The Religious Right's access to power in Washington, D.C., has been seriously diminished, but its divisive influence at the state and local level remains deeply problematic, according to an election analysis by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“Religious Right forces did everything in their power to demonize Barack Obama and maintain their influence in the White House,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “but it didn’t work. The majority of white evangelicals voted predictably Republican, but most other Americans ignored the Religious Right’s shrill and partisan message.”
Lynn noted that Religious Right groups distributed grotesquely biased voter guides, goaded evangelical pastors into issuing partisan appeals from the pulpit and made dire predictions about the consequences of an Obama victory.
“James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Richard Land and Company did everything but declare Obama the Antichrist,” said Lynn. “In the end, they kept their own flock in line, but the majority of Americans were unmoved. On Jan. 20, the Religious Right’s eight-year run of the White House will come to a screeching halt.”
Lynn, however, said he deplores the Religious Right’s continuing baleful influence at the state and local level. The movement engineered anti-gay measures and restrictions on reproductive rights onto many state ballots.
“Battles over gay rights and reproductive choice in states like Florida, California and Arizona were bitter, costly and divisive,” said Lynn. “Religious Right activists won some and lost some, but in every case they inflamed ugly passions and stirred up hatred toward their fellow Americans.”
Lynn said the Religious Right is likely to increase its activity at the state and local level, now that advances in Washington will be harder to obtain.
“The Religious Right is not dead,” concluded Lynn, “but I’m happy that most Americans seem very wary of the movement’s reckless merger of religion and politics. Those of us who value church-state separation must remain on the alert to counter the Religious Right’s next gambit.”
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.