Emergence of Faith and Politics at the State Level

Emergence of Faith and Politics at the State Level

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2388-8.ch002
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This chapter describes the ideological forms and beliefs that are considered either evangelical or liberal. The differences between these two types of faith worldviews influence legislative decision making and inform culture. To the extent that gay issues represent a cultural divide between religious traditionalism and progressivism policy outcomes are impacted by these differences.
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After giving my life to Christ, I recognized how important it is that people of faith participate in the public square. I have tried to follow the principles of my faith in all aspects of my life, including my involvement in politics ~ Georgia Senator Josh McKoon



Faith disputes over values have a long political history in the United States. From the mid-1800’s forward, waves of Catholic immigrants poured into the United States. This phenomenon produced a cultural divide in political loyalties. As the Catholic-Protestant split grew, political issues took on overtones reflecting the religious division. Although such disputes have a highly symbolic edge to them because many morality policies are rarely enforced, Gusfield (1963) argues that these disputes should be seen as attempts to redistribute values, to put the government's stamp of approval on one set of values rather than another. The Temperance movement was an attempt by rural, Protestant, native-born citizens to establish the superiority of their values over those of urban, Catholic immigrants. Accordingly, morality policy is similar to redistributive policy; the main difference being that the redistributed good is not money or government programs, but values. Protestant voters were disproportionately Republican, whereas most Catholics became Democrats. The process resembles that of redistributive politics except groups seek to redistribute values (not income) by having government put its stamp of approval or disapproval on a specified set of values (Gusfield, 1963; Goggin, 1993; Meier, 1994).

This type of redistribution of values continues, protestant fundamentalists by playing a key role in the introduction and passage of bans on same-sex marriage, whether through the legislature or at the ballot box (Barclay & Fisher, 2003; Haider-Markel, 2001). In morality politics, partisanship tends to play an important role. In particular, the Republican Party’s focus on traditional family values is strongly associated with less support for gay civil rights and same-sex marriage (Lindaman & Haider-Markel, 2002). Those disputes are over deeply held values, compromise solutions rarely attract any support. Morality politics, like redistributive politics tends to be partisan, seek non-incremental solutions, focus on deeply held values, and flourish in areas with competitive political parties (Ripley & Franklin, 1991; Lowi, 1969). Two examples of this kind of discourse come from legislative hearings in Connecticut and floor debate in Minnesota on same-sex partner recognition:

Marriage is more than a bundle of rights. It also promotes stability in relationships… These couples do not seek to weaken marriage in any way. On the contrary, they want to pledge themselves to adhere to all of its great criteria and ideals. Love, fidelity, intimacy, financial support, health care responsibility, mutuality. Marriage needs more of that kind of commitment, not less. (Connecticut General Assembly, 2002)

We should be encouraging people to make these life-long commitments. We should be proud that people want to do that… I want to defend marriage too. If others want to be married, I like to see commitments like that. That is what we are as human beings: People who have the capacity to love and care for others. (Minnesota Senate, 1997)

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