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The freedom to impose religion on others

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I have to disagree with the people who claim that the GOP is somehow winning from their current jihad against contraception. Even if the GOP was trying to 'move the Overton window' as Gaius suggests, the GOP is still left discussing a social issue that most people imagine was settled some time in the 1930s. The main reason that the Griswold decision came so late (1965) was that the law was not being enforced.

Rank stupidity can look a lot like ingenuity if clever people spend a lot of time trying to find the hidden strategy and refuse to accept stupidity as the explanation. According to the Overton window theory the GOP can now spend their time talking about other restrictions on contraception without appearing to be complete reactionary fools. Well bring it on, it is still an issue where their position is supported by less than 10% of the population.

What the GOP is really attempting is a return to the pilgrim fathers new of religious freedom: the right to impose their view of religion on others.

My church has a particular view on this. We have four martyrs buried here in in Boston, executed by the state for their belief that an omnipotent God has no need of priests to act as intermediaries in his communications. My biblical knowledge may be incomplete but I cannot recall one passage where God says 'I need to talk to you, hang on, I'll just get a priest'.

October 27th is International Religious Freedom Day in memory of Marmaduke Stephenson who was executed for refusing the religion imposed on him by the colony. Charles II agreed with the martyrs and in 1661 sent a missive forbidding the execution of Quakers for their faith. The colony was later put under a royal governor and administered under English law.

The idea that freedom of religion is freedom from religion and in particular freedom from the religion imposed by priests or the state is older than the republic.

The GOP has got itself into a position where their base is shrunk to a narrow clique of theocrats. They have to expand the Overton window so they can pander to that base during the primary season without appearing to be too extreme. But that still leaves them pandering on an issue that will be poisonous to their election prospects in November.

Raising birth control has proved to be a win-win-win proposition for Obama. In the short term it has allowed Santorum to surge and deny Romney a quick victory. In the medium term it has reminded women voters that they probably don't want to see a Mormon bishop as President. In the longer term it has reminded independent voters that they really don't want a GOP theocracy.

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