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July 03, 2014 4:34 PM No, the Christian Right Still Not Dying

By Ed Kilgore

At Lunch Buffet, I accidentally linked to a Damon Linker column arguing that liberals should accept the Hobby Lobby decision instead of a Damon Linker column a day later that argues the decision is a sign of weakness—and perhaps of imminent death—for the Christian Right. Commenters had some fun beating up on the first column, so I’ll deal with the second.

I would never risk underestimating my friend Damon’s understanding of the Christian Right. But in this case, I think it may be a matter of perspective. Damon looks at the rapid proliferation of antichoice legislation at the state level and sees a movement that can no longer assert itself nationally. I see a movement that will assert itself nationally if and when a Republican president and Republican-controlled Congress make federal legislation—and/or a sure fifth vote on the Supreme Court for the overturning of Roe v. Wade—possible. Damon looks at the “religious liberty” campaign exemplified by the Hobby Lobby litigation and sees a weak, defensive band of Christian conservatives seeking “merely to protect itself against a newly aggressive form of secular social liberalism.” I see a ploy to vitiate the right to choose—via a strategy of what I’ve called “aggressive separatism”—that in no way detracts from the Christian Right’s ultimate intention to impose its “values” on society as a whole.

Damon’s obviously right that on the marriage equality issue the Christian Right is losing the battle (unless the Supreme Court provides it with a temporary comeback with a decision reversing all the lower-court rulings invalidating state same-sex marriage bans) and quite possibly the war. I suspect they will soon retreat to a posture of separating religious from civil marriages and treating only the latter as “real,” and it’s not entirely clear they’re going to lose the fight for protecting their “right” to discriminate against LGBT folk.

But if you want a real test of whether Damon’s right and I’m wrong, look at the Republican Party. Until such time as it separates its policy views from slavish obedience to Christian Right doctrine—which has in no way happened yet other than some vague and occasional talk about “downplaying social issues”—then the idea the Christian Right is losing real political power, much less “dying,” strikes me as completely unsubstantiated. We’re still one Republican-controlled presidential election cycle from the Christian Right being in a strong position to dictate to the rest of us on a significant range of subjects.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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