Senator Jim DeMint has an impressive record in the Senate. The Junior Senator from South Carolina’s main work since his election in 2005 has centered on opposing the increase of federal government spending, both under the Bush and Obama Administrations. He has been particularly hostile to bailouts for banks and other corporations. DeMint is also a vocal proponent of Right to Work laws and, as such, opposes the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) that would strip workers of secret ballot elections.
However, DeMint leaves much to be desired on social issues. According to the Charleston City Paper, “DeMint’s office has reasserted his commitment to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.” DeMint’s position is not particularly popular: only a small majority (54%) of gay marriage opponents favor amending the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage, according to a 2006 survey.
Opines the paper: “DeMint’s strong support for states rights, while also seeking federal involvement on gay marriage may be indicative of a larger struggle between the religious and libertarian elements of the Republican Party as it rebrands itself.”
So just like the Democrats, DeMint simply picks and chooses what issues he wants government to take an activist role in.
Gay marriage is just the most recent example of the social conservatives’ war on individual choice. And it is but one example of some social conservatives’ interest in nationalizing issues that should not be decided by the federal government.
A 2006 survey of 2,003 adults found that 55% prefer that abortion laws be decided at the national level rather than each state deciding for itself. This desire for a national policy prescription extends to other social issues, too. Despite growing antipathy toward Congress and low levels of trust in the federal government generally, majorities or pluralities also favored a national (rather than state-by-state) approach to policymaking on stem cell research, gay marriage and whether creationism should be taught in the schools along with evolution.
It isn’t just abortion and gay marriage where social conservatives want government to intervene. In 2006, the Family Research Council surveyed its members on immigration, and, by a ratio of 9 to 1, they believe illegal immigrants should be “detected, arrested and returned to their country of origin.”
I’m not saying that illegal immigration should be tolerated (it shouldn’t be) — although Congress has tolerated it for decades.
But a rational approach to the issue does not entail rounding up millions of people and sending them away.
A Pew poll from 2006, cited by the San Francisco Chronicle, found that two-thirds of white evangelicals consider new immigrants to be a burden and a threat to American culture. The poll didn’t even include the word ‘illegal’.
Some evangelicals seem to have massive problem with gays and immigrants — and they think the government can (and should) solve their concerns.
How about foreign policy?
Surely the religious right doesn’t want government to intervene there, right?
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. In fact, it was with the blessing of many social conservatives who supported unwavering authority for the Bush Administration’s War in Iraq, detaining terrorist suspects without due process rights, and torture policies.
This despite the fact that Christian Just War Theory stresses necessary cause, right intention, last report, and legitimate authority when governments wage a war. And the fact that the Constitution requires Congress to authorize war powers.
Yet the small (quiet) group of Christian evangelicals who questioned the Bush Administration’s policies on Iraq and waterboarding were labeled unpatriotic, anti-American, and bad Christians.
Voltaire once said, “Of all religions, Christianity is without a doubt the one that should inspire tolerance the most.” Many Christians have been tolerant of others, and a few social conservatives have been able to align with libertarians via the Ron Paul movement.
Those Christians have stayed true to their principles while recognizing that government is not the solution to these complex social problems that plague society. They need to wake up their socially conservative, evangelical brethren to the fact that using government as a tool of social coercion is unethical–indeed, anti-religious.
“I never will by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance,” said Thomas Jefferson.
Social conservatives need to practice a bit more tolerance and wake up to the fact that asking government to solve these social dilemmas is no different than activists on the left asking government for handouts.
And no different than giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.