Religious Right, Heal Thyself

Yesterday I wrote a post noting that a bunch of Religious Right groups had come together to form a new coalition known as The Freedom Federation which unveiled a “Declaration of American Values” and pledged to work together to “plan, strategize, and work together on common interests within the Judeo-Christian tradition to mobilize their grassroots constituencies and to communicate faith and values to the religious, social, cultural, and policymaking institutions.”

I also noted that the effort was spearheaded by Rick Scarborough and Mat Staver and, though it has a fancy new name and includes several prominent groups, doesn’t really seem to have an agenda that in any way differentiates it from any of the umbrella groups the Right has launched over the years.

Case in point:

Back in 2006, this coalition grew out of Vision America’s “War on Christian and Values Voters Conference” and had an equally strong roster of right-wing supporters, including Phyllis Schlafly, Alan Keyes, Lou Sheldon, Janet Folger, D. James Kennedy, and Rod Parsley.  It even unveiled its own “ValuesVoters’ Contract with Congress: A Declaration of American Renewal” that reads a lot like the Freedom Federation’s own Declaration of American Values … with the key difference being that, at the time, Republicans still controlled Congress.  Thus, while the last version was designed to be a “contract with Congress,” this new version is a mere “declaration of values.”

But beyond this contract, which never amounted to anything, the only thing the group managed to accomplish was the infamous Values Voter’s Debate at which presidential no-shows like Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were questioned in absentia and Mike Huckabee was proclaimed the “David among Jesse’s sons.”

After that, the coalition ceased to function and its website went dark … until it essentially resurfaced as The Freedom Federation.

The amazing thing about this new incarnation is that it seems to be trying to present itself as some sort of nonpartisan “common ground” effort:

Calling themselves the Freedom Federation, the groups see an urgent need to collaborate to protect the Judeo-Christian values that they feel are being threatened.

Rather than approaching such issues as life, marriage, justice and politics as individual organizations, the Freedom Federation is hoping to get past the divisive rhetoric among Christians and tackle the issues together.

The groups at the launch hesitated to label the federation a purely conservative Christian one although most of the groups are of historic, orthodox faith-based traditions. They were looking to avoid the “left, right” language and instead place emphasis on the common core values that bring them together across ethnic, party and generational lines.

The coalition’s desire to “avoid left-right language” ought to be relatively easy to accomplish since there is nothing even remotely “left” about it.

But as the participants explain, this is not some sort of effort by the Religious Right to find common ground with its political opponents, but rather an attempt to heal divisions within its own ranks and come together for the common purpose of saving the nation’s “Judeo-Christian moral foundation”:

“The battles that we face today [and] the needs of the culture are too big for blacks to fight it by themselves, Hispanics to fight it by themselves or any one group to fight the battle by itself,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, who leads the High Impact Leadership Coalition, at the launch of the federation on Tuesday.

“Today the most urgent issues as far as we’re concerned … can only be solved by a unified group that sees themselves first as Christians and secondarily [as] some other subculture,” Jackson emphasized.

Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, told The Christian Post that the federation is not in reaction to the media’s negative portrayal of Christians but rather in response to the shared core values they have.

Through ongoing communication with one another, the groups realized that they have more in common than they have differences and it became very apparent that they needed to work together, Staver explained.

“When you break down all the rhetoric and you get past all the labels and so forth, we begin to realize that we agree on a lot of these issues,” Staver said.

The federation was also birthed out of a sense of urgency. The Judeo-Christian values, Staver said, have been weakened, injustices have increased, and the life and marriage issue as well as the role of government in people’s lives have “crescendoed to a certain point where we are concerned with the need to protect these values.”