Yesterday, the Republican National Committee decided they would not adopt a new platform — a list of what their party stands for — heading into the 2020 elections.
They would instead just recycle whatever they had in 2016… which is partly hilarious because that platform condemns the “current president” repeatedly, going so far as to say the “gravest peril originates in the White House.”
But beyond the obvious jokes, there’s so much in the platform that was problematic then, and it continues to be problematic now, especially for atheists who care about church/state separation. That’s not surprising given that Christian pseudo-historian David Barton and hate group leader Tony Perkins were involved with drafting it.
So let’s just run through the lowlights. (And I’m skipping over the mere mentions of God — there are 14 of them — and getting right to the substance.)
Defending Marriage Against an Activist Judiciary
The GOP condemns marriage equality and LGBTQ rights.
We condemn the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, which wrongly removed the ability of Congress to define marriage policy in federal law. We also condemn the Supreme Court’s lawless ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which in the words of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, was a “judicial Putsch” — full of “silly extravagances” — that reduced “the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Storey to the mystical aphorisms of a fortune cookie.” In Obergefell, five unelected lawyers robbed 320 million Americans of their legitimate constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
To be clear, the Obergefell decision left churches and religious individuals with the ability to define marriage however they wish. There have been zero instances of pastors having to officiate a same-sex wedding against their will.
Also, support for marriage equality has hit a record high across the country.
Also, Republicans seem to be totally fine with those “unelected lawyers” now that they’ve installed two of their own on the bench, including one seat that was arguably stolen. With their 5-4 majority on the Court, they are much more receptive to the rulings. Shocking.
The First Amendment: Religious Liberty
The GOP wants to repeal the Johnson Amendment and allow Christian favoritism in public schools.
… many charitable religious institutions that have demonstrated great success in helping the needy have been barred from receiving government grants and contracts. Government officials threaten religious colleges and universities with massive fines and seek to control their personnel decisions. Places of worship for the first time in our history have reason to fear the loss of tax-exempt status merely for espousing and practicing traditional religious beliefs that have been held across the world for thousands of years, and for almost four centuries in America. We value the right of America’s religious leaders to preach, and Americans to speak freely, according to their faith. Republicans believe the federal government, specifically the IRS, is constitutionally prohibited from policing or censoring speech based on religious convictions or beliefs, and therefore we urge the repeal of the Johnson Amendment.
The majority of these issues are and always have been about taxpayer-sanctioned discrimination. Should a public university reward a Christian student group that bars gay leaders? Can taxpayer-supported Catholic adoption agencies discriminate against gay parents? And should tax-exempt organizations, like churches, be allowed to make political endorsements?
Trump has said repeatedly that he did indeed repeal the Johnson Amendment. He has not. That’s a lie. But the IRS simply isn’t going after pastors who violate the law.
We support the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage and further affirm the rights of religious students to engage in voluntary prayer at public school events and to have equal access to school facilities.
Republicans want public schools to put up Christian monuments — and only Christian monuments — that say things like “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” and “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.” The education value of that hasn’t been explained.
The Fifth Amendment: Protecting Human Life
Instead of looking at evidence showing what lowers abortion rates, this plank promotes long-tired conspiracies about Planned Parenthood.
We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts.
This section on “Protecting Human Life,” ironically coming shortly after the part about the right to bear arms so they can shoot people, exaggerates reality. Withholding federal funds from Planned Parenthood has had a drastic effect on women’s health since the group provides breast exams, cancer screenings, and contraception. Furthermore, it’s a lie, amplified by right-wing media, that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue for cash. (They donated it for research purposes and got reimbursed for shipping/handling, all to assist with research that could help people down the line.)
For a party that claims to be all about individual freedom, they insist that women shouldn’t be allowed to make their own medical decisions.
Education: A Chance for Every Child
The GOP wants the Bible back in public schools.
A good understanding of the Bible being indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry, we encourage state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high schools.
This isn’t necessarily a bad idea. But as we’ve seen all too often, Bible-as-literature courses often serve as ways for the Religious Right to sneak in their own ideology.
Marriage, Family, and Society
The GOP says gay parents don’t count as real Americans.
Foremost among those institutions is the American family. It is the foundation of civil society, and the cornerstone of the family is natural marriage, the union of one man and one woman… everyone should be concerned about the state of the American family today, not because of ideology or doctrine, but because of the overwhelming evidence of experience, social science, and common sense. All of which give us these truths about traditional marriage: Children raised in a two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, more likely to do well in school, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage.
No credible evidence supports what they said here. Just as with studies that suggest religious people are emotionally healthier, the issue isn’t religion/tradition at all; it’s the way we treat people who are not cisgender and straight. When gay parents are demonized by conservatives, it’s no wonder children of gay parents suffer some of the consequences.
That’s not an argument against marriage equality. It’s an argument against religious bigotry.
Ensuring Safe Neighborhoods: Criminal Justice and Prison Reform
Despite the need for real reform here, the GOP just wants to condemn porn.
Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions. We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children’s safety and well-being. We applaud the social networking sites that bar sex offenders from participation. We urge energetic prosecution of child pornography, which is closely linked to human trafficking.
If pornography (with consenting adults) is destroying your life, you’re doing it wrong. It’s also appalling that this issue is listed under “criminal justice and prison reform” as if there’s a link between watching porn and committing crimes. But this is a common theme in evangelical circles, where abstinence is promoted at all costs and self-gratification is considered a sin. (Pastor Mark Driscoll once argued that masturbation was essentially homosexuality since guys were touching a penis and there wasn’t a woman involved.)
Also, I guess this plank never got back to Sen. Ted Cruz.
The GOP hates trans people with the same passion as J.K. Rowling.
That same provision of law is now being used by bureaucrats — and by the current President of the United States — to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories. Their agenda has nothing to do with individual rights; it has everything to do with power. They are determined to reshape our schools — and our entire society — to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions. Their edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suit against it.
If being transgender means you’re part of an “ideology alien to America’s history and traditions,” it’s only because Americans have ignored or dismissed it for so long. Laws allowing trans people to use the appropriate bathrooms hurt nobody. Christian conservatives, as usual, have to resort to fictional fears to scare people from treating trans people with dignity and respect.
The Public Religion Research Institute also noted in 2019 that “72% of Americans favor laws that would protect LGBT people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing.” 30% “strongly” favor it. (Also, 61% of Republicans support anti-discrimination laws!)
Protecting Individual Conscience in Healthcare
The GOP supports gay conversion torture.
We support the ability of all organizations to provide, purchase, or enroll in healthcare coverage consistent with their religious, moral, or ethical convictions without discrimination or penalty. We support the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.
It doesn’t say this explicitly, but this section supports harmful, unscientific, and widely derided “conversion therapy” for gay people. “Praying away the gay” is basically a GOP plank.
Somehow, all of this made it into the 2016 platform, and no one in the party’s leadership believes it needs to change. Instead of getting rid of their hate, they’re literally doubling down on it, making sure conservative Christians get the memo that their bigotry remains the GOP’s agenda.
There’s no “evolution” on these issues. There’s no attempt to consider an audience outside a specifically Christian one. There’s no update based on how the nation has changed over four years.
Last night, I contacted Republican Atheists, a group that routinely supports Trump’s agenda despite his promotion of Christian Nationalism, to ask what they thought of the platform. The group was launched in 2017, so they never weighed in on the old platform. Did they endorse it? Did it need to change?
While the “read” receipt on Facebook says they saw the message last night, I was told this morning they “don’t have time to assess” it. Makes sense. It’s only been four years.
I guess we need to wait longer.
(Image via Shutterstock. Large portions of this article were published earlier)