Why we cannot underestimate the fundnuts – 2008 ‘accomplishments’
Frederick Clarkson has a great piece up, “The Religious Right isn’t going anywhere,” that gives a roundup some of the more rancid fundnut activities in 2008, along with commentary that these creationism proponents and bedroom and womb peepers will continue the culture wars for years to come, focusing on throwing up roadblocks at the state level, since they aren’t going to get much accomplished at the federal level with the regime change. Here are his Snapshots from the Culture War in the States this year:
* Anti-marriage-equality initiatives prevailed in Arizona, Florida and California in 2008. Fueled with funding from politically animated Mormons, Catholics and Protestant evangelicals at the urging of religious leaders, the initiatives passed, and for the first time in American history, rolled back a court-ordered civil rights advance.
* While Rhode Island and New York recognize the validity of same-sex marriages from other states, the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act allows states to refuse to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages. The Supreme Court has so far declined to hear constitutional challenges to DOMA. So far, 30 states have passed anti-marriage-equality initiatives; and 10 states passed statutory DOMAs.
* New York and New Jersey: The conservative religious coalition that passed the stunning reversal on marriage equality in California plans to take the battle to these eastern states.
* Constitutional Convention initiative in Connecticut: Every 20 years, the state is required to have an initiative asking the voters if it is time for a state constitutional convention. Following the state’s Supreme Court legalization of same-sex marriage, the Religious Right and the Catholic Church seized on the initiative, purchasing a large, last-minute TV ad campaign. While this effort was unsuccessful, we can expect further battles in Connecticut.
* Failed efforts to get other anti-abortion or anti-gay initiatives on the ballot: Montana, Arkansas and Massachusetts. Even in losing, the Religious Right has considerable capacity to keep its issues on the front burner.
* Texas: The elected State Board of Education appointed three prominent “intelligent design” advocates to a six-member science-review panel. The chairman of the SBOE wrote in an op-ed, “Science education has become a culture war issue” and that the claims of scientists “will be challenged by creationists.”
More below the fold.
* Alabama: The State Board of Education, under pressure from the Religious Right, recently approved a controversial Bible study curriculum as an elective.
* Louisiana: In 2008, the legislature approved the use of “supplemental” materials in public schools, that appears to open a backdoor to the use of creationism and intelligent design materials banned from science curricula by the U.S. Supreme Court.
* Kansas: Control over the elected State Board of Education has flipped back and forth between the Religious Right and moderate Democrats and Republicans since the late 1990s. In 2010, five seats are expected to be contested.
* Iowa: Shortly after the 2008 presidential election, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Religious Right Roman Catholic, headlined a high-dollar fundraiser for the Iowa Family Policy Center, the state political affiliate of Focus on the Family. The event was seen as a foreshadowing of the 2012 Iowa presidential caucuses.
* Alaska: Republican Gov. Sarah Palin, who was vetted by the Religious Right-dominated Council for National Policy and forced onto the Republican Party presidential ticket, has emerged as a party leader along with such Religious Right figures as Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (currently a Fox News program host and a former presidential candidate) and, arguably, Mitt Romney (a Mormon who has moved toward the Religious Right since serving as governor of Massachusetts).
Clarkson’s message in the rest of his piece underscores the need for all of us to continue to take these battles with the professional “Christian” set seriously, because even if history is on our side when it comes to the culture wars, the religious right can make our lives miserable for many of us by pouring cash into states where they can capitalize on ignorance and institutionalized bigotry.
Pat Buchanan was right. There is a religious war going on in America in which one side seeks to thwart, and even to roll back, advances in civil rights. This poses one of the central challenges of our time for those of us who are not part of the Religious Right; those of us for whom religious pluralism and constitutional democracy matter, along with such closely related matters as reproductive freedom, marriage equality and free, quality and secular public education. The defense and advance of our most deeply held values requires our holding clear-eyed assessments of how the Religious Right adapts to the changed political environment. And in order to do this, we must view announcements of the death of the Religious Right and the end of the culture wars, with considerable skepticism, every time.