Some political analysts are fond of proclaiming the death of the Religious Right. In fact, as this issue of Church & State points out, groups that espouse theocracy are alive and well in America. Collectively, the 10 most influential Religious Right groups raise more than $1 billion every year. (See “Groups To Watch Out For,” page 10.)
The Family Research Council’s annual “Values Voter Summit” regularly draws speakers from the upper echelons of conservative politics. GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan spoke at this month’s confab, alongside House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other luminaries of the inside-the-Beltway power structure.
Religious Right forces also exercise extraordinary influence within American political life. “Christian nation” advocate David Barton and his allies helped draft major sections of the Republican Party platform. And the Democratic platform was revised to include a mention of God, after TV preacher Pat Robertson’s “news” team pointed out the absence of the deity.
A dead movement does not wield that type of power.
That doesn’t mean we are helpless in the face of theocratic groups. The positions taken by the Religious Right are extreme, and the American people don’t support them. Any wins these groups score politically come courtesy of apathy. If more people get involved, it will be much less likely that the Religious Right will succeed in its goals.
Activism can take many forms. It can be something as simple as being registered to vote. Concerned citizens can also speak out at public meetings or organize local groups and coalitions to counter Religious Right schemes.
State and local involvement is often crucial. Too often, Religious Right groups brazenly claim to speak for all Americans or loudly assert that they are the only ones standing up for “values.” They try to lay claim to terms like “family,” “faith” and “freedom.”
Religious Right groups love to wrap their oppressive agenda in the flag. We need to re-capture that flag. When “just plain folks” stand up to the Religious Right, it sends the message to legislators that real American values are concepts such as justice, equality and the inviolable right of conscience.
It looks like the Religious Right will remain part of the political scene for some time to come. That’s unfortunate, but it in no way means that these groups are inevitably marching toward victory.
It is the duty of advocates of separation of church and state to erect plenty of roadblocks along the way.