Archive for the ‘marriage equality’ Category
Yesterday, I published a commentary at Women’s eNews titled: U.S. Religions Quietly Launch a Sexual Revolution. Its about how the Religious Institute, a progressive religious think tank has issued a 46 page manifesto about breaking the silence in religious communities about a host of sexuality issues; and although many mainstream religious institutions have a long way to go, many have also come a long way.
Unsurprisingly, the manifesto was immediately denounced by Religious Right leader Dr. Albert Mohler, the fundamentalist president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
A discussion is busting out all over the blogosphere, well not quite all over, but its getting around. Sarah Posner’s article at Religion Dispatches catalyzed what is probably the first full blown conversation about the role of what Digby terms “the religious industrial complex.” Sarah got the ball rolling by pointing out that the courting of moderate and religious right evangelicals by Beltway Insiders is not to be confused with building a Religious Left. She contrasts thier perspective with those of some of the contributors to Dispatches from the Religious Left.
For those just joining us, pastordan posted a link-filled round-up of the conversation so far — while taking it all further as well. Then, over the weekend, fellow Dispatches contributor Shai Sachs weighed-in at the mega-political blog, MyDD.
When we launched Dispatches from the Religious Left, we hoped to catalyze a wide-ranging conversation about the state of the religious left; how it could become more politically dynamic; how it could become greater than the sum of its parts. The role of the religious industrial complex is an important part of the conversation. If we allow a small group of moderate evangelical authors and pastors and a gaggle of Democratic political consultants, and like-minded journalists to define it, we will have a Religious Left that is little more than an electoral and public policy arm of the moderately conservative wing of the Democratic Party. Suffice to say, it will be highly contained, never prophetic, and not very progressive. Shai writes:
…rather than mimicking the Religious Industrial Complex, I think the Religious Left needs to come up with its own structures for making the basic point that that there is a large and growing bloc of voters sympathetic to the beliefs and values of religious progressives, and that it is possible to win elections, and to goven with the support of that bloc.
My instinct tells me that the Religious Left will come to power through quite a different path than the Religious Industrial Complex. In particular, the progress on marriage equality in the next couple of years is going to be a proving ground. Already, the Religious Left has been out front and very active on this issue. But with the new Democratic trifecta in New York, we have the potential to make a large, pro-active, legislatively-won gain on this issue, in a huge and important state. The shape of religious lobbying in that battle will be quite different than the defensive posture taken in the battle to resist Goodridge overrides in Massachusetts, and I think (or hope, in any case) that it will help create a new class of political operators, capable of gathering and wielding progressive religious support.
Pastordan nails it (or at least one of many very important its) over at Street Prophets today. In discusing how the immoderate Rick Warren has endorsed Proposition 8 that would repeal marriage equality in California, pastordan succinctly describes the elephant on the table that is one of the obstacles to clear thinking, informed conversation and good strategy in response to the Religious Right.
There is much more to say on this, but before we go there, let’s also note that today is Write to Marry Day in support of marriage equality in California and in oppositon to the Religious Right’s infamous Prop 8. Here is the original press release calling on bloggers to highlight this important battle on their blogs today. (What we used to call a “blog swarm.”) With less than a week to go, the No on 8 campaign needs financial help to compete with the enormous financial advantage of the coalition of theocrats seeking to impose their particiular religious view of marriage on everyone else. You can contribute via Act Blue.
Of course, no need to bother with all this if you are part of the Alfred E. Neuman School of Beltway Insiderism. When it comes to such things, all you have to say is “What Me Worry?” Afer all the Religious Right is dead or severly diminished, and therefore The End of the Culture Wars is at Hand! So when it comes to initiatives sponsored by the dead or dying Religious Right that feature leading wedge issues of the so-called culture wars of the last generation, nothing to worry about… right?
The real problem here is the endless parade of Religious-Industrial Complex consultants and activists who tell us that Rick Warren is the epitome of the “moderate Evangelical” that Democrats should be working to attract. The only problem is, it doesn’t work. Cameron Strang – who was supposed to pray at the Democratic Convention in Denver – is now on the board of Oral Roberts University. Randy Brinson worked for Mike Huckabee this spring and runs what’s left of Alabama’s chapter of the Christian Coalition. Joel Hunter endorsed Huckabee in the primaries, and has pledged himself to “maintaining a socially conservative platform”. Even the venerable Jim Wallis won’t describe himself as part of a “religious left.” Moving away from strictly Evangelicals, Doug Kmiec is still an authoritarian Catholic.
Ever since 2004, we’ve been treated to a parade of icons like this with the pledge that while they may be socially conservative, they’re good on poverty or the environment or whatever, and Dems should do whatever they can to bring them into the fold. Meanwhile, they go on being social conservatives at best happy to jettison a progressive social agenda in favor of poverty reduction, if not actually undermine it.
This is so very well put. And because it is, I want to repeat what I told Bill Berkowitz in an interview with Religion Dispatches last summer. We need to be very clear about what is at stake:
Bill Berkowitz: Rick Warren, the much celebrated and talked about pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, interviewed Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain on Saturday, August 16. Before and after the event, Warren’s Civic Forum received a lot of media attention. Many in the media have anointed Warren as representing the new face of Christian evangelicals; creating a new movement that not only distances itself from the old timers of the Religious Right, but one that is setting a new agenda for evangelicals. How do you view Warren’s work and where does he fit within the broad constellation of religious leaders?
Frederick Clarkson: Four years ago, Rick Warren wrote an inflammatory letter about the presidential contest to thousands of evangelical pastors. This letter revealed him to be a fierce partisan, who epitomized the worst aspects of the Religious Right. He declared five issues to be “non-negotiable” and those “are not even debatable because God’s word is clear on these issues.’” These included abortion, same sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and euthanasia. He later said he regretted the letter but that he had not changed his views.
While he is a skilled showman, he is unable to sustain moderation in style or in substance even before a national television audience. His real self leaks out. At the Civic Forum, Warren highlighted the top two litmus tests of the Religious Right–abortion and same sex marriage, and described abortion as a “holocaust.”
Following this he called on his audience not to “demonize” people with whom they may disagree–having just compared people who have a different view on abortion to the Nazis. In my view, Warren is an emerging leader of the Religious Right in transition, not of evangelical moderation.
I added: …I think this is also about marginalizing the role and voice of religious progressives, which is to say those who in past decades played decisive roles in stopping the war in Vietnam, pushing for African American and women’s rights, and much more. The Beltway Insiders would prefer not to have a resurgent Religious Left complicating things by making conservative evangelicals uncomfortable and perhaps more importantly, compelling significant changes in the way the politics and public policy industry does business. So I think a faux Religious Left is being manufactured as an official counterweight to the Religious Right in the media and as a sop to the actual stirrings among religious progressives.
Religious progressives are indeed a counterweight to the Religious Right and are far better gounded in important matters such as poverty, AIDS and climate change than the me too squad of conservative Catholics and evangelicals currently being promoted by Beltway Insiders in the service of short term political advantage. Religious progressives are pro-marriage quality, pro-choice and pro-separation of church and state. The immoderate conservative evagelicals being recruited to the party by people who really ought to know better, mostly are not.
Thanks to the urgent efforts of the religious right, the anti-marriage equality amendment is on the ballot in California is narrowly ahead in recent polls. And we should expect a fierce battle to the finish. Longtime Religious Right leader Chuck Colson calls the California initiative “the armaggeddon of the culture war.” Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage says “This is ground zero in a culture war that the California Supreme Court just declared on Christianity and every single faith.”
Meanwhile in Connecticut, a referendum held every 20 years as to whether a sate constitutional convention should be held, coincidentally is being held this year, and opponents of marriage equality are urging a “yes” vote in order to try to make it easier to change the constitution regarding marriage, and thereby overturn the decision of the state Supreme Court. The effort ggained momentum when the state’s Catholic Bishops urged a “yes” vote, making statewide news.
As these battles are being fought, there are lessons to be learned along the way — even as Beltway Insiders keep claiming, all evidence to the contrary not withstanding, that the culture wars are over or are fading, and that the religious right is dead, or in precipitous decline. These kinds of thought-stopping declarations tend to prevent us from having the kinds of conversations we actually need to be having about political reality.
While is not clear whether the CT constitutional convention measure will pass, it does enjoy the support of a number of groups such as the Connecticut Family Institute (the state political arm of Focus on the Family Action) as well as GOP Gov. Jodi Rell. It is also not clear that if it did pass, the convention would take up the issue of marriage equality. But no matter what happens, the issue promises to remain alive in CT politics for the forseeable future.
As it happens, I featured an essay about some of the lessons of the Massachusetts experience in Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America. The essay is authored by Leo Maley, a longtime political, labor, and yes, community organizer. He currently chairs the Amherst, MA Democratic Town Committee. Here are a few quotes from his piece:
The back-story of this historic civil and human rights victory is the role of over 1,000 clergy–and numerous laypersons–who, in publicly supporting marriage equality, powerfully reframed the same-sex marriage debate in a way that helped lead to this major progressive achievement. However, the historic Goodridge decision is not the achievement I am talking about. Instead, the victory to which religious progressives contributed so significantly was the dramatic showdown vote in the state legislature in 2006 that headed off a state-wide ballot question designed to undo Goodridge and thus write discrimination into the Massachusetts constitution. This success story should embolden and inspire progressive religious activists as a model for organizing on this issue over the long haul…
In June 2006, RCFM [the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry] publicly confronted what it called the “bigotry espoused in the name of faith,” by releasing an open letter that charged the Catholic Church with “religious discrimination” for trying to deny legal recognition to marriages conducted by clergy of other faiths. (Keep in mind that Catholics comprise fully half of the population in Massachusetts, and over two-thirds of state legislature.) The letter declared that “By proclaiming homosexuality and same-sex unions to be universally immoral and worthy of second-class status under state law, you are sending a message that our faith communities are immoral. You are harming us and our families and your own faithful as well.”
RCFM also gathered thousands of signatures from pro-equality Catholics on a “Roman Catholic Statement Supporting Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples in Massachusetts” which emphasized the “danger of one religious tradition or doctrine dominating another,” and affirmed the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. The Statement recalled that Roman Catholics were once denied civil rights, argued that Catholic social justice teachings called for respect, “not merely tolerance,” and reminded the public that “same-sex civil marriage does not in any way coerce any religious faith or tradition to change its beliefs or doctrine.” RCFM’s challenge to the Catholic Church’s anti-equality stance was critical. And the courage and integrity of the religious leaders who stood up for what they believed, and effectively organized on behalf of their convictions, made a crucial difference in preserving marriage equality in Massachusetts.
His essay ought to be of immediate use in states where marriage equality is an issue, and for the forseeable future. It is worth bearing in mind Colson also said (as reported by Church & State):
“This is where if we lose, it would be very hard to turn the ship right again,” said Colson, according to a report in Charisma, a leading Pentecostal magazine. “If we win, we might start rolling back the other side. This is a major, major struggle, and we should spare nothing in defining marriage the way every civilization has as the union of one man and one woman joined together as one flesh, as we believe in the Scripture in order to procreate.”
Host Francesca Rheannon of Writer’s Voice discusses Dispatches from the Religious Left with contributor Leo Maley and me, focusing on models for political organizing — notably that of Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts and the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry. This Friday at 4:30 PM, on WMUA-FM at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Over at Blue Mass Group, Lynne reports that Jamie Eldridge a progressive MA candidate for state sentate has learned that religious right leaders from the Massachusetts Family Institute (the MA political arm of Focus on the Family) are bankrolling anti-marriage equality candidates for the state legislature. Indeed that’s what their Massachusetts Independent PAC is for. It claims to have spent several hundred thousand dollars on candidates over the past ten years.
Over in the right column, you’ll find the list of contributors to Dispatches from the Religious Left with online bios. The only contributor without one available online is Leo Maley, who authored an important essay, Organizing Clergy for Marriage Equality in Massachusetts, which describes the pivotal role of progressive clergy in this successful effort, and a few of the key lessons learned. Here is his bio as it appears in the book:
Leo Maley has worked as a union and political organizer, university lecturer, and think tank researcher. He has been a columnist for the Amherst Bulletin as well as a cohost of public affairs programs on Amherst community access TV and on WMUA-FM. His articles syndicated by History News Service have appeared in major newspapers around the country. He is one of the founders of Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts; is a member of the board of Casino Free Massachusetts; and currently chairs the Amherst Democratic Town Committee. He is a graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.
One of the current fashions emanating from Inside the Beltway is the declaration that the “culture war is over,” and in the case of E.J. Dionne, that it is the wrong war to be fought. The currency of such proclamations may not last long. They are variations on the old saw that the religious right is dead, dying, over the hill, and so on. There are analyses to be made about the State of the Religious Right, which is certainly in a state of turmoil and transition, in the wake of the passing of the founding generation from public life. But any analysis whose central premise is any of the above, is probably wishful thinking, at best.
The time is not to kid ourselves with wishful thinking, but to be clear about the current nature and capacities of the religious right; staying aware of the direction of the religious right’s issues, organizations and electoral campaigns, and making any necessary adjustments.
Here is an example from today’s news: one of the most divisive issues of the culture war, marriage equality, is now before the California Supreme Court. It’s as high profile a case as they come; and in the largest state in the union; and it may well be decided prior to the November elections. The case will be heard on March 4th.
The San Francisco Chronicle has a helpful article about how religious institutions on both sides have lined up with amicus briefs in this case. This is important as the arguments made by these groups (as well as many others) will inform the battles to come in this area, and may very well serve as helpful briefings for candidates, staff and consultants.
The Chronicle reports:
As the state Supreme Court prepares for a three-hour hearing March 4 on the constitutionality of a state law allowing only opposite-sex couples to marry, the justices have been flooded with written arguments from advocates on both sides – including two large contingents of religious organizations with sharply differing views.
On one side are the Mormon church, the California Catholic Conference, the National Association of Evangelicals and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations. They describe marriage between a man and a woman as “the lifeblood of community, society and the state” and say any attempt by the courts to change that would create “deep tensions between civil and religious understandings of that institution.”
On the other side are the Unitarians, the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Soka Gakkai branch of Buddhism, and dissident groups of Mormons, Catholics and Muslims. Saying their faiths and a wide range of historical traditions honor same-sex unions, they argue that the current law puts the state’s stamp of approval on “the religious orthodoxy of some sects concerning who may marry.”
Raoul Kennedy, the attorney for the plaintiffs said, according to the Chronicle:
“… same-sex marriages were recognized by the Christian church in the fifth century, were observed among natives by the first Spanish explorers in the Americas, were common among the Mojave Indians of the Colorado River in southeastern California, and have been documented in more than 230 African tribes.
Besides religious denominations, Kennedy’s clients include about 80 churches and temples in California and more than 250 clergy members, some of whom perform same-sex weddings despite the state’s refusal to recognize them.
“By sanctioning only marriages between a man and a woman, the state relegates the beliefs and practices of (these) religions, denominations and clergy to second-class status,” Kennedy said. He argued that such treatment violates the California Constitution’s guarantee of “free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference,” language that state courts have interpreted as separating church and state more strictly than the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Further info on the case can be found on the web site of the California Supreme Court.
All of the amicus briefs can be found here.
It is not clear when the court will rule on the case, however, there is the possibility that the ruling will come before the November election, and of course, then be an animating campaign issue, just as it was when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision on marriage equality in the run-up to the 2004 elections.
So, let’s not be lulled into complacency. The issues that animate the culture wars are alive and well and are not going away, and neither are the active players. The LGTB civil rights movement will continue to go forward, and the reactionary institutions of the religious right and several generations of trained activists will carry on as well. We can also reasonably expect that the Republican Party and its religoius right allies will skillfully exploit the issue (as they have in the past) if it should come up.
I think that the question that we Democrats at all levels need to answer for ourselves is — will we be ready if the California Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality?