Politics and Religion: Everything Old Is New Again

People For the American Way Resurrects 25-year-old Ad for “Justice Sunday”

People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) has updated a 25-year-old ad in the face of increasing attempts to manipulate religion for political gain by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, including his planned appearance as part of “Justice Sunday” and his looming threat to deploy the “nuclear option” to eliminate the filibuster.

“The ad is a reminder that Americans value religious tolerance and diversity, and a rebuke to those radical right leaders who suggest that you can’t be a good Christian unless you share their political views,” said Ralph G. Neas, PFAWF President. “That message was important 25 years ago, and even more important today, when we see some of our nation’s most powerful elected officials crossing the line. We need to seek bipartisan cooperation, not inflame political divisions with religious manipulation. As the ad says, that’s not the American Way.”

The original ad was written and produced in 1980 by legendary TV producer Norman Lear as a response to rising voices of intolerance from the radical religious right. Calls poured in, and the overwhelming response led to the formation of People For the American Way. The ad features a construction worker in a hard hat next to a forklift.

“Here come some preachers on the radio and TV and in the mail, telling us on a bunch of political issues that there’s just one Christian position, and implying if we don’t agree, we’re not good Christians,” runs the ad. “ Maybe there’s something wrong when people, even preachers, suggest other people aren’t good Christians , depending on their political views.”

Neas said the old ad has taken on new resonance as the radical right, joined by senior elected officials, attempts to intimidate federal judges:

  • This Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will appear with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and Focus on the Family’s James Dobson in “Justice Sunday” an anti-filibuster simulcast to churches, called, “The Filibuster Against People Of Faith.” (link)
  • House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has threatened retribution against the judges in the Schiavo case, and raised the specter of impeachment for Supreme Court justices for unspecified “bad behavior.”
  • Senator John Cornyn suggested on the Senate floor that recent violent attacks against judges might be the result of frustration with their rulings.

“These are direct attacks on the wisdom of the founding fathers, who put a system of checks and balances into our government more than 200 years ago, and established an independent judiciary as the ultimate check on government power. We must not abandon the basic principles that protect our freedoms – no matter which political party holds power,” Neas said.

He noted that hundreds of religious leaders have rebuked Frist for his support of the “Justice Sunday” simulcast, which is being promoted with inflammatory materials charging that the filibuster is being used to keep people of faith, particularly Christians, off the federal courts.

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