Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Is the Religious Right a spent force in American politics?

Taken from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Ask U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

According to The Washington Times, “Evangelical Christians in Iowa, dominant in the state’s Republican Party, have denied…Grassley his request for a place on the state’s delegation to this summer’s Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.”

Times political writer Ralph Hallow reported yesterday that religious conservatives hold a majority of nine out of 17 members on the Iowa Republican Central Committee, and they chose Iowa Christian Alliance President Steve Scheffler as chairman of Iowa’s 40-member delegation.

Former Iowa Republican National Committee member Steve Roberts told The Times the party structure is under the thumb of the Religious Right.

“It’s pretty well controlled now by the Christian Alliance,” Roberts said. “If somebody came to me and wanted to be a delegate to the national party convention, I used to say, ‘Talk to the state party chairman or to Grassley.’ Now it’s very simple. You go to the Christian Alliance, and they determine who is a delegate, and you have to do exactly as they say.”

You’d think Grassley, who has served in the Senate since 1980, would be a favorite of the Religious Right. Last year, he scored 100 percent on a scorecard put out by Family Research Council Action and Focus on the Family Action, two of the most militant Religious Right groups. Plus, Grassley is a conservative Baptist.

So what’s the problem? Grassley has led an investigation into the possible misuse of tax-exempt donations by mega-bucks television ministries. He says non-profits are not supposed to divert money to the personal enrichment of non-profit executives and their families, and that rule applies just as much to TV preachers as it does to everyone else.

But that investigation has not sat well with the mega-bucks religious broadcasters who run the Religious Right. Not being ones to turn the other cheek, Religious Right honchos in Iowa denied Grassley a voting slot at the GOP convention.

Mighty Christian of them, huh?

This little incident demonstrates what we’ve said all along: the Religious Right movement is theocratic, it is extreme and, ultimately, it is about political power.

By Joseph L. Conn