The Religious Right's Vision for America: The People Say No

Church & State, May 2005 | Go to article overview

The Religious Right's Vision for America: The People Say No


Americans may finally be waking up to the Religious Right's near stranglehold on our federal government.

For years, many Americans--even well-meaning people--dismissed the Religious Right as a "lunatic fringe" that would never gain real political power.

Americans United has for years worked to counteract that belief. We made note of the Religious Right's attacks on public schools, its attempts to censor books in public libraries, its demands that public policy be made to conform to its narrow religious viewpoint and its attacks on science education, reproductive freedom and our private lives.

Too many people remained blissfully unaware. But now that may be changing.

The controversy over Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman in a persistent vegetative state whose husband had to fight the state of Florida, Congress and the Religious Right to remove her feeding tube, may mark a turning point.

Media coverage of the case was intense, and many Americans followed every twist and turn. They saw the Religious Right's ham-fisted involvement in the case, and it shocked them.

Congress and President George W. Bush butted into a private family matter to appease the Religious Right. According to a CBS News poll, a staggering 82 percent of Americans disagreed with that action. Even self-identified evangelicals took issue with the intervention.

Another recent poll showed that by a 2-1 margin, 39 percent to 18 percent, Americans now say the Religious Right has too much influence over the Bush administration.

Partly as a result of this fiasco, Congress's approval rating has dropped below 40 percent, and Bush's is hovering in the mid 40s. Across the country, newspaper columnists, editorial writers and letter writers blasted the politicians and the Religious Right for their actions in the Schiavo matter. This time, the Religious Right has overreached.

Why has this particular issue resonated with the American people? One reason is that for many Americans it hits home. It's all too easy to dismiss a fight over creationism five states away as someone else's problem. It may not seem relevant to many.

But end-of-life issues are different. Most of us have known a family member or a friend who became terminally ill, through either old age or disease. Many Americans have had to make the type of decisions faced by Michael Schiavo.

And, in the back of our minds, all of us are aware that we could end up like Terri Schiavo, due to a car accident or the onset of sudden, unexpected illness.

If that happens, Americans are firm about one thing: They want to be able to make their own decisions about end-of-life matters, in consultation with their families and loved ones. …

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