In the midst of the media coverage and ongoing investigations regarding the Mark Foley scandal — during which several key Republicans have been questioned about what they knew and when they knew about the disgraced former Congressman who sent sexually explicit internet messages to young, male Congressional pages — the GOP has been revealed to be far more "gay-friendly" than religious conservatives have previously been lead to believe.
A number of social conservatives, who have been loyally voting Republican in the hope the GOP will work to preserve America's moral fabric and fiber, have been shocked and surprised to learn several key people in their beloved political party (Jim Kolbe, a Republican congressman from Arizona; Jeff Trandahl, the House clerk in charge of the page program; and Kirk Fordham, Mr. Foley's chief of staff, to name just three) are openly gay.
The revelation that there are more than just a few "token" gay Republican staffers on Capitol Hill has shaken Christian conservatives, who feel homosexuality — which the Bible tells them, in Leviticus 18:22, is an "abomination" — should not be so openly accepted in the party supposedly championing the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would enshrine, in the Constitution, the exclusive definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Former Congressman Foley resigned from the House of Representatives on September 29, after the messages he sent to the pages were made public. Mr. Foley has since confessed he is gay; disclosed he is an alcoholic with behavioral problems, and divulged he was molested by a priest when he was an adolescent.
Gay-Friendliness in Protocol
As First Lady Laura Bush looked on, Dr. Dybul was sworn in by Secretary Rice on October 10, while his partner, Jason Claire, held the Bible. However, what was most disturbing to the sensibilities of religious conservatives was that both State Department Deputy Chief of Protocol, Raymond Martinez, and Secretary Rice recognized Mr. Claire's mother as Dr. Dybul's "mother-in-law."
Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council, said the secretary's comments were "profoundly offensive" and fly in the face of the Bush administration's endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
"We have to face the fact that putting a homosexual in charge of AIDS policy is a bit like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse," said Mr. Sprigg. "But even beyond that, the deferential treatment that was given not only to him but his partner and his partner's family by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is very distressing."
Mr. Sprigg said, in light of the Mark Foley scandal, "it's inexplicable that a conservative administration would do such things."
After reading many news stories about Mr. Foley, in which the number of gay staffers on the Republican payroll have been discussed, the "pro-family" movement is starting to wonder about the party's lack of action on conservative social issues.
FRC President Tony Perkins said one of the questions that needs to be asked is: "Has the social agenda of the GOP been stalled by homosexual members or staffers?"
The ongoing Foley investigation and Secretary Rice's perceived faux pas at Dr. Dybul's swearing-in ceremony are revealing the politically awkward fact some GOP leaders are practicing a sort of tolerance other Republicans have not conveyed on the campaign trail — and lending credence to the charges made in a new book by David Kuo, the former second-in-command of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, about how the White House has used conservative Christians for their votes, but has consistently given them nothing in return.
In the book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, released on October 16, Mr. Kuo wrote, in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove, some of the nation’s most prominent religious leaders were known as "the nuts."
"National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous,' 'out of control,' and just plain 'goofy,'" Mr. Kuo writes.
Mr. Kuo also alleges then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a plan to use the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, as well as the taxpayers' money, for ostensibly "nonpartisan" events actually intended to mobilize religious voters in 20 targeted races — 19 of those 20 races were won by Republicans.
Where's the Love?
It is widely believed Republicans owe their 2004 election victories to the Religious Right, whose highly motivated "values voters" went to the polls, in droves, to vote for anti-gay-marriage measures in 11 swing states — and to cast their ballots for GOP candidates while they were at it.
However, the Republicans Party blatantly neglects the issues most important to its largest voting bloc. The GOP leadership talks mostly about terrorism and economics while paying just enough lip service to social issues to ensure evangelicals will campaign and vote for Republican candidates.
The controversial events of the last year, especially those of the past few weeks, have begun to cause the GOP's carefully constructed image as the party of "family values" to crack and crumble to the point where an increasing number of religious conservative voters are beginning to suspect they've been duped by Republican platitudes.
Greg Cain, in an October 17 Chattanoogan article entitled, "It Is Time For Christians To Leave The Republican Party – And Replies" writes, "Jesus wasn’t riding an elephant into town."
Mr. Cain then goes on to suggest "it is time to build an ark. It is time to leave the Republican Party."
It has become increasingly apparent to Mr. Cain the core values of the Republican Party are not Tennessean or Christian values. "The Mark Foley Branch of the Log Cabin Republicans has seen to that," he wrote.
An Opportunity for Redemption?
On October 25, New Jersey's Supreme Court ruled that homosexuals are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals, but left it up to lawmakers to either rewrite the state's marriage laws to include same-sex couples, or to create a new system of civil unions for them.
Before the decision was handed down, conservative Christian groups were meeting with far less success in trying to motivate their supporters with the issue of same-sex marriage than they had during the 2004 election cycle.
Focus on the Family founder Dr. James C. Dobson held "Stand for the Family" rallies in three cities, but the turnout was much lower than anticipated, with only 3,000 people attending a Pittsburgh rally held in a 17,000-seat arena. The next two rallies had to be moved from stadium-sized venues to smaller auditoriums, and the tickets, which had been on sale for $7, were given away.
Now the leaders of the Religious Right are holding out hope the 4-3 court ruling will re-energize disillusioned and battle-weary social conservatives in the 10 days before the November 7 midterm elections, especially in those eight states with constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage on their ballots — five are currently expected to pass in Idaho, Virginia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee, while three appear close in Colorado, Arizona and Wisconsin.
Dr. Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention said, "Pro-traditional-marriage organizations ought to give a distinguished service award to the New Jersey Supreme Court."
Republican Congressional candidates who are in competitive races in conservative states and districts are likely grateful to have something with which to re-energize their religious conservative base, but the GOP itself has lately met with disapproval from an increasing number of those fickle moderates, who are quite displeased with the progress of the war in Iraq, worried about the stability of our economy, and disturbed by the state of our health care system.
Those masses of moderates — a 54%-65% majority, depending upon which poll one consults — also think "civil unions" for same-sex couples are a reasonable compromise (they can have the civil rights, as long as they don't get to use the word "marriage"), and place the issue very low upon their lists of priorities when deciding their votes — and they, of course, greatly outnumber the Religious Right.
The GOP's balancing act, in which it tries to please its evangelical base while, at the same time, trying to avoid offending the sensibilities of moderates, is not as easy today as it was in 2004, when the war in Iraq was still popular.
Republicans who are in close races in moderate districts and states are likely to ignore the subject of same-sex marriage and/or civil unions as they face constituencies that don't like the way things are going in Iraq, are afraid that the economy will not improve, and are concerned about the high cost of health care.
Turn to God
Maybe it's time for the good people of the Religious Right to get out of this sinful business known as "politics," and to acknowledge, once and for all, the GOP is not ever going to create the sort of Heaven on Earth it keeps promising, but has failed to even marginally deliver to the earnest, hard-working bloc of people who helped to elect them because they were lead to believe a Republican government would work to alleviate the temptation of humankind's ungodly perversions, vices, and weaknesses.
The Scriptures say: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (Matthew 7:15)
The trouble with a government of the people, by the people, and for the people is that it is ultimately comprised of our fellow sinners whose mortal flesh is just as susceptible to temptation as anybody else's.