Religious Right’s Definition of ‘Values Voter’ Rapidly Expanding

“Be sure and vote your values on Tuesday, November the 7th. As an American, it is your right. But as a Christian, it’s your responsibility,” says Family Research Council President Tony Perkins in a get-out-the-vote advertisement. With leading religious-right groups working hard to help the Republicans maintain control of Congress – despite avowing a total disillusionment with the GOP – the already-overworked catchphrase of “voting one’s values” is being taken to the farthest corners of the Republican platform.

According to a recent survey by the Center for American Values in Public Life (a project of People For the American Way Foundation), when people are asked what it means for them to “vote their values,” only 12 percent cite abortion and gay marriage – the “wedge issues” that drive the modern Religious Right. Even among Evangelicals, the supposed core constituency of leaders like Perkins and James Dobson, that portion is just 19 percent. The survey shows that the honesty, integrity, and responsibility of the candidate are what a plurality of Americans think of when “voting their values.”

So while religious-right leader continue to campaign on abortion and gay marriage, they have begun to expand their repertoire. At the Values Voter Summit last month, Dobson – “like a modern Paul Revere,” according to Pat Boone – announced that the War on Terror is fundamental a family-values issue. And at his “Stand for the Family” rallies in battleground states, he also endorsed the Bush administration’s tax cuts. Perkins, admonishing his supporters to reject candidates who “have no fear of God,” was careful to connect that message to a warning that a Democratic House would have control over pension policy.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also outlined the case for tax policy as a “social issue” with his interpretation of a future with Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-New York) as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Predicting Rangel would push to roll back all Bush’s tax cuts, and thus would reverse increased deductions for married joint filers, Land said, “I’m convinced many Americans would join me in saying that’s a family value.”

The Traditional Values Coalition warns that “If conservatives lose control of either chamber of Congress, it will prove disastrous for our future.” According to TVC head Rev. Lou Sheldon, “a loss of the House” could mean that “our war on terrorism will be undermined” by impeachment proceedings. Not only that, but “evil forces” like “Iraqi terrorists, North Korea, and Iran,” “want to see a liberal political victory on election day in November.” “Our nation cannot afford to have wimps and morally confused individuals in charge of our national security policies,” warns the group in an e-mail to supporters