The blog of Frederick Clarkson

Archive for the ‘Religious Right’ Category

Major New Article in The Public Eye

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When the Exception Is the Rule: Christianity in the Religious Freedom Debates is the title of a major, defining essay in the Summer issue of The Public Eye magazine, published by Political Research Associates, where I am Senior Fellow for Religious Liberty.  In this article I discuss how the Christian Right is using and abusing the tradition and Constitutional doctrine of religious freedom to advance their goals.  I wrote in part:

There will always be tensions in reconciling religious beliefs with the rights of others, but there will also always be people who will exploit the normal strains of a religiously plural society for their own political ends. The issues of the so-called culture wars have been recast as a battle over the definition of religious liberty. There is a deep, dominionist agenda in play here, with the battle over religious liberty at its cutting edge, and it is not limited to matters before the courts.

We live in theocratic times. Not in the sense that the United States has become a theocracy, but in that the uneasy theocratic coalition we refer to as the Christian Right remains one of the most powerful and dynamic religious and political movements in American history. Like any other large coalition, the interests of the main players are sometimes in conflict. But they remain bound together by a shared opposition to religious pluralism, the rights of individual conscience, and the separation of church and state.

Written by fred

July 10th, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Religious Right

Taking the Catholic Bishops/Evangelical Alliance Seriously

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Simon Brown, writing in the November 2013 issue of Church & State magazine, has picked-up on my recent article in The Public Eye.  He observes that far from the Religious Right being dead (as has been so frequently declared by people who really ought to know better) it is “alive and kicking” and epitomized by the regressive alliance between the Catholic Bishops and the Protestant evangelical Christian Right.

Written by fred

November 3rd, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Jenky Wins the Coughie

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Congratulations to Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Illinois — Winner of the 2012 Father Charles Coughlin Award.

Written by fred

December 29th, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Posted in Religious Right

Huckabee Strikes Again

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I wrote about Huck’s latest claim — that the reason for the Newtown massacre is that God does not like the so called contraception mandate, that contraception must be covered in employee health insurance packages — at Daily Kos and at Talk to Action which has been down a lot lately due to technical difficulties. If you encounter said difficulties, please be patient.

Written by fred

December 26th, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Religious Right

If you are visiting for the first time…

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Posting here at has been episodic for a long time. But one of my New Years Resolutions will be to post more frequently. Its a good discipline, but the truth is, when I get in the groove, I like it. The discipline part is secondary.

But if I am not around, I can usually be found having said something over at Talk to Actionmost recently a Christmas eve rumination about the anti-Semitic roots of claims that there is a “war on Christmas” and how that bastion of evilly secular liberal media — public radio — has a little remarked upon but remarkable quarter century Christmas broadcast tradition, which in turn has roots in the early days of broadcasting.

Written by fred

December 25th, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Albert Mohler is Worried. And He Should Be

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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.

This is a story about how, when progressives get focused, and mean what they say and say what they mean, the Religious Right loses control of the narrative.  
Much More.

Written by fred

February 25th, 2010 at 2:40 pm

When the Alfred E. Neuman School says “What, Me Worry?” — about the Religious Right

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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?

Dan writes:

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.


Written by fred

October 29th, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Would Sarah Palin Ban My Book?

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In honor of Banned Books Week, and in light of her crafty attempts to ban books at the Wasilla Public Library back in the day… it is worth thinking about. 

I would guess that she would try to axe Dispatches from the Religious Left from library shelves — what with all of discussion of sexuality — especially marriage equality – not to mention reproductive justice and fierce, convincing advocacy of religious pluralism and separation of church and state.  It’s enough to make book banners and book banner wannabes pretty hot under the collar.

I discuss this in more detail over at Talk to Action:

Written by fred

September 30th, 2008 at 5:55 pm

Lessons from the Religious Right

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I have a Guest Commentary in the new issue of Boston-based Public Eye magazine. It is adapted from my essay in Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America. Here is the first part:

The main reason why the Religious Right became powerful is not what most people may think. Some would undoubtedly point to the powerful communications media. Others might identify charismatic leaders, the development of“wedge issues,” or even changes in evangelical theology in the latter part of the twentieth century that supported, and even demanded, political action. All of these and more, especially taken together, were important factors. But the main reason for the Religious Right’s rise to power has been its capacity for political action, particularly electoral politics.

Meanwhile, over on the Religious Left, many of the ingredients are present for a more dynamic movement. But the ingredient that is most remarkably lacking on the Religious Left is the one that made the Religious Right powerful: a capacity for electoral politics. Indeed, there has never been anything on the Religious Left on the scale of say, Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority or Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition—or even any of dozens of significant Religious Right groups—including the 35 state political affiliates of Focus on the Family—that have had any significant national or regional electoral muscle.

Conservative evangelicals have figured out what it means to be a Christian and a citizen. This new identity easily integrates Christian nationalist ideology and notions of Christian citizens’ place in history, which in turn helps to inform and to animate their politics. It is in this sense that the ideology of Christian nationalism—America as a Christian Nation—mixes with theology. It appeals to those invested in the idea that they are living in the end times (á làwriterTim LaHaye and Pastor John Hagee) and nonapocalyptic, long term theocratic political activists.

While many fine organizations on the Religious Left, broadly defined, register voters and even mobilize them when elections roll around, I know of none for whom building electoral power and changing elections is a central activity. Even worse, some see electoral politics as a waste of time and even a tacit endorsement of the excesses of the power structure. I do not agree with such dour assessments, nor do I think that electoral politics is a panacea.

Here is what I do think: (Much more)

Written by fred

September 13th, 2008 at 10:31 am

More on Sarah Palin’s Attempted Book Banning

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As Banned Books Week looms on the horizon, the issue of then-Wasilla mayor Sarah Palin’s attempted book banning is heating up.

While Palin did not ask for specific books to be removed, there is a back story emerging thanks to ABC News, among others — there were specific books at issue in the community and at her church in particular.

The Nation has the relevant section of the transcript of the ABC News report by Brian Ross, and the video.

ROSS: Around the time Palin became mayor, [Palin’s] church and other conservative Christians began to focus on certain books available in local stores and in the town library, including one called “Go Ask Alice,” and another one written by a local pastor, Howard Bess, called Pastor, IAm Gay.
BESS: This whole thing of controlling, you know, information, censorship, yeah. That’s a part of the scene.

ROSS: Not long after taking office, Palin raised the issue at a city council meeting of how books might be banned according to news accounts and a local resident, a Democrat, who was there.

ANNE KILKENNY: Mayor Palin asked the librarian, what is your response if I ask you to remove some books from the collection of the Wasilla Public Library?
ROSS: The Wasilla librarian, Mary Ellen Edmonds, the then president of the Alaska Library Association, responded with only a short hesitation.

KILKENNY: The librarian took a deep breath and said, the books in the collection were purchased in accordance with national standards and professional guidelines, and I would absolutely not allow you to remove any books from the collection.

“A few weeks after the council meeting, the mayor fired the librarian, although she was reinstated after a community uproar,” Ross reported. “The Wasilla librarian, Mary Ellen Edmonds, left two years later, and according to friends, because it was just too hard working for Sarah Palin.”

The Associated Press story features the McCain campaign’s efforts to downplay the episode, but also provides the corroborating details first exposed by ABC. The McCain camaign acknowledges that Palin raised the issue of book banning not once, but three times with the head librarian. As ABC makes clear, she was fired and then reinstated due to popular support, meanwhile — the entire staff was in fear for their own jobs. According to the AP:

The Rev. Howard Bess, a liberal Christian preacher in the nearby town of Palmer, said the church Palin and her family attended until 2002, the Wasilla Assembly of God, was pushing to remove his book from local bookstores.

Emmons told him that year that several copies of “Pastor I Am Gay” had disappeared from the library shelves, Bess said.

“Sarah brought pressure on the library about things she didn’t like,” Bess said. “To believe that my book was not targeted in this is a joke.”

Written by fred

September 12th, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Posted in Book banning

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