Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. (Photo: Getty Images)
"The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation," declared John McCain back in September 2007. With his vice-presidential pick of Governor Sarah Palin, he has found a winsome soul mate who is even more of a Christian nationalist, eager to use government to impose her religious views on the rest of us.
Palin's stance on abortion illustrates her approach. As she proudly declares, she sees the Bible as literally true, which leads her to believe that aborting a fetus is murder. That position contradicts our long history of common and statutory law. She then goes on to conclude that government should severely punish anyone who has an abortion or performs one, even in the case of rape or incest. She also opposes stem cell research.
McCain hears God less extremely, but the Republican platform echoes Palin, and if she ever became president, she would feel completely justified in making her religious belief a litmus test for appointees to the Supreme Court.
Her attitude toward gays and lesbians is similar, though observers in both the gay press and corporate media have misrepresented the firmness of her convictions. The confusion stems from a legal suit that some same-sex couples filed in 1999, arguing that Alaska had no right to deny domestic partners of state employees the same health and pension benefits that the state gave to married spouses. The case made its way to Alaska's Supreme Court, which ruled in 2005 that the state could not discriminate against the domestic partners.
In the political firestorm that followed, the Alaska legislature passed a bill forbidding state officials to pay the benefits. Alaska's attorney general then declared the bill unconstitutional, and the newly inaugurated Governor Palin felt legally obliged to veto it. But, she loudly proclaimed her opposition to spousal benefits for domestic partners and signed a separate bill calling for a state referendum, which she said would lay the groundwork for overturning the state Supreme Court ruling.
She also declared her long-time opposition to same-sex marriage, a position she had displayed as early as 1998 when she enthusiastically backed a constitutional amendment to ban the practice in Alaska.
"I believe that honoring the family structure is that important," she told the Anchorage Daily News in 2006. She was "not out to judge anyone and has good friends who are gay." But, she explained, her opposition grew out of her strong religious views.
Palin's religious convictions, and her willingness to use the power of government to force them on others, has won strong backing from far-right groups, such as James Dobson's Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, and the Council for National Policy, the normally secretive network of right-wing preachers, political operatives, and fat cats who have been a major force in the Republican Party ever since they backed Ronald Reagan for president.
These overlapping groups view homosexual acts as "an abomination" and have led the fight against what Dr. Dobson calls "the radical Homosexual agenda." Focus on the Family will soon bring to Anchorage a conference on "curing homosexuality" through the power of prayer, an event that Palin's hometown church in Wasilla is actively promoting.
In the same vein, Palin has opposed extending hate crime laws to protect gays and lesbians, called for teaching creationism in public schools, and - as mayor of Wasilla - looked into banning books from the public library because they contained inappropriate language.
She described the building of a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in Alaska as "God's will," which she would work to carry out as governor.
She supports the presence of US troops in Iraq as a "task that is from God."
And she has told colleagues that Christ will return within her lifetime, which raises questions about what sort of Armageddon she has in mind.
However absurd one finds all this, Palin's religious convictions should normally remain her own private concern. But her eagerness to use public office to enforce and implement what she believes makes her beliefs a matter of enormous public importance.
If you don't believe me, just listen to the enormous support Palin is receiving from Dr. Dobson, "End Time" author Tim La Haye, and others on the Christian right. Dobson once swore he would never vote for John McCain. He now calls McCain's choice of Palin "outstanding" and is promising his enthusiastic support.
Sarah Palin is their gal, and if she is elected vice president, these warriors of God could find themselves only a heartbeat away from their long-held goal of turning America into an ultra-rightwing Christian nation.