First posted at Campus Progress last week.
It was not enough to prevent a major electoral upset (pending a recount) in Wisconsin this week, but the religious right seems to be stepping up its anti-union game in Wisconsin and elsewhere, according to Josh Harkinson at Mother Jones.
The right-wing Family Research Council (FRC), which was declared a hate group last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center, waded into a highly contentious Wisconsin Supreme Court election this week that was largely seen as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting Budget Repair Bill, airing radio ads throughout the state through a new PAC: Faith, Family, and Freedom.
You may remember the FRC from the highly-scientific study they released that found that “homosexuals serving in the army are three times more likely than heterosexuals to commit sexual assaults,” or their recent classy attempt to turn Apple’s decision to pull a “gay cure” app into a fundraising opportunity, or their support of “ex-gay therapy,” or any number of public activities that might qualify an organization to be deemed a hate group.
Harkinson digs into some of the organization’s recent bizarre anti-union rhetoric that melds a love for God and a hatred of attempts to reduce economic inequality. Quoting recent FRC lecturer Mark Caleb Smith, he writes, “’Government-imposed social justice is unjust,’ Smith concluded, adding that Christians who support that notion are heretical and un-American.”
Harkinson also quotes a tweet by FRC president Tony Perkins (who Campus Progress has previously profiled), who directly links social conservatism with an anti-union, pro-business agenda: “Pro-family voters should celebrate WI victory b/c public & private sector union bosses have marched lock-step w/liberal social agenda.”
Outside the FRC, Harkinson cites a Christian Coalition manual that states, “Christians have a responsibility to submit to the authority of their employers, since they are designated as part of God’s plan for the exercise of authority on the earth by man.”
The rise of a brand of Christian fundamentalism that explicitly ties collective bargaining to eternal salvation is pretty scary stuff. But recent years have seen increasing numbers of the faithful that preach the opposite: There is an increasing number of religious people, Christian and otherwise, organizing in supportof unions and working people, in Wisconsin and beyond.
Interfaith Worker Justice, for example, is a national network of religious folks who not only actively support labor campaigns but also lead the fight for them. It was not labor unions but IWJ that led the charge to make of “wage theft” into a national issue that eventually saw the passage of a number of wage theft prevention laws in states around the country. They have created or affiliated with dozens of workers’ centers and have organized car washers.
Religious leaders made clear their willingness to be arrested in civil disobedience actions in Wisconsin, and led ecumenical services in the occupied capitol’s rotunda one Sunday morning. Progressive unions like UNITE HERE and SEIU have taken a page from Caesar Chavez and other labor struggles of years past by making religious leaders central parts of their union organizing drives.
So if you’re a bit bummed out by the news that there are folks in this grand ol’ country of ours that think God considers the estate tax a sin and Jesus told parables teaching against minimum wage laws, take heart. The labor battles in this country are, indeed, increasingly becoming holy wars. But religious foot soldiers don’t always see an anti-worker agenda as part of God’s plan.
Micah Uetricht is a staff writer with Campus Progress.