Religious Right Still Potent in GOP Circles, Buffoonish Elsewhere

With the rise of Mike Huckabee to the top of polls in the race for the Republican nomination for president, the pile of candidates rejected by the religious right is a roster of formerly regarded GOP front-runners or political saviors: Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson.

[John McCain's recently acquired Joe-mentum is a joke, and McCain, of the top four Republican candidates, remains the least acceptable to the religious right, as he deviates slightly from being mean-spirited and dogmatic.]

So, will Huckabee sustain his frontrunner status, propped up by the religious right?

Let's hope so, because the religious right has worn out its welcome among the center of American politics.

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Hey Mitt, thanks for the warning!!!

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project& My Left Wing

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The Romney Inquisition Approaches

In his speech the other day defending his Mormonism, Mitt Romney tied himself together with other religions, but failed to say that he was campaigning for those non-believers who are atheists or agnostics. In fact he said about non-believers:

"It is as if they're intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They're wrong."

This was very different from the Kennedy speech of almost 5 decades ago when JFK, defending the fact that he was Catholic, supported the separation of church and state and made it clear he was running on behalf of ALL Americans.

Romney has made himself an attachment to the religious conservatives who want to establish their beliefs as PART of government. So what will happen to the secularists?

Well... he knows they're wrong. They cannot be part of a unified belief like a religionist.

That leaves folks like me questioning what the next stage will be if someone like Romney or, gosh!, Huckabee gets elected.

Will schools no longer teach evolution in biology?
Will carbon dating be rejected beyond, say, six thousand years?
Will the universe become a short order on the menu of eternity?

What happened to keeping religion out of government?

Under The LobsterScope

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Religion and the Presidency

Mitt Romney is going to make his "Kennedy Speech" today to offset the question his Mormon Religion has brought up. Unlike Kennedy, however, who made a clear distinction between church and state, Romney apparently is of the new political thinking that religion is important as part of the candidacy.

This is upsetting for more than a small number of reasons.

I listened to an analyst on C-Span this morning discussing the situation... how, in the 50s and 60s Protestants hated Catholics, and it was Kennedy's need to disable this position. By stressing that church was indeed completely separated from state, Kennedy accomplished his purposes. Now, 47 years later, Protestants and Catholics have come to a detente... but they seem to hate Mormons... and even worse, they hate Secularists and Non-Believers.

This says to me, as I have thought for some time, that "hate" and "religion" go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other.

Church and state have lost a lot of their separation. Candidacies are pushed in the pulpit like never before (and yet religions still maintain their tax-free status... think about it). Candidates go out of their way to push their religions. Obama has been accused, falsely, of being a Muslim, and so he goes out on a campaign crusade with an anti-gay preacher. I'll have to hand it to Kucinich who doesn't even list a religious affiliation, but he's the only one.

I would give almost anything to get back to an America where church and state were as far apart as the Founding Fathers wanted. It doesn't seem likely.

Under The LobsterScope

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The causes of political shifts in the evangelical movement

Last week, Faith in Public Life and Third Way released a study, Come, Let us Reason Together (PDF).  The study has been the subject of a fairly intense back-and-forth debate with pastordan at Street Prophets, mostly about the partisan implications of the study, and what we (as progressives, or as Democrats, take your pick) should do about it.

One of the most interesting findings of the report are that evangelicals can be decomposed, politically, into three groups: progressive (about one-fifth of evangelicals), moderate (one-third), and conservative/traditionalist (one-half).  Despite these ideological monikers, the group is every bit as conservative in voting behaviors as we've otherwise heard: 88% of conservative evangelicals, 64% of centrists, and 48% of progressive evangelicals voted for Bush.  By contrast, 43% of self-described moderates, and 14% of self-described liberals, voted for Bush in 2004, according to CNN's 2004 exit polls.  It's not their voting habits, but their positions on cultural and economic issues which make some evangelicals "progressive" and "moderate", according to Third Way.

Now, this may or may not be a political opportunity for Democrats.  The 2006 exit poll results, in which 74% of evangelicals voted for Congressional Republicans (compared to 78% support for Bush in 2004) certainly don't suggest as much: in a Democratic wave election, evangelicals are still heavily pro-Republican.  But the evangelical world is changing slowly, and it's at least theoretically possible that there may be some long-term potential in this group.

The cause of that slow change interests me much more than the effects of the change, revealed in voting patterns and poll responses.  Why are evangelicals suddenly beginning to speak out against the war, for the environment, and for the poor?  What is going on, in the Sunday sermons and the small group ministries of evangelical churches, which is producing this shift?

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