The re-election of President George W. Bush yesterday will spark more attempts to erode the wall of separation between church and state and will almost certainly increase the influence of the Religious Right, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
A second Bush term will also lead to a spike in divisive "culture war" issues as the Religious Right seeks payback for helping Bush stay in office, said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn. "The Religious Right is already crowing about providing Bush's margin of victory," Lynn said. "The movement's leaders expect to be handsomely rewarded for that. The culture war may go nuclear.
"I don't think most Americans want Jerry Falwell and other TV preachers calling the shots in Washington," Lynn continued. "But people are going to have to speak up loud and clear to make sure members of Congress know that."
Lynn said the country can expect more battles over divisive issues such as same-sex marriage, religion in public education, "faith-based" initiatives and displays of religious symbols in government buildings.
The most bruising battles, Lynn said, will occur when there are vacancies on the Supreme Court. Most neutral observers agree that there will be two to four openings on the court within the next four years.
Religious Right groups will demand that high court appointees meet a litmus test and agree with fundamentalists on issues like legal abortion, gay rights, government funding of religion and religion in public schools, Lynn charged.
"Three more Clarence Thomas clones sitting on the Supreme Court could redefine religious freedom and church-state separation," Lynn said. "A court beholden to TV preachers and the Religious Right could overturn existing precedents and reopen a host of issues that we thought were settled."
Lynn vowed that AU will remain vigilant.
"We're not about to roll over and play dead," he said. "Millions of Americans oppose the theocratic agenda of the Religious Right. Bush's victory in a close race by no means gives him a mandate to knock down the church-state wall."
Lynn noted that exit polls indicate that most Americans who voted for Bush did not do so because they want to roll back church-state separation. According to exit poll numbers reported by MSNBC, only 16 percent of Bush voters cited "moral issues" as their top concern.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in the safeguarding religious freedom.