A spate of recent articles examine the potential overlap between the goals of the Religious Right and those of the Tea Party movement and all three of these pieces add another layer of nuance to the question about whether the tax protest group that advocates “a return to the Constitution” plans to some how merge with religious conservatives who advocate a return to “the Christian roots” of our country. Writing in The New York Times, journalist Kate Zernike points out that the Tea Party movement has purposely avoided hot-button social issues, sticking instead to its anti-tax and anti-big government message. Zernike quotes surveys in which Tea Party leaders consistently choose the budget and the economy as the most important issues facing our country. None select social issues and this is no accidental oversight. Tea Party-ers seem to want to avoid the distraction of the James Dobson crowd and Zernike provides this particularly telling quote: “Every social issue you bring in, you’re adding planks to your mission,” said Frank Anderson, a founder of the Independence Caucus, based in Utah. “And planks become splinters.”
Although the Tea Party might not want them and their splinters, the Religious Right appears eager to join. Los Angeles Times reporter Kathleen Hennessey interviewed many conservative religious figures for her recent article and many of them argue in favor of joining the Tea Party ranks. Hennessey has her own telling exchange:
“Ken Blackwell, a research fellow at the Family Research Council who has also been active in the tea party movement in Ohio, is among those who see tea partyers as the “younger siblings” in the movement.
Social conservatives are happy to embrace the economic message and those carrying it under the tea party banner “as long as they don’t start advocating against traditional marriage or for abortion,” Blackwell said, putting the tea parties in their place.
“The sibling is not now the parent,” he said.”
And our good friend Sarah Posner over at Religion Dispatches has a great post on a new non-profit started by the former Christian Coalition head, Ralph Reed. Reed, as head of the newly formed Faith and Freedom Coalition, is actively trying to bridge the gap between conservative social issues and conservative economics. Read her analysis here and check out Sarah’s recent interview with Welton on this very topic.
So what do you think? Who has the upper hand here and what does the future hold for these two groups – Tea Party and Religious Right? Tell us.