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5 Signs the Christian Right Still Wields Too Much Power in America

This political and cultural movement will not be sinking beneath the horizon anytime soon -- despite media reports to the contrary.

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3. The Leadership Pipeline 

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and other conservative leaders are products of the Religious Right’s educational and leadership pipeline, which is training thousands of college and law school students how to bring their “biblical worldview” to bear on government, the courts and society in general. Journalist Sarah Posner has  reported on law school students being taught to advise clients to follow God’s law rather than man’s law at Liberty University, the Falwell-founded school where Romney’s new debate coach  built a powerhouse debating team. 

Virginia Gov. McDonnell got an MA and JD from Pat Robertson’s Regent University; Rep. Michele Bachmann got her law degree from the  law school at Oral Roberts University, which was later taken over by Regent. Right-wing foundations pour millions each year into conservative college newspapers, leadership training programs, and fellowships at “think tanks” that allow people like Dinesh D’Souza to claim the title of “scholar” while turning out dreck like his book portraying Kenyan anti-colonialism as the roots of Obama’s “rage.”  

The Religious Right and its conservative allies have put a lot of like-minded federal judges on the courts in the past two decades, and they’ve done quite well with the John Roberts-led conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Religious Right leaders are pulling out all the stops to make sure a Republican president and Senate are in place; the American Center for Law & Justice’s Jay Sekulow told a Faith and Freedom gathering in South Carolina just before the primary there that if “President Romney” were to name two more justices, Sekulow wouldn’t have to worry any more about counting to five when he had a case before the court.

Newt Gingrich, who swamped Romney in South Carolina, staked out a more radical approach to the judiciary were he to be elected president. Gingrich says he would ignore rulings he disagrees with and abolish courts that rule in ways that displease him; he frequently cites church-state issues when complaining about the courts.   

4. The Assault on Choice and Family Planning  

The 2010 wave of right-wing electoral victories at the state level has brought an accelerated attack on women’s healthcare. According to  NARAL Pro-Choice America, 69 anti-choice measures became law in 25 states last year; some of these laws ban pre-viability abortions without meaningful exceptions for women’s health and are clearly designed to challenge  Roe v. Wade . Some are designed to force clinics to close and simply make abortion inaccessible for even more women. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 87 percent of U.S. counties already have no abortion providers. A consistent Religious Right rallying cry in recent years has been to “defund Planned Parenthood,” with no apparent regard for the impact on women who count on the organization for basic medical care. Last year, seven states restricted or barred family planning funds from going to Planned Parenthood or any health center that provides abortion care.    

Kazin believes it is “exceedingly unlikely” that a President Romney would sign a draconian anti-abortion bill. Why is that? Romney has said repeatedly that he believes life begins “at conception” and would back efforts to enshrine that in law or even in the Constitution. It’s true, as Kazin notes, that Mississippi voters recently rejected a “personhood” amendment. But just this week every GOP candidate except Romney took part in an event organized by PersonhoodUSA  -- at which it wasn’t sufficient for candidates to repeat the “at conception” dogma. They had to agree that legal rights begin at the sperm-meets-egg moment. That this extreme and hugely problematic principle is embraced by presidential contenders is a clear sign of the Religious Right’s continuing influence.   

 
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