Caving to the Demands of Religious Extremists

by Dan Quinn

Their failure to dictate which candidate will be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee this year doesn’t mean that religious-right leaders and activists aren’t shaping this year’s campaign. Just this week, for example, intense pressure from religious-right groups essentially forced openly gay political strategist Richard Grenell to resign from Mitt Romney’s campaign staff. A Republican adviser made that clear in a New York Times piece on Wednesday:

“It’s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay. They believed this was a nonissue. But they didn’t want to confront the religious right.”

Of course, Texans are familiar with politicians who refuse to confront the extremism of the religious right. Even worse, we have politicians — like Gov. Rick Perry — who pander to extremists. Bryan Fischer, the anti-gay hate monger at American Family Association, has been among the loudest (and most vicious) critics of Romney’s decision to put Grenell on his foreign policy team. You might recall that Gov. Perry got Fischer’s hate group to organize his prayer extravaganza at Houston’s Reliant Stadium last August.

Fischer is obsessed with homosexuality. He says, for example, that gay people are Nazis and that Americans “must choose between homosexuality and liberty.” In one of his least incendiary attacks against Grenell (a staunch conservative on just about everything except his support for same-sex marriage), Fischer Tweeted a couple of weeks ago:

Romney picks out & loud gay as a spokesman. If personnel is policy, his message to the pro-family community: drop dead.

Following Grenell’s announcement this week that he was leaving the Romney campaign, Fischer responded to a Tweet suggesting that the whole issue showed Romney can be pressured to flip-flop:

Gov. Romney will do the right thing if it’s politically expedient. Let’s make it expedient for him to do many right things.

Got that? Extremists like Fischer think the GOP’s likely presidential nominee is such a wuss that he will cave to pretty much any demands that they make. Seeing what happened to Grenell, perhaps they’re right.

But will that make Romney more palatable to the religious right? Maybe for some, but certainly not all. For some religious-righters, Romney is unqualified because they simply don’t think he’s a Christian. In fact, for extremists like Pastor Steven Andrew of USA Christian Ministries, Romney might as well be President Obama — someone else they don’t think is a Christian. In press release today, Andrew writes that Ron Paul is the only Christian left among active Republican presidential candidates:

“God warns that Obama and Romney serve another Jesus. Romney and Obama aren’t Christians. Don’t vote against God or waste your vote with Romney who shares in many of Obama’s sins.”

So it looks like Mitt Romney can continue to cave to the most vicious and discriminatory demands of the extremist fringe on the right, but even that won’t please the extremists. Of course, that’s a big reason why they’re extremists.

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