Friday, October 22, 2004

Onward Christian soldiers

If you have any doubts that the Republican Party has been hijacked by the religious right, read on:

The Republican National Committee is employing the services of a Texas-based activist who believes the United States is a “Christian nation” and the separation of church and state is “a myth.”

David Barton, the founder of an organization called Wallbuilders, was hired by the RNC as a political consultant and has been traveling the country for a year--speaking at about 300 RNC-sponsored lunches for local evangelical pastors. During the lunches, he presents a slide show of American monuments, discusses his view of America’s Christian heritage -- and tells pastors that they are allowed to endorse political candidates from the pulpit.

Barton, who is also the vice-chairman of the Texas GOP, told Beliefnet this week that the pastors' meetings have been kept “below the radar.... We work our tails off to stay out of the news.” But at this point, he says, with voter registration ended in most states and early voting already under way, staying quiet about the activity “doesn’t matter.”

Barton’s main contention is that the separation of church and state was never intended by the nation’s founders; he says it was created by the Supreme Court in the 20th Century. The back cover of his 1989 book, “The Myth of Separation,” proclaims: “This book proves that separation of church and state is a myth.” Barton is also on the board of advisers of the
Providence Foundation, a Christian Reconstructionist group that advocates America as a Christian nation.

Click here for an explanation of Reconstructionism.


Blogger girl said...

Have you heard of Alan Keyes? He's the Illinois voice of this movement. He'll definitely lose the senate seat in Illinois, but it's frightening that these "Christian Nation" kind of people having such a loud voice in a mainstream political party.

12:51 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

The people who run for office, openly proclaiming these views, are the least dangerous. At least the voters know what they are getting and can make an honest choice. It's the people working behind the scenes, shrouding their true intentions, looking to make changes in places that will draw the least scrutiny, that are the problem.

1:52 PM

Blogger girl said...

That's true... and to be honest, I've never really thought of it that way. I always kind of pointed fingers at the outspoken ones, calling them religious lunatics, but, you're right, the quiet people are more dangerous.

6:22 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's the people working behind the scenes, shrouding their true intentions, looking to make changes in places that will draw the least scrutiny, that are the problem."

Oh, you mean, like, "lobbyists." Well, it's a good thing they only prey (or pray, if you will) on the GOP. All those years following DC certainly never showed the Dems in power as toadies to whatever industry, advocacy group or church that would pony up cash or votes.

It seems your discomfort is directed not at the process of unseen, nefarious forces at work to subvert democracy (which seem to have been with us since The Federalist Papers), but at the collars on their necks.

Ironically, you can peruse blogs from the Evangelical perspective and see almost a word for word description of such people as Main Stream Media reporters, unelected judges, nonprofits directed by Teresa Heinz Kerry and academia.

OK, you don't like the religious right (and I seem to sense a discomfort with people of faith in general). Fair enough. What if they don't like the Pew Foundation, Brookings, ACTION and Planned Parent? Who listens to their concerns?

4:21 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Obviously, I have clearly stated opinions, and I make no claims to objectivity on this site. I happen to believe that there are extreme elements on the religious right that represent a threat to our pluralistic society and the separation of church and state, which regardless of its origins is a concept that I believe has served us well, even as it has been pushed to some undesirable extremes by the courts and anti-religious groups.

But you are right, my statement could apply to a range of interest groups working within both parties. It just so happens that it is my own personal opinion that the religious right is among the most dangerous and poses one the greatest threats to our society. You are free to disagree, leave a comment, or stop reading. The choice is yours.

8:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess it depends on what you fear. You seem to feel threatened by a creeping power grab by the religious right in the GOP, a party that currently controls every branch of federal government.

If I were an Evangelical strategist, however, I'd feel pretty steamed right now. They haven't gotten much for their unbridled support for the party (much, I think, like African-Americans in the Democratic Party, who are culturally more akin to the white Evangelicals in the GOP than to the leaders of the Dems).

But we all pick our poison, right? So far, there seems to be little payout for the Christian Coalition.

Abortion on demand is still legal (the partial birth abortion ban legislation was an overwhelmingly bipartisan approach to what I'm sure you and I would agree is a particularly loathsome procedure). Prayer in school isn't. People still burn flags, and the MA Supreme Court is going to let gay people marry. Hollywood is going full tilt to win the "culture war," and the elimination of the "marriage penalty" wasn't the great tax boon the Evangelicals expected.

Perhaps you're worried about a push to put an Evangelical on the high court during a second Bush administration. Well, the court does funny things, and it has a seemingly internal device that moves some conservatives to the middle (and the other way).

Anyway, it's hard to believe the Senate would confirm a justice who didn't tow the line on choice because northern Republicans like Chafee and Specter don't want to lose their swing base on this.

And even if it became a state's rights issue, returning abortion to the purview of Baton Rouge, Austin and Harrisburg, I can't imagine many governors and legislatures would push to ban the procedure. Maybe several southern states, but certainly not the blue ones, and even the more pluralistic red ones.

Louisiana, yes. Texas, no. Ironic, eh?

As for me, I'm far more worried about a Democratic Party selling out to a rising, know-nothing, butt-stupid foreign policy driven by such populist illuminaries as Michael Moore and Howard Dean.

I fear far more about our ability to fight terrorism, protect sealanes, enforce international law and stop genocide worldwide with those baboons leading a majority party.

But that's just me.

11:50 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Granted, the religious right has been stopped at every turn when it comes to abortion. Even the partial birth abortion law is running into constitutional problems. And gay marriage will probably end up being a reality, even if only in the limited, civil-union sense.

But there are plenty of other issues--whether evolution should be taught in schools, whether teenagers should get comprehensive sex education as opposed to abstinence-only programs, whether the FCC will continue in its efforts to tighten its grip over the airwaves.

Believe me, I'd much rather see a Democratic Party led by people who resemble Harry Truman than George McGovern. (Though I agree with Howard Dean on the war in Iraq.) But I'd like a society that's vibrant and diverse as well as one that's safe.

2:17 PM


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