Several days ago, I predicted that the phony "religious freedom" drama Reverend Mike Huckabee and Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel have been staging with Kim Davis in Kentucky was going to backfire on the U.S. religious right. I cited Mark Joseph Stern who had noted what a "terrible poster girl" Ms. Davis has been for the religious right and its faux "religious freedom" crusade. And I stated,
Having seen that show staged by Rev. Huckabee and Mr. Staver using Kim Davis, what can any person of sound conscience and with eyes in her head (and much sense at all) say except, "If this is what religious freedom is all about, I'm not sure I want anything to do with it."
Evidence that I may have been right in my prediction is to be found in a national poll conducted by Washington Post and ABC from 7-10 September. As David Badash emphasizes, this poll shows three in four American registered voters condemning Ms. Davis's behavior. Its results appear to confirm that the religious and political right made a very bad choice when they made Kim Davis their "religious freedom" poster girl. As Mark Joseph Stern indicates at Slate yesterday,
[T]he new poll cannot be encouraging for those conservatives who have struggled to elevate Christians' right to discriminate over gay people's right to equal dignity. Kim Davis showed Americans what happens when someone values religion over the rule of law. If this poll is any indication, they didn't like what they saw.
Delve more carefully into the breakdown of the polling results at the WaPo page I link in the preceding paragraph, and you discover another fascinating piece of information. The polling data are broken down according to the religious background of those polled. In the graphic at the top of the page (a screenshot from the WaPo paged linked above), note the breakdown (by religious groups) in response to the following question:
In general, when there's a conflict between (someone's religious beliefs) and (the need to treat everyone equally under the law), which do you think is more important?
82% of white non-evangelical Protestants, 79% of white Catholics, and 90% of those reporting no religious affiliation opt for treating everyone equally under the law in situations where there's such a conflict. But 47% of white evangelicals move in the opposite direction: they prioritize the right to deny goods and services to others in the name of religious belief over the obligation to treat everyone equally.
The poll also asked,
As you may know, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry. Nonetheless a county clerk in Kentucky has refused to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, saying she objects on religious grounds. Do you think this county clerk should or should not be required to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples?
Here's the response to that question broken down by religious groups:
As other polls in the past several years are finding, white evangelicals have become the outlier group among American religious groups, vis-a-vis the question of equal rights for LGBT citizens. And this is despite the attempt of leading evangelicals including Reverend Mike Huckabee himself to disavow the religiously fueled prejudice of white evangelicals during the Civil Rights struggle in the American South, a period in which many white Southern evangelicals and their churches cited religious warrants for opposing the extension of equal rights to people of color.
As Ernie Dumas notes in an essay just published in Arkansas Times, when the desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School was being commemorated in 1997, Reverend Huckabee (then the governor of Arkansas) explicitly stated that it had been grievously wrong for white Southern churches to deny rights to African Americans during the Civil Rights struggle, and to use theological warrants to support this denial of rights. In introducing Dumas's essay, Max Brantley summarizes his point as follows:
Huckabee himself noted in 1997 that religious belief undergirded pitched opposition to desegregation. It was evil, he said. That action, too, was done wholly on account of a U.S. Supreme Court order, not an enabling statute, as Huckabee now insists must be in place for same-sex marriage before anyone need obey the U.S. Supreme Court.
Here's Dumas on the same point, noting that President Bill Clinton was present at this 1997 event:
Like Clinton, he [Reverend Huckabee] did not name [Arkansas governor Orval] Faubus as the culprit who defied the court and denied the kids their rights, but it was Huckabee's plan to make that point by, along with the president, escorting the [Little Rock] Nine into the school to contrast himself with Faubus, who had ordered troops to keep them out.
There was no trace of the 2015 Mike Huckabee, who says court orders do not matter and that religious beliefs, whatever they are, should determine whether one obeys the law. His 1997 speech actually is a clear rejoinder to the 2015 Huckabee by recalling that Southern churches had condemned "forced integration" as a violation of the Word of God.
"What***we today come to renounce," the 1997 Huckabee said, "is the fact that in many parts of the South it was the white churches that helped not only ignore the problems of racism but in many cases actually fostered those feelings and sentiments." He called on Southern churches to join Christians, Jews and Muslims around the world in saying "never, never, never, never again will we be silent when people’s rights are at stake."
And today, to his utter shame, Reverend Huckabee stands alongside Kim Davis as she mounts the very same religion-based arguments regarding her right to defy a Supreme Court ruling according rights to a long-despised minority group — the position for which Reverend Huckabee was apologizing only eight years ago as Little Rock commemorated the integration of Central High School. And, though they and their cheerleaders in the "liberal" Catholic media are being curiously silent about this, this is the very same shameful place in which the U.S. Catholic bishops have ended up through their alliance with Reverend Huckabee, Mat Staver, Kim Davis, and right-wing white evangelicals who want to use bogus "religious freedom" arguments to continue denying rights to LGBT citizens. The U.S. Catholic bishops (and the conservative Catholic men on the Supreme Court, with their Obergefell dissents) have helped to unleash this monster on America, but now that they see what it looks like in real life, they want to pretend they have had no hand in creating it.