McCain Strategist Warns GOP Not To Become ‘Sectarian’ Party

A top advisor to former Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has warned GOP faithful that they will continue to lose public support and elections if they are perceived as a religious party.

Steve Schmidt told an April gathering of Log Cabin Republicans, a grassroots group for gay and lesbian Republicans, that party positions on issues such as same-sex marriage cannot be based solely on religious belief.

“I respect the opinions of Americans who oppose marriage for gay couples on religious grounds,” Schmidt told the crowd in Washington, D.C. “I may disagree, but if you sincerely believe God’s revealed truth objects to it then it is perfectly honorable to oppose it.

“But those are not the grounds on which a political party should take or argue a position,” he continued. “If you put public policy issues to a religious test you risk becoming a religious party, and in a free country, a political party cannot remain viable in the long term if it is seen as sectarian.”

Schmidt told the crowd, “I believe Republicans should re-examine the extent that we are being defined by positions on issues that I don’t believe are among our core values.”

The McCain strategist went on to endorse a compromise plan whereby Congress would grant same-sex marriages the status of civil unions, with no religious organizations being forced to recognize them.

At about the same time Schmidt made those remarks, McCain’s 24-year-old daughter Meghan, a blogger, began speaking out more vocally on her support for same-sex marriage.

Right-wing religious activists who have worked with the GOP for many years indicated they are not likely to take Schmidt’s advice. Columnist Maggie Gallagher, a frequent opponent of same-sex marriage, said the Republicans need to do more organizing in the religious community and stress even more the party’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

Peter Heck, a guest columnist writing on the Rev. Donald Wildmon’s OneNewsNow Web site opined, “If Mr. Schmidt or others want to make the case why the Republican Party should follow the lead of the Democrats, abandon Christian morality, and begin using the religion of secular humanism as the basis for their platform, they are more than free to do so. But they should at least have the decency to be honest about what they’re seeking.”