How State Beat Church

By Sullivan, Andrew | Newsweek, February 20, 2012 | Go to article overview

How State Beat Church

Sullivan, Andrew, Newsweek

Byline: Andrew Sullivan

Conservatives gleefully revived the culture wars. But they're not winning. How Obama set a trap for the right.

Perhaps some helpful soul could inform the Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh, who last week calmly explained that "the Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, 'To hell with you!'" A quiet word in the ear of the dogged opponent of gay marriage Maggie Gallagher might have helped too. Just after Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, was struck down by a court on narrow grounds, she titled a blog post: "Ninth Circuit to 7 Million California Voters: You Are Irrational Bigots."

Not to be outdone, newly insurgent presidential candidate Rick Santorum described a secular society not based on religious principles as a renewal of the French Revolution and "the guillotine." Evangelical voters lined up in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado to vault him back into the front of the race. And when the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation withdrew support from Planned Parenthood, the reaction from the other side was almost as ferocious. "You don't make good on a 'promise' to your dead sister by selling out women who need you most," wrote Mary Elizabeth Williams on Salon. When Komen reversed its decision, the pro-life Republican who had been behind it, Karen Handel, resigned, complaining to Fox News about "the level of vicious attacks and coercion ... by Planned Parenthood. It's simply outrageous."

Who knew the sexual and religious politics of the 1990s were suddenly back, under the president who promised he'd try to end them? And who knew the president himself--who has made an elegant art form out of avoiding exactly these kinds of controversies in his first three years--would have made the final call on the one that suddenly united the entire Republican right in roiling rage? That decision was the now-infamous one to propose a new rule to mandate coverage of contraception, sterilization, and morning-after pills in all health-insurance plans, exempting purely religious institutions, but including Catholic-run hospitals, colleges, and charities who serve the general public and employ many non-Catholics. This, House Speaker John Boehner declared, was an unprecedented assault on the First Amendment by a president who Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently said was "at war against organized religion."

Pouring more gasoline on the rhetorical fire, evangelical leader Chuck Colson compared opposing the Obama administration's contraception rule to Catholic religious resistance to the Nazis. The next week, for good measure, President Obama was conspicuously seen going to church. And at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama himself defended a fairer tax code as an explicitly religious issue for him: "If I'm willing to give something up as somebody who's been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that's going to make economic sense," he said. "But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus' teaching that 'for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.'"

Suddenly no-drama Obama was neck deep in the kind of religious warfare he vowed to avoid. Many pundits--led by older white Catholic men, such as Joe Scarborough and my friend Chris Matthews and even the fair-minded liberal Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne--declared his decision on contraception as not only morally wrong but a politically disastrous violation of religious freedom. Suddenly the specter of 2004--when the culture-war issue of same-sex marriage gave Ohio and the entire election to George W. Bush--reemerged, and some conservative Catholic Democrats began to panic. Within the administration, almost all the white Catholic men opposed the decision--from Bill Daley to Leon Panetta. But critically, the support for the decision came from women, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and key adviser Valerie Jarrett chief among them. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

How State Beat Church


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.