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Faith-Based Politics Costs Colorado Republicans

Colorado is known for its Western values of independence and economic liberty. So why do Republicans, the supposed champions of those values, keep getting trounced?

Republicans can blame wealthy Democratic donors, but in large part Republicans have beaten themselves by pushing a faith-based agenda of banning abortion and stem-cell research, discriminating against homosexuals, and directing welfare dollars to religious groups. They have subverted the law to religious doctrine and weakened the wall between church and state.

Republicans also have alienated freedom-minded independents and Republicans.

Polls released by Pew show most Americans, and half of conservatives, now oppose church involvement in politics. As Ryan Sager shows in his review of 2005 Pew data, the Interior West holds a “live and let live” philosophy, with 53 percent of residents saying homosexuality “should be accepted by society” and 59 percent saying “the government is getting too involved in the issue of morality.”

Yet the GOP panders to its evangelical base at the expense of political victory.

This year, Republicans passed a resolution at their state convention calling for the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Eighteen Republican candidates signed the Colorado Right to Life survey, saying they want to ban abortion as the will of God and outlaw stem-cell medical research.

The same candidates also endorsed Amendment 48, which would define a fertilized egg as a person in Colorado’s constitution. This would lay the ground to ban all abortion except perhaps to save the mother’s life, ban the birth control pill and other forms of contraception that may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, and ban most fertility treatments. Women would be forced to bring a pregnancy to term, even in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and health risks.

True, some of these candidates, such as Congressman Doug Lamborn and congressional candidate Mike Coffman, live in safe districts for Republicans. But Libby Szabo, a candidate for state senate in District 19, does not. Her opponents have hammered her over her answers to the survey, making sure to link her views to the GOP.

Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, the incumbent in a Republican district, has managed to fall behind challenger Betsy Markey in some polls. Musgrave wants to outlaw abortion, and she is most well known for sponsoring a constitutional gay marriage ban.

Republican Bob Schaffer is trailing Mark Udall in the polls in the U.S. Senate race in part because of Schaffer’s faith-based politics. Udall has written, “I fully support the continued separation of church and state in this country.” He opposes bans on abortion and stem-cell research. Schaffer, evoking God’s will, said abortion is “always wrong.”

Republicans should have learned their lesson when they lost the governership to the Democrats in 2006, when Bob Beauprez touted his faith-based politics and selected a running mate of the same cloth, Janet Rowland. Like Beauprez, Rowland wanted to outlaw abortion and maintain faith-based welfare.

Yet the GOP continues to actively push its anti-abortion agenda. A recent flyer “Paid for by Colorado Republican Committee” urged recipients to vote for a presidential candidate who opposes abortion and who will appoint Supreme Court justices to outlaw it.

But some who are pro-choice across the board are fighting back. Diana Hsieh founded the Coalition for Secular Government, which issued a paper that she and I wrote titled, “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life.” Diana’s husband Paul wrote to Dick Wadhams, head of the state GOP, “Although I’m pro-free market, pro-strong national defense, and pro- gun, the position that the CO GOP has taken against abortion is a clear breach of the principle of separation of church and state.” Doug Krening wrote to Republican officials, “I have been a Republican for my entire voting life, but cannot endorse the GOP currently because of it’s explicit endorsement of religion in government.”

On September 11, Amanda Mountjoy, chair of the Colorado Republican Majority for Choice, hosted a banquet with 240 participants to oppose Amendment 48.

Former Senator Hank Brown told the crowd, “At the point that we give up supporting and defending individual freedom and choice, we give up the very core of this great party.”

Colorado Republicans have two options. They can respect the separation of church and state and defend individual freedom and choice, or they can continue to lose and deserve to do so.