(RNS) If you wonder what a right-wing political agenda laden with phony morality would look like, here are two signs.

First, from the increasingly shrill patriarch of Silicon Valley, venture capitalist Tom Perkins, the argument that rich people like him should get more votes in elections than poorer people.

Second, from the ever vigilant Kansas Legislature, a bill that would legalize segregation of gays in the name of protecting the religious freedom of those who loathe gays.

Perkins, of course, rode the gravy train to great wealth by backing those who actually did the work, took the risks and built something.

He recently compared criticism of the 1percent to Nazi persecution of Jews. Playing the victim card, as if the mega-wealthy were remotely close to being victims, he exploited actual persecution in Europe to mock growing complaints about an arrogant, self-serving Gilded Age class who take whatever money passes by and then consider themselves superior.

He then brandished his $382,000 wristwatch as proof of his superiority.

Now, a proposal to overturn American democracy — one person, one vote — in order to guarantee a never-ending gravy train for the precious few.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, Republicans in the state House pushed a bill that would have allowed government workers and private service providers to discriminate against gays because their religious principles shun gays. Imagine signs saying, “No gays served here” and “No gays allowed” cropping up at hospital emergency rooms, schools, motor vehicle offices, hotels, restaurants, banks — wherever an anti-gay zealot can claim his religious freedom is violated by having to obey a Constitution guaranteeing equal access to public services.

Such outlandish proposals make lesser assaults by the right wing seem less extreme, like moves to deny affordable health care in certain states, to shut off unemployment benefits, to allow corporations to buy elections, to deny collective bargaining to workers and to make public schools for the wealthy better than schools for everyone else.

And maybe that is the point. Put some wild-eyed extremes out there, and people won’t notice the everyday decimation of the middle class, shredding of safety nets and funneling of wealth to the few.

More likely, extremists feel emboldened to reveal exactly what they would do if they got power. Perkins’ “more votes for me” idea probably makes sense to people who mistakenly believe it was their effort and excellence alone that scored riches and that wealth confers greater rights.

Kansas’ re-targeting of Jim Crow laws probably makes sense to people who believe gays and lesbians shouldn’t have freedom, dignity or rights anyway.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. Photo courtesy Tom Ehrich

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. Photo courtesy of Tom Ehrich


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The pairing of right-wing politics with right-wing religion is consistent, too. Christian fundamentalism argues that it is the target of conspiracies, discrimination, cultural attacks such as a “war on Christmas” and persecution of the sort that would make Jesus proud.

Nothing rallies the troops better than self-righteous fury. Tell those who are indeed being victimized — by the mega-wealthy and a predator class — that they are under assault by a vulnerable minority, turn attention away from those actually gunning for their money and freedom, and create a scapegoat.

If it worked against the Jews, why wouldn’t it work against gays?

Calling this a faithful Christian agenda is obscene — and to their credit, the state’s Episcopal bishops said so before Senate leaders shelved the bill. The bill in Kansas has nothing to do with preserving religious freedom. But it has everything to do with using religion to take away freedom.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

7 Comments

  1. I’m not much for $382,000 wristwatches (food and shelter is too high-priced to be playing with such toys), so indeed I do agree with the criticism of Tom Perkins.

    But I commend the Kansas House for standing up for the constitutional freedom of religion and conscience that belongs to all of us, whether Christian or non-Christian, whether individuals or congregations.

    Whether it’s acknowledged or not, there is a real problem with the Gay Gestapo and what they did in New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont.

    These activists demand that businesses/agencies be forced to help celebrate, validate, and affirm gay marriage with their goods and services. Forcing businesses to accomodate people’s lifestyles and behaviors instead of just accomodating people.

    That’s no good. That’s unconstitutional. That’s unbiblical (just like gay marriage. That’s a gay mess and it needs to be stopped. Kudos to the Kansas House.

    • Appealing to bigotry has always worked well for rallying conservatives. Pretending bigots are somehow a victim class has always been a way to assuage the feelings that their views are losing social sanction.

      Civil liberties are not about asking people politely to respect others, its about giving bigots no other choice. Forcing businesses to follow laws that ban discrimination and not having commerce tied up due to prejudice is part of what civil liberties are all about. It didn’t fly with all forms of minorities, it doesn’t for gays.

      If you hold your business out as being open to the public, you must serve the entire public. If you want to discriminate in business, open a private club and take the loss in revenues that decreased exposure brings. That is the price of prejudice.

      The fact that you have to ground your views in religious terms (“its unbiblical”) shows how irrational your arguments are. If you had to defend them on a rational or secular basis, it would come up wanting. Its why the anti-gay zealots keep losing court cases.

    • Yes, I’m sure you’re right. “Heterosexuals only” signs are long overdue. Damn gay people. Always demanding to be treated equally. Who do they think they are, anyway? Citizens or something?

      • It’s one thing for businesses to accomodate people.

        It’s another thing for businesses to be forced to help celebrate and validate people’s lifestyles and marriages. That’s wrong.

        All people are created equal; all people’s lifestyles and marital choices are not.

        • Its one thing for businesses to act like businesses. Its another thing for them to be used as a sounding board for bigotry and tying up commerce to do it. The government has an interest in keeping the flow of commerce going without such irrational constraints.

          If you are not going to perform services and sell goods strictly for commercial purposes then you have no business holding yourself out as available to the public for such things. There is plenty of leeway to engage in bigotry and discrimination in your commercial activities. You just have to do it as a private cluble.

        • You’re not making sense. The businesses in question already “help celebrate and validate people’s lifestyles and marriages,” do they not? Goods such as wedding cakes and services such as wedding photography are typically associated with celebrating “people’s lifestyles and marriages,” are they not?

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