Promised at the end of this post were suggestions for ways to counter the Religious Right. I'm going to making some of those suggestions today, beginning with actions you can take in two vitally important arenas.
If you're on this website, you probably don't need to be convinced that the Religion Right is a strong political movement that needs to be checked. But, context matters, so here's a bit of that in the form of a quick, two-part refresher:
Point 1 of 2: The Religious Right's influence is big. Others have written elsewhere about the Religious Right's successes in redefining debates and winning victories legislative or cultural related to a host of issues: women's reproduction freedom and health, the media, civil and human rights for gay Americans, and many other issues of interest to them . . . and hopefully to us all. What is more, the Religious Right's influence relative to these issues is increasingly global, making the need for action all the greater.
Point 2 of 2: The Religious Right's mechanisms are legion. The Religious Right didn't get its present stature without allies and clear strategies and goals. The movement's rise is both a cause and a consequence of the ascendancy, beginning 30 years ago, of modern American conservatism itself. And the rise of each utilized mechanisms such as think tanks, media, young conservatives programs, and electoral politics.
I divided the above summary into two realms: that of issues (the "what") and that of the mechanisms (the "how"). I propose that such a division is helpful in any consideration of how to counter the Religious Right. And the next step can be disaggregating each realm into discrete arenas in which you can defend our Constitution's principles against the Religious Right by means of very specific actions.
So, let's break down the second realm, the "how" realm, and look at just two of its arena, leaving the realm of issues alone for today. The list of ways to counter the Religious Right has to begin somewhere, and personally I believe it begins with two arenas of foundational importance, two upon which later victories are based.
ARENA: ELECTORAL POLITICS. Every arena I will ever itemize on Talk to Action is at least indirectly connected to every other one; but, there is a single one to which I believe all the rest are directly connected. That area is simply electoral politics--yes, political parties, candidates, and voting.
The Religious Right came to power largely by organizing politically. And without their electoral victories, their issues would remain just that: issues. All talk; no action; no results. The largest single aspect of that political organizing was becoming indispensable to the Republican Party.
Something you can do in this arena: First, if you're not registered to vote, register now.
Something else you can do: Get involved in electoral politics locally. Here there ought to be a link to an online master directory of official Republican and Democratic clubs in the nation. Neither the Republican National Committee nor the Democratic National Committee offer such. But you can go here (RNC) or here (DNC) to get contact information to party headquarters in your state and ask them for ways to get involved locally. They may point you to a club, or in states or areas of a state where there is no club system, they might point you to the party's county committee, or other party-related groups.
Of course, one can enter into electoral politics without going through the parties. There are dozens of local organizations or national organizations with local chapters that are options, which endorse candidates and work to get out the vote for them.
The key is to find opportunities to spread the word about the Religious Right within and eventually, perhaps, beyond the local organization, and where it's necessary to push candidates and party activists to take action relative to the Religious Right. There are many ways to do this, and you need to look at the situation you're in and see what you can do.
An example: I joined a local partisan political club, and after becoming the Editor-in-Chief of its newsletter, used my monthly column as a way to raise awareness about the Religious Right. My local candidates didn't need to be pushed to act because the Religious Right is virtually non-existent as a political force in my urban neighborhood, but they and members of the club often had simple, two-dimensional views of the Religious Right, and needed to be encouraged to join the larger discussion, reach out to their friends or families in other states, and if possible contribute time or money to organizations that oppose the Religious Right.
Another suggestion might be to familiarize yourself with Theocracy Watch's presentation, "Are We Becoming a Democracy?" and volunteer to present it to your local club or county committee.
ARENA: TRAINING THE NEXT GENERATION. The Religious Right's churches and student groups, as well private conservative Christian schools and evangelical and fundamentalist parents who home school, train young minds in conservative ideology. Consider the case of Patrick Henry College.
Something you can do in this arena: Tell a budding progressive, whether your own child, cousin, niece, or nephew or whoever about progressive scholarships, like this one from Blogging for Progress. In doing so, it may be a great opportunity to make sure they're connected to ideas for outreach and networks of other young progressives who can inspire them.
More scholarships, internships, and fellowships are listed here. Have a budding progressive (or two or three) in mind who is a junior or senior in high school? Think. Come on. Okay, now e-mail them relevant links, such as the ones above, with the subject line "money for college." . Trust me, they'll read the e-mail.
Something else you can do: Actually help fund a program for young progressives, like Young People For, or the Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund. Maybe you don't have children of your own, or they have already graduated from college. If you feel you can spare some money to help improve the future prospects of a young individual who could be a future progressive leader, give some money now.
Obviously, there are other things you can do in these arenas. But, I hope to raise awareness about just a few options at a time. Otherwise, it can become overwhelming, and we want to turn talk to action on this site, not paralysis!
(Oh, and . . . have you e-mailed that young progressive yet?)