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6 Biggest Religious Right Threats to America

With many legislatures tilting right and "prayer" caucuses on the prowl, Church-State separation may be in trouble in the coming year.

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The National Catholic Register reported that the “religious freedom” caucuses comprised a total of 120 state lawmakers as of mid-October. Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale) was described as the group’s legislative “brain trust.” She authored a law that permits the state’s religiously affiliated employers to opt out of the new federal contraception requirement.

Americans United’s Legislative Department is very concerned that these conscience exemption measures will be overly broad and undercut the rights of other Americans.

AU has strategized in the past with the ACLU, Catholics for Choice, Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign, National Council of Jewish Women and the Anti-Def­amation League on how best to defend church-state separation against this type of threat and will continue to work with such organizations in 2013.

 

5. State ‘Prayer’ Caucuses

A similar movement to the one orchestrated by the EPPC is under way thanks to the efforts of U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.).

Forbes, a Religious Right favorite, is head of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. Through the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (CPCF), attempts are being made to establish “prayer caucuses” in every state legislature.

The CPCF website indicates that at least eight states currently have a prayer caucus – Maine, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado and Mississippi. It says the goal of the organization is the “successful collaboration of prayer and action at the state level, [which] will accelerate the rate at which religious freedom is secured at the national level.”

That may not sound so sinister, but critics say it’s every bit as misleading as the EPPC “religious freedom” caucuses. The CPCF claims to encourage state lawmakers to “partner with churches and para-church organizations, and ultimately preserve faith in God as lifeblood of America.”

In fact, church-state separation supporters say the campaign intends to pervade government with religion.

The CPCF has shown its influence of late, having scored a major victory last year when the deceptive “religious freedom” amendment, officially known as Amendment 2, was added to the Missouri Constitution. It was authored by Rep. Mike McGhee (R-Odessa), who chairs the Missouri Prayer Caucus.

The CPCF backed McGhee’s proposal, calling it a necessity in a press statement and claiming that there are “anti-God groups bent on erasing God, prayer and Judeo-Christian influence from the public square.”

 

6. Anti-Shariah Laws

The U.S. Constitution already prohibits government enforcement of religious law, but right-wing groups are insisting that legislatures take the extra step of banning shariah – Islamic law.

As of press time, anti-shariah legislation had been pre-filed for the 2013 legislative sessions in Alabama and Florida. Texas has pre-filed a bill proposing a ballot measure to amend the state’s constitution to prohibit enforcement, consideration or application of any “religious or cultural law.”

An anti-shariah bill has also been sitting dormant in Michigan’s House Jud­iciary Committee for over a year, and some state lawmakers were pushing for a vote on that legislation at press time.

Critics say measures of this kind are proposed without a credible threat from Islam and seek to stigmatize a single religion and its adherents.

These bills have been on the rise of late. They have evolved slightly, thanks in part to a ruling by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2012, which declared unconstitutional an Oklahoma ballot measure that sought specifically to ban shari­ah law.

As a result, more recent anti-shariah bills have been slightly subtler, forgoing specific language targeting shariah in favor of banning courts from applying “foreign law” generally. For example, the Michigan legislation would “limit the application and enforcement by a court, arbitrator, or administrative body of foreign laws that would impair con­st­itu­tional rights.”

 
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