Tough times for bible-thumpers

Religious and cultural conservatives, a political force skeptical of the leading Republican presidential candidates, are caught in a tug of war between pragmatism and ideology.

“My head and my heart are fighting with each other,” said Phil Burress, an Ohioan who has lobbied hard for federal and state bans on gay marriage.

The vexing choices facing these voters:

_Rudy Giuliani, a thrice-married New Yorker who differs with them on abortion, gays and guns but who polls show offers a strong chance to beat a Democrat next fall.

_Mitt Romney, a Mormon from Massachusetts who didn’t entirely share their views in the past but who insists he now does.

_Fred Thompson, a Tennessean who hasn’t been a vocal champion of their core issues but who had a right-leaning Senate voting record.

_John McCain, an Arizona senator who has a clear socially conservative resume but who dismissed their leaders “agents of intolerance” in 2000.

_Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister and true believer who has an extraordinary hill to climb for the nomination.

For now, social-issue conservatives are scattered across the field of candidates.

It’s a splintering that is, perhaps, more severe than in previous presidential elections and that raises questions about the power of a long-influential part of the GOP base. The restiveness has prompted talk of a possible third-party bid, a certain political death knell for the GOP nominee.

Reflecting the quandary these voters face, Focus on the Family’s James Dobson has rejected Giuliani and has panned both McCain and Thompson. Romney is the only leading candidate Dobson hasn’t denounced — but he hasn’t publicly backed Romney either.

“There’s no one Republican presidential candidate that inspires them, and the movement leaders can find fault in one way or another with all the candidates,” said John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “It’s hard to tell if it means that their influence is waning. But they’re likely to have more influence if they stay united. The longer they stay behind several candidates, the less influence they’ll have.”

While the ultimate impact of these religious and cultural conservatives on the GOP nomination race is anyone’s guess, there’s no question that they are a force in numbers.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 43 percent of Republicans say social issues will be very important in deciding how to vote in 2008, and another 31 percent call issues like abortion and marriage somewhat important.

Associated Press-Ipsos polls show that nearly two-thirds of Republicans consider themselves conservative, with Thompson and Giuliani getting about equal support from that group while McCain and Romney trail.

Roughly one in five conservatives, churchgoers and Christian evangelicals are undecided.

Thompson has a slight edge over Giuliani among the half of all Republicans who attend weekly religious services as well as among those who call themselves born-again Christians. McCain and Romney lag in both categories.

The White House hopefuls will make their pitches this weekend to a few thousand “values voters” gathering in Washington for a summit sponsored by the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group.

Uncertainty about a consensus candidate — and anxiety over the possibility of nominating Giuliani — serves as a backdrop.

“Our heads are telling us that we’ve got to settle for someone that can win even if he’s not the closest to our values. I’ve decided that I can’t do that. I’ve got to go with my heart,” said Burress, who says he’s leaning toward Huckabee but has not committed.

Some fear that if they stay divided as a group, their power will be diluted and they will, in effect, be handing the nomination to the antithesis of what they believe — Giuliani.

“We have to reconcile the tension between pure principle and pure pragmatism,” said John Stemberger, an Orlando lawyer and a leading social conservative in Florida who says he has not chosen a candidate. “If we vote on pure principle, we forfeit the opportunity to influence policy through politics. If we vote on pure pragmatism, then we sell our souls to the man.”

Some are trying to see a silver lining in the lack of a favored candidate.

“It’s important to have our people in as many different campaigns as possible so our issues aren’t lost,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of the Free Market Foundation in Texas who isn’t backing any one person yet.

As the summit opens, attendees will watch for the fallout from several recent developments:

–Influential social conservative leaders met privately in Salt Lake City to weigh their options if Giuliani wins the nomination. They overwhelmingly approved a resolution pledging to support a minor-party candidate if the Democratic and Republican nominees back abortion rights, and discussed possibly creating a third party. The group meets again Saturday in Washington.

–Giuliani, the former New York mayor who backs abortion and gay rights, won the support of two anti-abortion Republicans, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Romney, who once backed abortion rights but has reversed himself, earned the endorsement of Bob Jones III, the chancellor of a Christian fundamentalist school in South Carolina.

–Thompson entered the race late and, thus far, has failed to emerge as the conservative white knight his backers had promised. He posted an advertisement on conservative Web sites this week criticizing Romney and Giuliani on values issues. “Fred Thompson. The REAL Conservative,” it declares.

–Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a darling of the religious right, decided to drop out of the race after his campaign failed to catch on. That leaves his supporters searching for a candidate, and at least two competitors — Huckabee and McCain — hoping for Brownback’s endorsement.


  1. Sandra Price

    The question is whether Americans want a Theocracy or a Republic. Christians don’t know the difference or care. They want a Christian Nation and could very well get it in 2008.

  2. Electric Bill

    “My head and my heart are fighting with each other,” said Phil Burress, an Ohioan who has lobbied hard for federal and state bans on gay marriage.
    Isn’t that sort of what Larry Craig had to deal with?
    It’s high time Americans took a lesson from Washington, Jefferson, and Madison and started looking at ways to rebuild the wall of separation of church and state and get religion the hell out of government. Christian conservatives are absolutists when it comes to your transgressions but are remarkably forgiving and understanding when it comes to theirs. America is not a Christian nation, at least not according to the Constitution, which I believe is still the law of the land.
    Just an aside, but I would hate to wander into the public toilets where that Christian conservative summit is being held.

  3. acf

    Rudy Giuliani was a used up hack when the 9-11 attacks took place. He quickly stepped into the void left by George Bush’s disappearing rabbit act, and rescued his reputation. Without 9-11, it would be Rudy Who, because his personal behavior, and harsh tactics as mayor made it so. George Bush’s administration was floundering until the morning of 9-11, when his alert staff latched on the attacks, created the ‘wartime president’, and used it to drive his right wing attack on our country’s freedoms.

  4. yarply

    What they mean is they will only go with who they perceive the winner will be against a democrat, whether or not they agree with what he or she stands for. Question. Why don’t these people fall in behind Ron Paul? Answer. They do not think he can win against the democratic candidate even though he is probably closer to there supposed core beliefs than they themselves are.
    This attitude disgust me. Hopefully Satan will not enter the race, because he would tell them exactly what they would want to hear, and they would perceive he could win so they would probably vote for him. Voting for someone just because you think he/she can win is the most bogus reason to vote for someone. Of course like many losers, many just vote for their party candidate no matter what.

  5. JerryG

    A President Giuliani would have the attitude of “my gun is bigger than your religion is better than yours”!

    He’s your man if you want to perpetuate American cowboy diplomacy!

  6. Janice

    A President Giuliani would bring the corruption in Washington to new levels. He’s a crook who is morally corrupt. He’s an opportunistic sleeze-bag who would make Cheney and Bush look like choir boys.

  7. SEAL

    The first election I remember was Truman beating Dewey and how happy all the people around me were about that. Each succeeding presidential election has had someone to vote for or against for a specific reason. But the way this one is shaping up, unless there is a third party candidate, I really see no need to vote. In my view there will be very little difference of the impact on this nation with Hillary Clinton or whoever the repugnants run.

    If Obama were to pull of the big upset and win his party’s nomination, I would vote for him because there is an outside chance he might do something good. I will support him in the primary and hope for the miracle. He is the only chance we have to derail Clinton.

    I cannot understand the democrap party’s penchant for picking the worst possible candidates to run for president. Clinton is the most polarizing person on the political landscape. After eight years of a “divider, not a uninter,” it is extremely important that the next president is a non-divise individual by nature, style, and basic politics. That is what Obama is and, at least, he has refused to be supported by the corporation money. That’s why they are working so hard against him. They can’t buy him so they don’t trust him.

    The democraps are less organized than a flock of bird dogs in a blinding sand storm. It’s harder to get them stick together than a 1000 piece puzzle of a moonless night sky. They are the party of self destruction by no erection selection. They pick candidates that don’t have what it takes. But it isn’t just their candidate choices that amaze me, it’s the way they don’t have any positive course and how they never stand up and fight for anything, even when they have the ultimate power of the purse. They are very good at investigating commitees that expose but never charge anyone. The have mastered the art of nothing.

    They have really been exposed this past year because the playground has only one bully on it. The previous six years the bullies out numbered them. But, now, there is only one. Yet he rules them effortlessly. On every issue they scurry to congregate at one end of the playground and write down what is right and what should be done. But when they walk down and deliver it to the bully, he tells them to shut the fuck up, bow, get back in line, and they do. Then they make up lame tear ass or sport the troops (they are killing) rationalizations like they think someone is actually going to believe the crap.

    Somehow, they have deluded themselves into believing this is a winning strategy for the next election. However, as lame as the general voting population is, they are not that stupid. It would be pretty hard to miss something as obvious as the cowardly actions of the past year. The polls have begun to reflect that, too. As poll concious as the democraps are, you would think they would get the message. But no, not thus far.

    In view of what the democowards have done this past year, the voters might as well have stayed home last November.

    All of this obviates the reality that we have two very different political parties ruled by the same enity – The neocon corporate headquarters with it’s board of big pharma/MIC/banking/oil/insurance/media directors. If we could start a third party, then we would have two.

  8. keith

    Finally…FINALLY…. the so-called “rabid religious right” is learning just how out of touch with the rest of society (and our Constitution) they really are.

    Thankfully, their grand plans to turn our nation into a despotic theocracy are now falling down around their ears as more and more of the rest of us witness the sheer, blatant hypocrisy (if not the outright fraud) now being perpetuated by the so-called “leaders” of these “holier than thou” types.

    In that narrow sense, the Presidency of George W. Bush has been an absolute Godsend because the true nature of their (and his) theocratic plans for our nation have now been revealed (and personified) for all to see.

    Clearly, the hypocrisy of such “Christian” behavior (purported to be founded on principles of love, inclusiveness and acceptance, but which all too often manifests itself as narrow intolerance for the beliefs and behavior of others) is now blatantly on display for the rest of the world to see.

    As a result, it’s becoming ever harder for even mainstream Christians (such as, for example, people who still call themselves Roman Catholic) to blindly accept lectures from the Pope and others as to what is “abnormal” sexual behavior from an institution that still firmly considers celibacy for its priests to be “normal”.

    Our Founding Fathers very carefully crafted our Constitution so as to firmly prohibit the establishment of a “state religion” all the while guaranteeing every citizen the right to freely express their own religious beliefs. And I certainly have no qualm with someone expressing their religious beliefs in their own, private way.

    But those of us who still firmly believe in the full separation of Church and State should recognize such chicanery for what it is…a desperate, last-ditch attempt to salvage what’s left of organized religion’s once complete (but now shrinking) power (often aided and abetted by various “governments” along the way) to control people’s money, thoughts and lives.

    Thankfully, I (and most others) are now firmly drawing the line when the “holy rollers” attempt to cram their highly intolerant and horrifically narrow religious beliefs down the rest of our throats via the legislative process.

    Maybe that’s because we have now learned that their so-called “Moral Majority” wasn’t so “moral” (nor was it ever a “majority”) after all.

  9. Craig Gorsuch

    I’ll not deny that individuals within the Christian community are “out of touch” with the community. However no Bible-believing Christian wishes to create a theocracy in the US. If they do, they’re missing the central teachings of Christ when he said “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (No this is NOT a reference to extra-terrerestrial life.) Truth is, Christian teaching (in some form) is held as a positive by almost 75% of the population. Those professing to be Evangelical Christians make up almost 25% of the population. Demographic numbers are much more on the side of religious conservatives than humanistic/atheistic liberals.

    One rightly points out the hypocrisy of individuals in various Christian movements, don’t various non-Christian movements have it’s share of hypocrites as well? Or does the universal tendency for all humanity to engage in hypocrisy from time to time not affect certain groups and categories of people?

    President Bush (and he is your president as well, just as President Clinton was mine though I didn’t care for his politics) is a globalist and damaged the sovereignty of this nation far more than we Conservatives could have imagined. At least I would be willing to let him babysit my teenage daughter. I wouldn’t let President Bill Clinton anywhere near my daughter. That’s the value of personal integrity. I’m sure you understand the difference. To do otherwise would be blatant hypocrisy. But you know that.

    Certainly the “christianity” you hold up is not the Truth as revealed by Scripture. One’s value as a person is not defined by what one does. There is a separation between someone’s value as an individual and whatever decisions they choose to make in their life. Someone with a predisposition towards a certain behaviour (say drug or alcohol addiction) does not *force* that person to take drugs or to drink. When that person becomes an alcoholic or drug addict, their value as a person is in no way diminished. We are taught to reach out and help them overcome their self-destructuve behaviour, but only if they choose to accept our help. (Does AA or AlAnon *force* membership?) If your loved ones were engaged in drug or alcohol abuse, wouldn’t you love them enough to tell them to stop? If you did tell them to stop, does that mean that you don’t value their worth as an individual? To the contrary, you tell then to stop *because* you value their worth as an individual. To do otherwise would be blatant hypocrisy. But you know that.

    I have no idea where you thought that “inclusiveness” and “acceptance” means that we accept the faults of the individual. It does not. Kleptomaniacs are welcome, but they are not allowed to steal. Perjurers are welcome, but they are not allowed to lie. Murderers are welcome, but they are not allows to kill. In each case, their “predisposition” is harmful to society and to themselves. When they are welcomed, they are told to change their ways. Not because Christians are intolerant (we are, some things are just plain stupid to accept), but for the betterment of the individual and eventually, society. Does your “inclusion” and “acceptance” allow for pedophiles to teach kindergarten? Does it allow for drug addicts to operate pharmacies? Does it allow for necropheliacs to be morticians? To do so would be blatant hypocrisy. But you know that.

    Within the Roman Catholic Church, teachings on sexuality are clear as they have been for almost 20 centuries. Those teaching have never changed. Complete abstinence until entering a life-long, committed relationship with one person of the opposite genetic sex. Divorce was NOT an original part of the plan, however, it is “allowed” (not mandated) under specific circumstances – infidelity, and abuse. The teachings have not changed, the people listening have, and therefore feel that “humanity has outgrown such repressive and archaic sexual mores. After all, we’re enlightened and educated.”

    I’m sorry if the definition offends you, does the constitution guarantee any right to not be offended? I didn’t think so. If you want to go into specifics: are the activities at The Folsom Street Fair something you would refer to as “normal”? If they are, then your definition of “normal” is based upon the flawed philosophy of Masters and Johnson: “What’s selected is average. What’s average is normal. What’s normal is good.” All one has to do is be “intolerant” (according to your definition) during their selection process, and the outcome is skewed towards the desired result. This is blatant hypocrisy. But you know this.

    (Celibacy within the priesthood was decided upon for pragmatic reasons based upon Scriptural teaching. If I could change it I would. I think priests should be allowed to marry in accordance with the the definition above. Scripture routinely refers to the Priest keeping his children “in line”. )

    Our Founding Fathers (thank you for not using the PC term “Founding Parents”) did not want a state religion. They did not want a Church of America, similar to a Church of England. They were afraid of the political power such an organisation might acquire. Rightly so, I might add. You then state:

    “all the while guaranteeing every citizen the right to freely express their own religious beliefs”

    Tell me, does this guarantee apply to public life or personal life or a combination thereof? Christianity teaches there is no distinction between rules that govern one’s personal life and one’s professional/public life. Same as Judaism. Same as Islam. Same as Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Humanism, and Atheism. At any time of the day, when do you stop applying the rules by which you live your entire live, and change them to fit a particular time of day, or situation? If you do, that is blatant hypocrisy. But you know that.

    It’s interesting that you are “drawing the line” to keep “holy rollers” from cramming a “highly intolerant and horrifically narrow religious beliefs down the rest of our throats via the legislative process.”, given the recent legislative efforts currently underway in California (SB777) that (by implication, not explicitly) makes any *unimplied offense* against the GBLT community illegal. It allows (by implication, not explicitly) for anyone “uncomfortable” with their X to Y chromosome ratio to use the restroom or locker room of their choosing instead of the one assigned by their X to Y chromosome ratio. I can just see the hordes of teenage boys using that excuse to use the girls locker room at school. Might this lead to sexual assaults? I don’t know? Do you?

    I’m not forcing anyone to become a Christian, but the GBLT community is attempting to redefine “normal” to gain public acceptance of their choices. Essentially “forcing” me not only to agree with their choice of lifestyle, but to promote it as well. Exactly who is forcing who here?

    I find it interesting that 4% of the population has gained so much political power that they are forcing the national debate towards specific topics. What if left-handed people gained the same status? We represent about 4% of the total population… Somehow I don’t think the national political stage would be concerned with Rights for the Left-Handed Community.

    If the GBLT community really wants to be treated just like everyone else, then they would not support hate crimes or hate speech, because doing so makes the GBLT community a politically protected class, and grants crimes against the GBLT community greater penalties than the same crime against the non-GBLT community. So-called “hate crime laws” and “hate speech laws” are blatant hypocrisy. But you know that.

    I’m not “afraid” of GBLT-ism. I’m just tired of hearing about it, reading about it, watching it on the news, and having it occupy the national debate. The GBLT community expects Christians to “be Christian in private and not in public”, yet they do not apply the same rules to themselves. Either the Christian community has the right to be Christian in public as well as private, or the GBLT community does not have the right to be GBLT in public as they are attempting to force the Christian community into the closet. Either we’re both “out”, or both “in”. To do otherwise is blatant hypocrisy. But you know that.

    Everyone has the capability for hypocrisy. Even the GBLT community that holds the Christian community under a microscope, yet cries “foul” when only a mirror is aimed on the GBLT community. We are both all-too convenient scapegoats for the other.

    Unfortunately, most of the elected officials, on both sides of the political spectrum, have long forgotten that THEY WORK FOR US, and not for special interest groups that keep them in positions of political power.

    All Government does is control money and resources that don’t belong to them. All government funded programs are paid for by taxes that are essentially stolen from us by the government. We get no say in how that money is spent, and we also get no say in how much of OUR money they are STEALING from us!

    The Constitutional implications of limited national government have not been followed for a long time. Remember when the Federal Government went on strike for a few weeks back in the late 80’s or early 90’s? Did the nation fall apart? Far from it. It was “business as usual”. And the Government ended it’s strike early. (I believe they did so to keep people from realizing they WE do not NEED them, rather THEY NEED US!) I think we need to keep all political power closer to the people and further from the Beltway. Doing so, would be great for the country regardless of which side of the political/ideoligocal fence one happen to reside on.

    veritas est

  10. patrickhenry

    The author conveniently forgot about Ron Paul. Ron Paul is the only candidate that a real Christian should vote for. He alone among all the top tier candidates believes in Liberty, and understands the COTUS. Everyone else, yes, everyone, is a socialist with a “moral” cloak hanging on their shoulders. Hillary is plain evil, and an empty skirt. Hussein Obama? he’s for killing babies as they are being pulled from their mother’s womb. ghoulianni, evil liar. huckabee? he wants the Fed to ban smoking and fat foods. What article is he basing that on? Romney, makes Kerry’s flipflopping seem mild. McCain, a time bomb liar. Ron Paul, a constitutionalist. It’s about TIME.
    In Liberty’s Cause