Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me: The Hard Life of the Persecuted Religious Right

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

You have to feel sorry for a group of people with such a persecution complex that they are convinced that everyone is against them, despite the fact that their political party of choice controls the White House, both chambers of Congress, and the U.S. Supreme Court. But that's still not enough--people are still out to get them! The latest bunch of evildoers bent on the destruction of family values, tax cuts for the rich, and everything else the religious right holds dear is that most dastardly of villains, the federal court judge. According to paragon of virtue Tom DeLay, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the Family Research Council, James Dobson, and others, federal judges as a group are doing their best to undermine conservative American values, and they must be stopped, by any means necessary.

This critique of federal judges, including the U.S. Supreme Court, seems to overlook the fact that the majority of federal judges, including seven of the nine current Supreme Court justices, were appointed by Republicans. What DeLay et al. are really saying is that now that they control the Republican party, it's time to purge the party of all so-called liberals and moderates (a.k.a. "squishy Republicans"), so that the party reflects the hard-right stance of people such as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and DeLay himself.

In the light of the success that the religious right has had since the time of Ronald Reagan, it might seem inconceivable that some of them would still whine about being persecuted for their beliefs, but at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, last Sunday, that's exactly what they did. Bill Frist, in a taped message played to the church's congregation (and a national audience) on the Family Research Council's self-proclaimed "Justice Sunday", urged voters to let their representatives know that they oppose the Democratic filibuster of some of President Bush's judicial nominees. What does a Senate rule have to do with the persecution of religious conservatives, you ask? Everything, according to James Dobson, the religious right leader who made news a few weeks ago by criticizing Sponge Bob and decrying the teaching of tolerance. He accused the Supreme Court of unleashing "judicial tyranny to people of faith" because of their ungodly decisions (i.e., those decisions with which Dobson disagrees). The Family Research Council similarly described the Democratic tactic as a "filibuster against people of faith."

These statements are disingenuous at best, paranoid at worst. In a nation that is overwhelmingly Christian and that, despite the Constitution's prohibition of a religious test as a qualification for office, rarely elects people to high office who are not adherents of a major religious tradition, "people of faith" are not under attack in America. Far from it, according to Salmon Rushdie, who in a recent New York Times article claims that a professing atheist could never be elected to a statewide or national office. People of faith make up the majority of people in this country, and they run the country as well. They are schoolteachers, accountants, construction workers, lawyers, and doctors. They are judges, members of congress, city council representatives, and justices of the peace. They are conservatives, moderates, and liberals. They are Democrats and Republicans--yes, and Greens and Libertarians as well. They are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and others.

Wake up James Dobson! You are not persecuted, and neither am I! Instead of hunkering down in a bunker mentality because a handful of judges are opposed on political grounds by (gasp!) politicians, why not encourage people of goodwill on both sides of the aisle to work together to find judges that both sides can live with? Or is such an attitude too tolerant?

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