No, the religious right hasn't gone the way of the dodo bird. No, it's not extinct. No, it's not somehow distinct from the tea party movement that is now indistinguishable from the Republican party itself.
These are all points that Fred Clarkson makes very well yesterday in a piece at Talk to Action linking to an essay Simon Brown has just published in Church and State. I like, in particular, a point that Fred has made in the past and which he reiterates very clearly in his latest statement at Talk to Action: this is that the American religious right has received an infusion of new blood due to the deliberate decision of the U.S. Catholic bishops to ally themselves with the evangelical right in an even more direct and bellicose way after Barack Obama was elected to the presidency.
Earlier this year, I published a report in The Public Eye about the historic convergence in the politics of the protestant evangelical Christian Right and the Roman Catholic Bishops. This convergence, decades in the making, fully emerged in the publication of the 2009 manifesto, The Manhattan Declaration, in which more than 50 Catholic Bishops and such familiar Christian Right figures as Tony Perkins, James Dobson and Samuel Rodriguez expressed solidarity to the point of civil disobedience on three interrelated matters: life, marriage, and religious liberty. In that order.
Why don't the U.S. bishops under the leadership of Timothy Dolan want to survey American Catholics about their views re: contraception, same-sex marriage, and divorce? They don't want to do so because they have made a bargain with the devil by entering into an overtly partisan alliance with other U.S. religious groups for whom the GOP is God's anointed party and President Obama is in league with the devil. "Discovering" that a majority of U.S. Catholics disagree with them about contraception and same-sex marriage and consider their absurd Fortnight for Freedom protests a colossal waste of time and a sinful misallocation of resources, would make waves for that alliance that now drives much that the bishops do and think.
As the bishops and their right-wing evangelical allies know full well, their movement continues to have traction insofar as they can convince those who oppose the president on any and all grounds to try to attack the Affordable Care Act by filing lawsuits maintaining that even private employers should have the right to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees on grounds of conscience. The deplorable decision yesterday by a conservative D.C. appeals court that a private Ohio food company has the right to refuse contraceptive coverage to its employees because the owners object to contraception demonstrates this traction.
And it demonstrates the success that the Catholic bishops and their evangelical allies have had and will continue to have in many quarters in lying about the contraceptives covered by the ACA as abortifacients. The religious right movement continues, in other words, to have political success that is focused quite specifically on undermining the current president in as many ways as possible by organizing acts of dissent--one lawsuit after another, for example--designed to inflict injury on the administration by as many wounds, large and small, as may be inflicted.
Further evidence that the religious right remains alive and kicking as a viable force driving the whole Republican enterprise? Tom Delay is b-a-a-a-a-c-k. And he's on a mission from God.
The U.S. Catholic bishops should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.