The Right’s Weakening Stranglehold on Religion

When Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama agreed to participate in a “Compassion Forum” over the weekend to “discuss how their faith and moral convictions bear on their positions on … important issues,” you’d think that the Religious Right would be elated and that they’d be criticizing John McCain for blowing off the event entirely, especially since they are constantly claiming that it is imperative for politicians “to bring their religiously-informed moral values to bear in election campaigns and public policy decisions.”

You’d be wrong:

A Philadelphia-based Christian ministry contends Messiah College in Pennsylvania reaffirmed its departure from the Christian faith when it hosted Sunday night’s “Compassion Forum” featuring Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Christian evangelist Michael Marcavage, who heads the ministry Repent America, teamed up with some Messiah College alumni and current students Sunday night to call on the school to “return to the God of the Bible.” Marcavage says Messiah “opened its doors to promotion of scriptural perversion” by allowing the Compassion Forum on campus.

Really, really wrong:

Rob Schenck, president of the conservative National Clergy Council, says the event last night reaffirmed that neither Obama nor Clinton are “in the most important ways” compatible with the core beliefs of Evangelicals or core convictions of Christian traditionalists of any kind.

“There was no room in either the thinking of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama for anyone who truly believes that all human life is precious at all stages of development from conception until natural death,” explains Schneck. “They have a stratified philosophy of the value of human life,” he continues, describing that philosophy as one that believes “there are some humans who are more valuable than others; there are humans who are not really human persons.

“Now that’s Dred Scott language,” he adds. “That’s what the pro-slavers believed.”

Schenck contends pro-life voters need to “read between the lines” because both Democratic candidates are working with professional speech coaches and they will give just enough information to “beguile” voters. “We have to be extremely discerning in this — prayerfully, carefully, biblically discerning …” in reading what was not said, he advises.

He also maintains that both Clinton and Obama have “no real moral philosophy” or any room for Christians who believe that “all human life is of equal value in the eyes of God.

So discussing one’s faith is all well and good, so long as you echo the narrow views of the Religious Right.  But when candidates don’t share those views, then it is downright dangerous, as the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins explained

It was meant to be a dialogue about faith in the public square, but last night’s “Compassion Forum,” broadcast by CNN and hosted by Messiah College, may have revealed more about the agenda of those within the ranks of religious liberals than it did about this year’s presidential candidates … [O]rganizations like FRC, which have historically addressed faith issues, were not invited to participate or even submit questions to the candidates. Instead, the event’s radical board, which included pro-abortion and homosexual advocates, used the forum as an opportunity to chip away at the traditional agenda of the faith-based community … Our priority as Christians should be as those of the Founding Fathers; protect the sanctity of human life, preserve marriage, and defend religious liberty. Unfortunately, with the help of some of our friends, the Religious Left is trying to realign, and thereby dilute, the values voter message.

Of course, it is not like Faith in Public Life was invited to participate in FRC’s Values Voter Summit or the Values Voter Debate, but apparently whenever any other event is held about religion and public life, FRC expects to be involved, otherwise the event is illegitimate.

Speaking of John McCain, some unnamed “source inside John McCain’s religious outreach team” tells the Brody File that McCain isn’t going to be talking about his religious views because his “faith is extremely private”:

He is not someone who feels comfortable expressing it on the campaign trail and I think a lot of it has to do with the feeling that he’s using it for public gain. I’m not saying he won’t discuss his faith in public forums.

Said unnamed source (who is probably Gary Bauer, since he’s been the one making this argument to the press) went on to say that Clinton and Obama aren’t going to be able to win over “Christian voters” with their faith talk because “Christian voters are looking for the full package and John McCain is the only one who can represent them on a broad range of issues.”

How exactly are “Christian voters” supposed to know that McCain is the “full package” when McCain refuses to talk about a key part of that package? Presumably, that is where McCain’s religious outreach team comes in.

So now we find ourselves in the odd situation where Clinton and Obama are publicly discussing their faith and being pilloried by the Right for it while McCain is being defended for his refusal to discuss his faith.