Plenty of fear tactics have been used by the Religious Right and its allies this campaign season to encourage others to vote the way these far-right fundamentalists want.
More recently, former U.S. House speaker and failed Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would, if elected, appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices who would shove secularism down America’s throat.
Speaking on a teleconference call hosted by the Association of Mature American Citizens on Monday, Gingrich called Clinton’s aides “radically anti-religious” and “radically anti-Christian” based on emails from the Clinton campaign that were recently exposed by WikiLeaks.
Some claim that the emails, which came from some of Clinton’s staffers rather than Clinton herself, appear to show her staffers making jokes about Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians. The staffers involved in those emails, however, have refuted that claim.
Gingrich, nonetheless, went as far as saying that Clinton would choose justices who are “fanatics who want to impose a secular America on the rest of us’ and who might require churches to remove the words ‘our Father’ from the Lord’s Prayer.” (Thanks to Right Wing Watch for the audio.)
No, Gingrich, judges won't regulate church prayers.
Not only is this a huge reach, it’s quite funny that Gingrich thinks Clinton – or any future president – could have the power to regulate church prayers. In fact, it’s unconstitutional and essentially impossible. After all, there are roughly 300,000 houses of worship in the United States. Closely regulating what they all say and do would be quite a challenge.
But his fear-mongering continued. He described Clinton’s potential picks as “people who do not believe in the right of religious liberty, people who believe that the government should define what you’re allowed to say, even in church.”
It’s hypocritical that Gingrich, a Religious Right favorite despite his well-known history of marital infidelity, would complain about government defining or limiting anything. His words often echo the ideology of the Religious Right, which supports the government defining and restricting marriage, women’s healthcare access and immigration – all in the name of religion. But now he’s scaring people into thinking Clinton is coming for their prayers? Really?
Gingrich also misses the mark on religious freedom when he implied that a “secular America” is a bad thing. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion, and his comments shed light on how he prioritizes Christian and some other religious communities (though not Muslim, probably) more than non-believers. That’s sad, and it isn’t what America is supposed to be about.
Gingrich is absolutely wrong, but he probably won’t quit playing this game until the followers of the Religious Right stop eating up these blatantly false fear tactics.