.
Charlemagne also was in an almost constant state of warfare during his 13-year reign. It is not known exactly how many people he killed, and of course anyone he conquered was forced to convert to his version of Christianity.
So “Tradition in Action” is actually advocating a return to a time rightly known as the Dark Ages. It boggles the mind, really.
Equally mystifying is Agema’s refusal to apologize for spreading Joseph’s hateful screed or to resign his party post (as 20 Michigan Republicans have demanded). Michigan’s GOP chair and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus have also distanced themselves from Agema’s opinion, The Washington Post reported.
Yet Agema told the Post that he has no plans to step down or remove the article from his Facebook page.
“It’s part of our platform,” Agema said. “Dr. Joseph, the Family Research Council, the (American Family Association) and others have similar statistics. It’s a principle worth fighting for.”
This all seems like a microcosm of the struggles in the GOP between worried establishment voices and the Religious Right. Republicans don’t want to lose dependable voters, which Religious Right forces have been since the 1980s. At the same time, party leaders want to win elections, and they haven’t been doing so lately.
Meanwhile, the Religious Right is clinging to its extreme agenda, and as Agema shows, there are still plenty of folks who march in lockstep with the fundamentalists. As long as there are politicians who are in full agreement with that agenda, Religious Right zealots will remain a powerful force, even if the GOP tries to shut them out.