Conservative Christians Should Reconsider Politics, Columnist Says

Conservative columnist Cal Thomas says the Religious Right should use the November election results to reconsider its attachment to the Republican Party.

Thomas began his mid-November column with a provocative question: “If God is on the side of conservative Chris­tians and conservative Christians are on the side of the Republican Party, shouldn’t Republicans have done better in the recent election?”

Thomas opined that the defeat gives conservative Christians the opportunity to take stock. He urged them to work to change the culture in other ways – mainly through example, instead of through the political system.

“Politics often dulls the senses to morality and ‘values,’” Thomas writes. “That’s because of an unholy alliance between people of faith and politicians that often ends in compromise on the part of the faithful and the cynical harvesting of their votes with little offered in return.”

Thomas, who once worked with the Rev. Jerry Falwell to launch the Moral Maj­ority, used the example of U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa.), who, during the campaign, was exposed for cheating on his wife and allegedly abusing a woman he lived with in Washington. Sherwood, Thomas noted, still managed to get an 85 percent approval rating from Focus on the Family Action, James Dobson’s political unit.

Observed Thomas, “The delicious irony here is that he might have earned a 100 percent rating had he voted for the Marriage Protection amendment, which he supported.”

Post-election analyses indicate that white evangelicals and born-again Chris­tians did not desert the Republican Party this year. Seventy percent voted for the GOP congressional candidates, down just two points from 2004. Such voters made up 24 percent of all voters, about the same as 2004, when the number was 23 percent.

In other news about the Religious Right:

• U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) traveled by private jet to Columbus, Ohio, in 2005 to promote his church politicking bill, with the fare being paid for by a Religious Right group.

Jones and an aide appeared at an event sponsored by the Center for Moral Clarity, a group founded by Pastor Rod Parsley of the 12,000-member World Harvest Church.

Paying for travel is legal, but some watchdogs say the practice is dubious and should be looked at. The new Congress is expected to examine the issue.

“You have to ask does [a tax-exempt organization] do any lobbying?” Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Cam­paign Legal Center, told Religion News Service. “It should not be paying for trips because these trips provide an opportunity to have one-on-one face time. Other people don’t get that chance.”

• Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has a novel theory of why the Republicans fared poorly in Nov­ember: They failed to kowtow enough to the Religious Right.    

“While some place blame on President Bush’s policy of ‘staying the course’ in the war in Iraq,” wrote Moore in a Washington Times op-ed, “the real reason for the success of the Democratic Party is that many Republicans have ‘strayed from the course’ of conservative Christian leadership exemplified by President Reagan. Mr. Reagan’s adherence to conservative principles and moral virtue helped the Republican Party end nearly 40 years of Democratic control of Congress, but those ideals have virtually been abandoned by Republican leadership today.”

The strategy has one flaw: It didn’t work for Moore last year. Moore challenged Alabama Gov. Bob Riley in the 2006 Republican primary. Riley was seen as vulnerable for supporting a tax-restructuring plan that was unpopular in the state, and Moore frequently raised Religious Right themes on the campaign trail. On primary election day, Riley trounced Moore, 67 percent to 33 percent.