WASHINGTON – Right-wing groups that oppose advances in marriage equality and reproductive justice have increasingly embraced a new tactic to push their agenda: the claim that opposition to them on policy amounts to oppression of their religious beliefs. A new report from People For the American Way exposes how the anti-gay, anti-choice Religious Right uses false and misleading stories to portray itself as a victim of religious persecution and intolerance.
The report, “The Persecution Complex: The Religious Right’s Deceptive Rallying Cry,” illustrates how Religious Right activists and elected officials have attempted to portray the increasing unpopularity of their stances on a number of cultural issues as evidence of oppression of their religious faith and represent themselves as the only holdouts in a society that is turning its back on moral values.
“Religious Right leaders hold themselves up as the victims,” stated People For the American Way’s President Michael B. Keegan. “This is a powerful talking point, even if not true. We need to expose these distortions for what they really are—an attempt to protect the Right’s ability to discriminate and push its policy preferences on the rest of us.”
The report explores a number of myths that have become widespread on the Religious Right, despite having little or no basis in reality:
- Two middle school girls are forced into a lesbian kiss as part of an anti-bullying program
- An Air Force sergeant is fired because he opposes same-sex marriage
- A high school track team is disqualified from a meet after an athlete thanks God for the team’s victory
- A Veterans Affairs hospital bans Christmas cards with religious messages
- A man fixing the lights in a Christmas tree falls victim to a wave of War-on-Christmas violence
- An elementary school student is punished for praying over his school lunch
- A little boy is forced to take a psychological evaluation after drawing a picture of Jesus
None of these stories is true.
These unfounded stories feed into a narrative that portrays conservative Christians as the victims of LGBT rights, reproductive justice, religious pluralism and secular government. This narrative, in turn, has fueled the legislative and legal efforts to turn back any progressive advances.
“Using the resonant rhetoric of religious persecution, bolstered by often-bogus stories of purported anti-Christian activities, the Religious Right has attempted to tip the balance away from pluralism and accommodation to a legal system that allows individuals and businesses to broadly exempt themselves from policies they disagree with,” the report states. “Even when that means trampling on the religious rights of others.”
Read the full report here.