According to a survey done by Public Religion Research, there is now empirical evidence that Tea Partiers align with the Religious Right.
According to the survey, recently highlighted in an article by Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches, nearly half of all respondents who considered themselves part of the tea party movement also considered themselves part of the religious right.
Robert P. Jones, President of PRR, reported, "Among the more than 8-in-10 (81%) who identify as Christian within the Tea Party movement," the survey found, "57% also consider themselves part of the Christian conservative movement."
One third of tea partiers are white evangelical Christians, Jones said the survey showed, compared to one in five voters in the general population. But one in three Republicans are white evangelical Christians, too, more proof that supporters of the tea party and the GOP -- despite the tea party claims to be an outside force -- share many of the same beliefs.
Based on my own reporting, though, the absence of bloody fetus posters at tea party rallies says nothing about the interest of tea partiers in either the "culture war" issues or economic issues. Early tea party rallies focused on opposition to health care reform described "Obamacare" in baby-killing terms, something Sarah Palin just reminded activists about, telling an audience health care reform has brought "the biggest advance of the abortion industry in America." (The opposite of what Palin means is true, though -- the abortion restrictions in the health care bill will likely mean fewer abortions, not more.)As people of faith, it's critically important that we not allow ourselves to be distracted or appalled by the "street theater" of the Tea Party movement, and take a long, hard look at the issues involved.
I want to suggest that one of the bell weather issues in this election is Reproductive Health and Rights. It is an indicator of how a candidate will vote on other issues of social justice.
The old saying that "The personal is political" was never more true. Nothing is more personal than a woman's right over her own body.
It doesn't take much to make the justice connection.
When you look at the states that have enacted restrictions on reproductive rights - Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Idaho, Nebraska, South Carolina, Utah, Missouri, and Oklahoma - you'll not find one of them with any form of marriage equality or any support to repeal of DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell).
Homophobia and Heterosexism are tools of Misogyny and Sexism.
Always have been. Always will be.
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights (RCRC) has put together a list of questions to ask the candidates which I find very helpful.
In the next few weeks, it's important to pick up the phone and call your candidates and ask them at least one of the following questions. Better yet, show up at one of the rallies and ask these questions publicly.
Do you support the constitutional right to privacy that protects a woman's ability to make decisions about when and whether to have a child?
Facts: Over 30 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade that there is a right to privacy in deciding whether and when to have a child. Diverse religious denominations and traditions with millions of members compassionately affirm a woman's moral right to make reproductive decisions according to her own conscience and religious principles.
Will you vote to expand access to family planing services for low-income women through the Title Ten national family planning program and Medicaid and new health care regulations?
Facts: Low-income and uninsured women need affordable contraception. A low-income woman is 4 times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy and 5 times more likely to have an unintended birth than a woman with higher income. Unintended pregnancy can perpetuate poverty, interrupt education and job opportunities, and create family hardship. My faith underlies my commitment to equality and inspires me to advocate for accessible contraception and intentional parenthood.
Will you vote to increase U.S. funding for international family planning and reproductive health services to reduce maternal and infant mortality and fight HIV/AIDS?
Facts: Meeting the need for contraceptive services for women in developing countries would help to prevent 500,000 maternal deaths each year from pregnancy-related causes and help save 4 million newborns who die in the first month of life. As a person of faith and citizen of the world, I am committed to righting the injustice of this needless loss of life.
Medically Accurate Sex Ed
Will you vote to support comprehensive, medically accurate sex education instead of ineffective abstinence-only programs?
Facts: Eighty-five percent of Americans support comprehensive sex education, including a significant majority of people of all faiths. For fiscal year 2011, President Obama's administration has dedicated $155 million to comprehensive, evidence-based sex education programs, although $35 million was promised for ineffective abstinence-only programs. As a person of faith, I support providing honest, accurate information about contraception AND abstinence that will help our youth make responsible decisions and reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Will you vote against the Hyde Amendment?
Facts: We have a discriminatory two-tiered health care system when it comes to abortion access. The Hyde Amendment bans federal funding for abortion; it denies low-income women the same right and access to abortion services that other women have. As a person of faith, I strongly oppose restricting a woman's access to reproductive health care because she is poor. That is discrimination on the basis of economic status and it is wrong. I urge you to oppose the Hyde Amendment.
Will you vote against Representative Chris Smith's bill - "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act?"
Facts: This misleadingly-named bill (HR 5939) would codify the Hyde Amendment and put additional restrictions on women's access to reproductive care. It would permanently deny abortion coverage to low-income women, federal employees, and military women and effectively end coverage in private employer policies. As a person of faith, I am against restrictions that violate a woman's moral agency and ability to act according to her own conscience.
This question is for U.S. Senate candidates only: Will you oppose any nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, other federal courts, and the administration who do not support the right to privacy that includes the right to choose abortion?
Facts: The vast majority of Americans want to protect the constitutional right to decide when and whether to have children. Americans want to be free to follow their own conscience and religious beliefs in this matter, not forced to follow views that they may not share or hold.
While all of these questions are important, it is critically important to move beyond your own apathy or cynicism and VOTE.
Start making a "to do" list for November 2nd.
Open your calendar or day book and make sure you've circled TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 2nd and write at the top of the page: VOTE.
Schedule a best time to get yourself to the polls: Early morning before you leave for work? A quick trip at lunch? On your way home from work? After dinner?
Check the location and hours of your polling place. If you jog or walk as part of your exercise, you might want to plan your route with a stop-over at your local voting booth.
Do you know someone who lives alone or is elderly or doesn't have a car? Call them and ask if you can offer a ride.
Organize a car pool from your church or civic organization or community club to offer transportation to the polls for those who need it.
Make no mistake: While we're all either disgusted or mesmerized by the antics of the Tea Party, they are behind the scenes, doing exactly what I'm outlining above.
Let me repeat: 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, one-third of the U.S. Senate seats, and numerous state and local offices are on the line.
Put your faith into action and follow the prophetic call to "love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with God".