Efforts by the Catholic bishops and Religious Right groups to control the outcome of the 2012 elections largely failed, but the culture war over marriage, birth control and individual freedom may heat up anyway, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The Catholic hierarchy and Religious Right leaders waged an aggressive campaign to unseat President Barack Obama and deny Democrats control of the U.S. Senate. They also unsuccessfully pushed state referenda votes requiring taxpayer funding of religion (Florida), imposing restrictions on abortion (Florida) and denying marriage equality to gay couples (Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington State).
Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “The bishops and the Religious Right bent every rule to try to impose their political will, but they failed badly. The American people clearly are not inclined to take voting orders from presumptuous preachers.”
Lynn noted that churches and other 501(c)(3) nonprofit groups are barred by federal tax law from intervening in elections. Yet many did so anyway.
Lynn said members of the Catholic hierarchy issued statements before the election steering parishioners toward voting against Obama and other Democratic candidates. Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky even went so far as to compare Obama’s policies to those of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.
Religious Right leaders took a similarly aggressive approach, Lynn said. After a Mitt Romney meeting with evangelist Billy Graham, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association bought full-page ads in The New York Times and other newspapers urging people to vote for “biblical values” – specifically, candidates who oppose marriage equality for gay couples and abortion rights.
Lynn warned that despite their losses at the polls, the bishops and their Religious Right allies are likely to escalate their lobbying campaigns. He predicts major conflicts over issues such as contraceptive coverage, marriage equality, faith-based job bias in federally funded programs and church electioneering law.
“I think the battles over contraceptive coverage, marriage equality and other social issues are likely to heat up, not cool down,” Lynn said. “The Catholic hierarchy and their fundamentalist friends are increasingly desperate. They see their political clout slipping away, and they are going to do everything possible to implement their agenda now.”
Lynn said Americans United will undertake a variety of initiatives to see that church-state separation and individual freedom are preserved.
Americans United 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 safeguarding religious freedom.