For years, Religious Right groups like the Family Research Council (FRC) have complained that the Democrats are too secular. They've scored the party for failing to take faith seriously and criticized many of its leaders for being reluctant to talk about religion on the stump.
These days, many Democratic presidential candidates are talking more about religion. (Some would say they're talking about it too much.) During the debates, Democratic candidates have been quizzed on their favorite Bible verse, what they pray for and what sins they've committed.
One candidate, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, is especially known for highlighting religious themes during his speeches. He often talks about his involvement in the church and how his faith pulled him through tough times.
So the Religious Right is happy, right? Of course not. Religiosity apparently doesn't count when Democrats do it. Tony Perkins and the gang at FRC Action were kind enough to send out a fund-raising letter recently explaining why "God talk" only matters when it's delivered by a Religious Right-style Republican.
You see, you have to do more than talk about Jesus or where you worship. You also have to agree with the Religious Right on a host of political issues or your faith is not authentic.
Asserts Perkins in the letter, "It seems there is no end to left-wing hypocrisy – speaking freely of the 'biblical call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked' while opposing protections for babies born alive after late-term abortions...or calling oneself a friend of America's families while approving of early prison release for convicted sex offenders.
I'm not sure which Democratic candidates favor ignoring babies born alive, and as far as I know, the only candidate who actually helped arrange early release for a sex offender was Perkins' buddy Mike Huckabee.
But let's step back from the specific issues and examine Perkins' larger point. He seeks government policies based on the Bible. In the New Testament, Jesus clearly instructs us to care for the poor. Jesus says it several times. He has not one word to say about gay people. Yet according to Perkins, the candidate who bashes gays and ignores those in need is the "biblical" one.
Just to be clear, Americans United doesn't believe public policy should be based on anyone's interpretation of the Bible. If we're going to help the poor, we should do it because it's the right and moral thing to do, a concept that people of all faiths and none can grasp. I do find it amusing when Perkins and his fellow theocrats demand scripture-based policy – and then feel free to ignore half of what's in the Bible while insisting on policies that don't even make an appearance in the book.
The final irony is the politician the Religious Right holds up as a great example of a "Christian statesman": Newt Gingrich. Give me a break. If my children asked me for a public figure whose morals they should emulate, I could do far better than a thrice-married serial adulterer whose political philosophy is "do whatever it takes to win."
My guess is that the Religious Right doesn't really want a "Bible-based" policy. They just want one that reflects their own narrow political beliefs. These are far to the right, and they've struggled mightily to tie them to Jesus. But many progressive theologians argue that Jesus rebukes the Religious Right.
Perkins closes his letter by citing Ephesians 6:13: "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm."
I'd like to cite another Bible verse, this one from Jesus himself. It's Matthew 23:13: "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."