Religious Right Hopes to Board the Tea Party Express and Ride Back Into Power

‘Values Voter Summit’ May Lead To Marriage Of Convenience

Religious Right leaders will be busy this weekend trying to line up a merger with the increasingly powerful Tea Party movement, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

With hundreds of Religious Right activists gathering in Washington, D.C., for the annual “Values Voter Summit,” analysts are examining the relationship between these two powerful political forces -- and the role of religion and politics in the 2010 election season.

“Religious Right activists and the Tea Partiers are both angry and determined to radically transform the government,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “I believe there is already significant overlap between the two movements, and this weekend we may see them get a lot cozier.

“Tea Party enthusiasts focus on smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation,” continued Lynn, “while the Religious Right wants to impose a fundamentalist vision through government intervention in our personal lives. You’d think there would be a conflict between these viewpoints, but increasingly I am hearing Tea Party rhetoric blasting forth from the pulpits of the Religious Right.”

Religious Right leaders remain intent on undermining church-state separation, denying civil rights to gays, abridging women’s reproductive rights and banning stem cell research, Lynn said, but lately they have been attacking health-care reform, taxes and government spending as well. Lynn, who has monitored religion and politics for over three decades, said Religious Right leaders may be adopting anti-government rhetoric in an effort to harness the political clout of the Tea Party.

“The Values Voter Summit features an entire session devoted to the Tea Party,” Lynn noted. “I think Religious Right strategists want to hop on the Tea Party express and ride it into power in Washington.”

Lynn noted that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Fox News pundit Glenn Beck have huge followings among both the Religious Right and the Tea Party. And Tea Party leader Dick Armey recently told reporters that Religious Right social issues will be on the agenda if allied candidates gain control in Congress.

Said Lynn, “Religious Right leaders are frustrated that their issues have been placed on the back burner, and they’re hoping to get back in the game by joining forces with the Tea Party. We’ll see if that marriage of convenience takes place.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.