By Gina Liggett
The Religious Right has been trying to breach the wall of separation of church and state for 30 years, and has enjoyed especially close access to the White House during the two Bush Administrations. They have achieved significant successes: Bush's faith-based initiatives, the partial-birth abortion ban, the passage of parental-notification laws, the Bush appointments of Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and the constitutional amendments against gay marriage just passed in Florida, Arizona and California. There are doubtlessly many other successes I've left out, especially at the state and local level.
But this election, there have been some defeats; and I think it is important to highlight them in the battle between those who want to create a Christian theocracy and those who value not only religious liberty, but freedom from religious-based morality.
The first is the significant rejection by Colorado voters of Amendment 48. The passage of that amendment would have granted full legal rights to a fertilized egg, resulting in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and the opening of a Pandora's box of legal wrangling over everything from birth control to fertility treatments to inheritance rights.
Washington state passed the nation's second assisted suicide law in the country. Now individuals who are suffering and who rationally decide to end their life with dignity have more opportunity to do so humanely. This is a "right-to-life" issue: the right to choose to control your life, and that includes ending interminable suffering. Evangelicals who want to prevent people from taking their own life into their own hands are deeply "anti-life."
Another attempt to severely ban abortion in South Dakota failed. Proponents tried to make a previous draconian abortion bill more palatable by allowing rape and incest victims or women in danger for their health to have an abortion if necessary. For anti-abortion Christians to decide on behalf of a woman what reason is good enough to justify an abortion is a negation of her right to life. An fetus has no rights to a woman's body without her consent under any circumstances.
Finally, candidates favored by the Religious Right suffered some losses at the polls. In five of eight Senate races, the Religious Right's favorite candidate lost (Colorado, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina and South Dakota); and two races are in a run-off (Georgia and Minnesota). In eleven races for the the House, six incumbent Representatives favored by the Religious Right were ousted (Colorado, Florida, Idaho, North Carolina, Michigan and Virginia). And three incumbents held off religious challengers (Indiana, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania). This means that it will be more difficult for evangelicals to forcibly decide for all of us that we should abide by a biblical morality.
While we must be ever-vigilant in upholding this most sacred of principles--the Separation of Church and State--these defeats of the Religious Right show that it can be done.