There is a very good reason why political parties should keep their distance from religious institutions. The former need to be able to adapt to changing social values and new political realities while the latter, locked in as they are to doctrines that are supposedly god given and unchanging, tend to be unable to evolve so easily. So if by a fortuitous set of circumstances, the values of major organized religions and a political party coincide, that may result in short term electoral success for the party but it would be mistake for the party to identify itself too strongly with the values of the religions because at some point the paths will inevitably diverge because social realities change faster than religious doctrines.
Of course, even religious doctrines do change over time when religious institutions realize that the tide is turning irreversibly against them (such as on issues of racial equality) and that they need to change course and go with the flow or risk losing their congregations, but there can be long periods when they can be out of step with the rest of the world.
The Republican party seems to have not learned that lesson and by aligning itself too strongly with values that come out of religion, it now faces a quandary because those values are seen as increasingly backward and even hateful. We see the issue playing out with respect to birth control and same-sex marriage. There is no rational reason for opposing either. Birth control is here to stay and in a few short years, same-sex marriage will be as routine as mixed race marriages. The only reason for opposing either is religious dogma that is disconnected from any rational basis. Religious institutions oppose both based on some interpretation of their scriptures but there is no reason for political parties to do so, because there are no social or economic reasons to support such an attitude.
The sheer irrationality of the opposition to birth control can be seen in the fact that 99% of all sexually active women (and 98% of Catholics) use some form of birth control. You would not get numbers like that if opposition to it had any rational basis.
So what I don’t understand is why the Republican party, that should be more concerned about winning votes than religious doctrinal purity, seems to be so opposed to it, as evidenced by their championing those opponents of the Affordable Care Act that are objecting to providing birth control as part of their health insurance plans. They may be doing this as a tactical move as part of their strategy to oppose the ACA wherever they can but they are cementing the view that they too are opposed to birth control
It should not be surprising that the party is paying a heavy political price by hitching its wagon to this losing proposition, and that women are edging more and more towards the Democratic party.
Over the last decade, Democrats have tried to widen the gap by charging the GOP with conducting a “War on Women.” There are several fronts in that war, Democrats say: Republicans oppose easy access to contraception, oppose abortion rights and oppose expansion of entitlements to help the poor (who are disproportionately women and children).
A 2012 Pew survey found that 57 percent of women favor Democrats. Young, single, gay, minority and pro-abortion-rights women have been with the party for a while. Older, white, married women lean to the GOP. But now married, churchgoing women living in cities are also voting for Democrats.
The Republican party’s calculus may be that they need to hold on to their religious base. But that calculation is a long term loser. The numbers of the religious are shrinking even if their fervor may be increasing, while the numbers of women are going to be the same and their role in politics is increasing. You would think that there would be an iron law for political parties: Don’t alienate your biggest demographic. But the Republicans seem to be ignoring it.
I can usually understand the thinking of people who take stands opposite to my own, even if I don’t agree with their reasoning. But the opposition to birth control and same-sex marriage makes no sense whatsoever.