Patrick Hynes and Jeremy Lott, writing in USA Today explain that the Religious Right did not emerge out of thin air, but were the product of the environment created by the Left. They add that when religious liberals make similar inroads into the public square, there is not a similar demonization nor is there similar dark warnings of a rise of the “theocracy.”
What’s more, the creation of the religious right was largely a function of the courts and politicians pushing the boundaries the other way. Evangelicals were moved to civic activism because the IRS threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of private Christian schools; because the U.S. Supreme Court removed abortion from the political process; because mentions of the Almighty began to be scrubbed from valedictory addresses for fear that someone, somewhere might take offense. Today, the term “goddamn” is treated as protected speech, but remove the “damn” and watch the lawsuits roll in.
So evangelicals did the only responsible thing they could in a democracy. They organized and reached out. They found allies in churchgoing Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants, Jews and even some agnostics who believed that religion plays a vital role in holding society together. In this they were not so different from the civil rights leaders of the past, whose rallying cry was the God-given dignity of every American. The new coalition grew over time to the point that the religious right (or “values voters,” if you prefer) became the single largest voting bloc in American politics.
But people organizing based on shared beliefs and values is only permissible if they are non-religious, and if religious, if they are liberal too. Hynes and Lott then catalog instances of the Religious Right being excoriated while the religious left, with their own religious ideas that are just as “intrusive” into the public sphere are feted by the mainstream establishment. In a democracy, all sides should be given a respectful hearing, regardless of whether their opinions are motivated by religion or not. It is correct that the religious left should be heard. But the vilification of the religious right should stop.[Thanks to Kathy Shaidle for the link.]
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