Why Is There So Much God in Our Politics? The Religious Right's Theocratic Plan for the 2012 Election
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In late November, Gingrich got some unsolicited advice from Richard Land, a lobbyist with the Southern Baptist Convention. Land warned Gingrich, a convert to Roman Catholicism, that evangelical women are concerned over his matrimonial track record.
“You need to make it as clear as you possibly can that you deeply regret your past actions and that you do understand the anguish and suffering they caused others including your former spouses,” wrote Land in an open letter to Gingrich. “Make it as clear as you can that you have apologized for the hurt your actions caused and that you have learned from your past misdeeds.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, also believes Gingrich has some work to do. Gingrich has been on a tear attacking “secular socialism” for months and blasting courts for upholding church-state separation – he has even proposed impeaching certain federal judges – but Perkins told Fox News that the former speaker needs to stress social issues even more so religious conservatives will realize he’s sincere.
Ironically, the internal divisions among the Religious Right may do exactly what they don’t want: provide a boost to Obama. In the lead-up to the 2008 election, followers of the Religious Right splintered over the flock of GOP candidates. U.S. Sen. John McCain captured the nomination but failed to generate significant enthusiasm among the far right. Obama’s team, meanwhile, did aggressive outreach to religious groups and even managed to peel off some evangelical support.
Obama is employing the same strategy again. In October, Obama met with top leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals at the White House. He has also met with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, a key constituency whose membership includes a lot of swing voters.
In late November, Democratic leaders held a press conference in Washington, during which they vowed to aggressively reach out to religious groups and voters.
The Daily Caller, a conservative website, reported that U.S. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who heads up religious outreach for the party, said, “As we organize going forward to next year there will be significant efforts on our part to reconnect the fundamentals of our policies to the teachings that we all learned, be it in the Old Testament or the New Testament.”
Clyburn added that in the past, Democrats “were so strong in our doctrine that there ought to be a separation of church and state, that we often took it to an extreme, and I think that’s how we got disconnected [from voters].”
Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said he regrets the Religious Right’s influence over the presidential campaign and U.S. political life. The culture war obsessions of the Religious Right, Lynn said, don’t reflect the concerns of most Americans.
“Our nation faces many serious problems, but a lack of religion in our political system isn’t one of them,” remarked Lynn. “In fact, this election has already become deeply entangled with religion, with four candidates now claiming that God told them to run. Enough is enough.”
Rob Boston is the assistant director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which publishes Church and State magazine.