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Religious Right to Tea Party: Join Us or Die!

At the Values Voter Summit, religious-right leaders offered Tea Partiers a Faustian bargain: Embrace our theocratic agenda, or lose big-time in November.

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An enduring trope about black men is that they prey upon white women; a trope likely born of historical projection, since, under slavery, African-American women were often the sexual slaves of their white masters. When, several days later, I questioned Land on his sexually charged word choice, he replied, "I think rape is an act of violence. It's only incidentally sexual; it's an act of violence. And I would say he's committed some acts of violence against this economy. I think Obamacare's an act of violence against this economy. If it's fully implemented it will bankrupt us." Land went on to say that while health care does need reforming, "Obamacare is not the answer."

The Values Voter Summit represented the third time I had heard radio show host Herman Cain, an African-American businessman who spouts a bootstrap philosophy, speak this summer. The last two times were at events sponsored by David Koch's Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a group that presents itself as secular. Cain joined with Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal , another Murdoch/News Corp. property, to co-author a book, Prosperity 101 , that is used in an AFPF project. Yet Moore's appearance on a Values Voter panel last week was the first I had seen him at a religious-right event. That, coupled with his act of contrition in his Heritage Foundation essay, would suggests that, at least at the astroturf level, the melding of the religious and secular right is complete.

Tea Party: Secular or Religious?

Five days before the Values Voters Summit, Mike Pence stood before a crowd gathered on the ground of the U.S. Capitol by FreedomWorks, amid a smattering of signs threatening the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, and more simply deriding the president based on the now-usual conspiracy theories: his alleged crypto-Marxism, crypto-Kenyanism, crypto-Islamism and crypto-stupidity. This appearance came two months after Pence appeared as a keynote speaker at the Americans For Prosperity Foundation's RightOnline conference in Las Vegas.

At the Values Voter Summit, Pence offered the following rationale for the melding of the two movements. "We must not remain silent when great moral battles are being waged," he said. "Those who would have us ignore the battle being fought over life, marriage, religious liberty have forgotten the lessons of history. As in the days of a house divided, America's darkest moments have come when economic arguments trumped moral principles. Men and women, we must demand, here and now, that the leaders of the Republican Party stand for life, traditional marriage and religious liberty without apology."

As Pence exited the ballroom where he had delivered his speech, I asked him whether the Tea Party movement was secular in nature.

"I think it's an authentic movement of the American people that are wanting to see our national government return to the common sense and common values of the majority of the American public," he said.

I pressed him. "Are you saying it's neither secular nor religious?" I asked.

"I think it's an authentic American movement," he replied, before hurrying off to catch a plane.

So take your pick: the Tea Party movement is neither secular nor religious -- or it's both.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.