By The Third Time, It’s a Trend

For anyone seeking to understand how the Religious Right plans to operate under the relatively young Obama Administration, let us offer a few telling examples.  

For weeks, if not months, they have been hyperventilating over the fact that Democrats in Congress are intent on re-introducing the Fairness Doctrine in order to “silence conservative and Christian broadcasters” and eliminate their ”freedom to share the Gospel.” Of course, as we noted yesterday, there was no desire or effort to actually bring it back and even President Obama has stated that he “does not believe the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated.”  But will not stop the Right from carping about it?  Not likely:

While this is encouraging, I want you to know that we will remain vigilant and continue to work to oppose the return of the Fairness Doctrine.

Here’s another example:  for weeks the Right has been breathlessly proclaiming that the stimulus legislation was “anti-religious” and part of an effort to “intimidate the free speech of traditional, freedom-loving Americans.” Of course, that wasn’t true either but that didn’t stop them from repeating it every opportunity they had. 

In case the pattern hasn’t become clear yet, we can now add the fear-mongering over FOCA to the growing list:

The U.S. Catholic Church’s crusade against the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) has all the hallmarks of a well-oiled lobbying campaign. A national postcard campaign is flooding the White House and congressional offices with messages opposing FOCA, and the Catholic bishops have made defeating the abortion rights legislation a top priority. In the most recent effort to stop the bill, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia sent a letter to every member of Congress imploring them to “please oppose FOCA.”

There is only one hitch. Congress isn’t about to pass the Freedom of Choice Act because no such bill has been introduced.

In the midst of all this activity, the fact that there was no Freedom of Choice Act before the 111th Congress went largely unnoticed and unmentioned.

A Freedom of Choice Act was first introduced in the 108th and 110th Congresses (from ’03 to ’05 and ’07 to ’09, respectively), by Rep. Jerold Nadler, a New York Democrat. It was developed at a time when the future of Roe was in doubt because it was unclear if George W. Bush would have the opportunity to appoint another justice to the Supreme Court. But FOCA had a hard time gaining traction — even under Democratic control of Congress, the bill was not only never voted on but never made it out of committee. And now abortion rights advocates are breathing easier with Obama in the White House — so much so that when a coalition of 63 organizations sent the Administration its top 15 priorities for reproductive rights and health, FOCA did not even make the list.

Congressional Democrats have also been less than enthusiastic about the proposal. A spokesman for Nadler says that while he expects the legislation will be reintroduced, “it won’t be anytime soon.” Even if FOCA is reintroduced in the current Congress, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has indicated she has no intention of bringing it up for a vote. And even if she did, there are not enough votes in Congress to pass the bill.

President Obama has only been in office for a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean it is too early to predict that the Religious Right’s plan of attack during his administration looks like it will rely heavily on stirring up “controversies” by (a) opposing legislation that does not exist and (b) misrepresenting legislation that does.