06/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Democrats Were Never Anti-Religious

Democrats have been accused of antipathy toward religion, but that is not the case. Democrats simply reacted rationally to the stridency, intolerance, and undisguised hatred that often marked the Republican Religious Right.

With news that an evangelical conservative Stephen Mansfield, author of "The Faith of George Bush, will write a paean to Barack Obama's godliness is heartening. Heartening of course, because it's one more piece of evidence that the Democratic presidential nominee has a significant opportunity to steal from what had been a reliably Republican vote fount. It's also evidence that significant numbers of evangelicals are detangling themselves from the slimy tentacles of the Religious Right.

Further evidence: Mark DeMoss, public relations executive whose clients include Focus on the Family, Franklin Graham, and Campus Crusade for Christ told The Christian Post, "I will not be surprised if he gets one third of the evangelical vote... I wouldn't be surprised if it was 40 percent."

The more the merrier. But don't let the press paint this as evidence of a seismic shift in Democratic attitudes toward religiosity. If anything, it's the opposite.

The once-dominant evangelical Religious Right was a gross, intolerant beast. It demanded that those unlike its members be stripped of their rights to live according to their own personal and moral dictates. Abortion, gay rights, gay marriage, evolution, prayer in public schools--all remain hot button issues for partisan Republican evangelicals. None has to do with the way evangelicals themselves live, worship, believe or love. All have to do with the ways in which other people do.

A woman's choice to abort her fetus has no effect on anyone except her and perhaps the other parent. That two men or two women choose to love one another is inconsequential to anyone else. Yet, some Religious Right insisted that their God did not approve, so the rest of us dare not accept. It was not enough that Christian children could pray to their heart's content during the school day; other children would be forced to pray with them.

The right wing evangelical agenda, which had a stranglehold on the religious group as a whole, was never a quest for religious freedom. It was a quest to deny it to others. It has been a quest to impose their will and their worldview upon the rest of us.

When we refused to gleefully, willingly subsume our wills to theirs, when we dared to mock their attempts to make us do so, they accused us of "anti-religious" bias and the press played right along. The "anti-religious Democrat" has been a functional media narrative for decades.

To date, Obama has spoken of his faith as just that--as something personal and important to him, as it is to a great many Americans. He has effectively divorced it from specific policy. Obama has given no indication that he plans to change the views that continue to make him anathema to Evanganeanderthals like's Doug Giles, who wrote on the ABC News Web site, " Sen. Barack Obama is to Christianity what Michael Jackson is to heterosexuality. He might be one, but he's not the poster child for the cause." He then went on to list Obama's sins against Christian Right orthodoxy:

"In his run for the U.S. Senate, Obama asked his wife to pen a letter to Illinois voters that reassured them of his commitment to fighting for the right to butcher children in the womb.

"His long support of the advance of the radical homosexual activist lobby in their pursuit to destroy traditional marriage.

"His support of the creation of "special rights" for people who engage in homosexuality for the sole purpose of putting them at the front of the line on issues of employment, housing and litigation."

And on and on and on ad nauseum. The same old paleolithic Religious Right bile.

In past election cycles, evangelicals demanded a single price for their support: the imposition of their will upon those who choose not to believe as they do. If Obama continues to prove himself a man of his word and a politician of integrity, yet gains a significant share of the evangelical vote, it won't mark the religious maturity of Democrats. Instead, it will mark significant political, and yes, spiritual growth among a large segment of the evangelical voting population