Conservatives and the religious right continue to warn people that the godless and secular humanists are a threat to America. But a reasonable person can read and see the opposite is true. In fact conservatives find a friend in the religious right by heating up religious divisiveness because it allows them to get their pro-business agenda through Congress.
It happens almost daily. Someone’s dissent of government policy is meant with a flurry of reaction from members of the religious right. Those who support the rights of women, the poor, and the separation of church and state are harassed, called names, and in some cases threatened with physical violence.
It is almost as if we live in Taliban America.
Look at the issue of federal judge appointments.
The right has been trying to stack the federal bench with ideologues that would rule in their favor on cases that come before them. One way they have tried to do this is to complain about “activist judges”. That is their code for “they rule against us”.
Recently the rhetoric has become more toxic. The right now is saying the judiciary is the root of all evil and when there were couple of incidents where one judge’s husband and mother were murdered and a judge in Atlanta was shot and killed in the court room, conservatives and the religious right were on the “I told you so” band wagon.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), rambling on from the Senate floor about activist judges, said, “We seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that has been on the news.
“I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds and builds to the point where some people engage in violence, certainly without any justification, but that is a concern I have that I wanted to share.”
You may also recall the words of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), speaking out after judges refused to order Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube reconnected.
DeLay sparked an uproar when he said “the time will come” for federal judges to “answer for their behavior” in not ordering the feeding tube reinserted. He also said there was an “arrogant, out-of-control, unaccountable judiciary.”
On May 1, the Rev. Pat Robertson was discussing on ABC’s “This Week” how liberal activist judges are “destroying the fabric that holds our nation together.”
Asked if the culture wars were a more serious threat than the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center, Robertson said, “If you look over the course of a hundred years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that’s held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings.”
Of course the charge of “activist” judges was simply not true in both cases. One of the parties were unhappy about the judges rulings and in the Schiavo case, the judge, a Baptist and Republican, was enforcing Florida law.
Here is a sample of some of the special rights, the religious right have obtained:
* Bush’s “faith-based initiatives” pour billions into religious groups, although these organizations cannot supply even a fraction of the social services formerly provided by the government itself. The $20 billion allocated to them for the next 10 years is less than what the federal government used to spend annually on Aid for Dependent Children alone.
* The faith-based groups can refuse to hire gays, employ only Christians, and deny social services to anyone who won’t participate in daily prayers and Bible readings—discriminatory practices defended by the Justice Department although countless lawsuits are pending.
* “Pro-choice” John Kerry and zealot Rick Santorum are joint sponsors of a Senate bill to legalize pharmacists’ refusal to fill prescriptions for birth control and emergency contraception that “violate their beliefs.” Four states already have such laws; in other states, pharmacies restrict women’s access to these drugs by not stocking them.
* The House approved a bill making it a federal crime to avoid parental consent laws by taking minors across state lines for an abortion. Senate approval is expected.
* Abstinence-only programs are the only sex “education” for which federal money can be used, even though teenagers in these programs have the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases.
* Teachers in a dozen states cannot legally mention evolution unless “creationist” or “intelligent design” theory is presented as equally valid.
* In April, a Washington state bill to prohibit anti-gay discrimination was defeated for the 29th time in as many years. Microsoft Corporation dropped its long-standing support for the bill under threat of a boycott by a local evangelical preacher. (A backlash caused Microsoft to reverse course two weeks later, after the bill had already died.)
* Although same-sex civil unions are now legal in a few states, right-wing appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court are pending.
If that doesn’t crush the complaint that the secular and godless are ruining America, how about this bit from the same article:
Fundamentally, the goals of the right wing are economic, and their sights are now set on the judiciary. As legal theorist Richard Epstein asserts, “There are many blatantly inappropriate statutes that cry out for a quick and easy kill”—including the minimum wage, Social Security, and laws governing the environment, occupational safety, and child labor.
Two of Bush’s now confirmed nominees for lifetime federal judgeships, who have invariably ruled in favor of business, are Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen.
Currently on the California Supreme Court, Janice Rogers Brown is an African American with a long record of rulings against affirmative action and anti-discrimination laws. She assails the New Deal of the 1930s, which created Social Security, as “the triumph of our socialist revolution.”
At an April meeting of Catholic legal professionals, Brown tagged opponents of Bush’s nominees as atheists and secularists hostile to religious traditions. This witch-hunting intimidation tactic, reminiscent of McCarthy-era red-baiting, is becoming standard for religious rightists and those currying their favor.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, for example, attacked Senate Democrats trying to block Bush’s nominees as “against people of faith” in a videotaped address to an April 25 rally of right-wing churches in Louisville, Kentucky. In the same speech, Frist specifically went to bat for Priscilla Owen, a Texas Supreme Court judge elected with the help of donations from large corporations including Enron—obligations she consistently repays from the bench.
So while the GOP and their religious right friends put up the smoke screen, big business is taking us to the cleaners.
The next time someone complains about atheists wanting to remove “God” from the public square you better make sure conservatives aren’t stealing your wallet at the same time.