David Niose is the author of a recently published book NonBeliever Nation, The Rise of Secular Americans. His Introduction has a dramatic illustration with a review of the language used by the four candidates in the Presidential election of 100 years ago in 1912. Each of them were comfortable making statements that would have deeply offended the religious right of today. Theodore Roosevelt said, “The great Darwin” and “Thank Heaven that I sat at the feet of Darwin and Huxley. Woodrow Wilson said, “Of course, like everyman of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions could be raised.” William Howard Taft said in a 1899 letter, “I do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and there are many other tenets of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.” Eugene Debs was highly critical of organized religion. He said, “I do not know of any crime that the oppressors or their hirelings have not proven with the Bible.”
The rise of the religious right can also be illustrated by the frank and clear statements by John Kennedy in 1960 when he said among other things, “I believe in an America where the separation of Church and State is absolute.” He elaborated on that in detail and had the courage to oppose sending an ambassador to the Vatican. Very few national level politicians would now have the courage to say what Kennedy said or oppose diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
The religious right is highly supportive of the military even when the Bible is very explicit that Jesus was an advocate of pacifism. By far the majority of the religious right think that the US was attacked on 9/11 by Iraq. Only 38% of secular people believe that. The religious right so dominates the military that there are repeated violations of religious liberty for many who are not Evangelical Christians.
We all know that GLBT rights are opposed by the religious right. The Mormon effort in California was very large, visible and certainly made the difference in defeating Proposition 8 in California. They largely support an anti-science perspective on global warming, the teaching of evolution, condom use to prevent AIDS or to deal with over population.
There are religious right groups that are currently advocating for prosecution under existing blasphemy laws which have never been removed from state laws. Niose also points out that the religious right currently has a majority on the Supreme Court and there is reason to believe that the 14th Amendment might not have the legal power to really enforce the non-establishment clause of the first amendment. After all it says, “Congress shall make no law...”. Clarence Thomas has explicitly said that, in his origionalist view, states do not have to respect the establishment clause.
Mitt Romney is very much in bed with the religious right. He said, “There is no freedom without religion.” Frankly the only thing preserving our freedoms are the secular sanctions that are placed on those who violate our rights.
This is hardly a complete list of the issues of political importance in David Niose's book. However, it does give a sample that can be worthy of thought and discussion.