In speeches, interviews, and op-eds, savvy culture warriors have abandoned the fervent rhetoric of the 80’s and 90’s that used to cast conservatives as champions of virtue, enemies of vice, and saviors of American society: That battle, many conservatives conceded to BuzzFeed, is lost. Instead, their new message centers on ensuring that the rights of religious institutions and believers aren’t trampled under a stampede of secularism.
According to a range of interviews with Republican politicians and activists, the rationale driving this strategic shift is defined by a mix of genuine anxiety over big government encroaching on religion and recognition that moral policing has lost its political savor.
“I think it’s the next phase of the debate,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said. “From a political perspective, people now have the freedom to live with and love anyone they want, but I don’t think that saying churches are preaching bigotry because they don’t agree is the right thing to do… You have instances around the world where it’s against the law to preach against homosexuality even if that’s what your faith teaches. I do think it’s an issue we need to start talking about,” he added.
Citing disparate cases in courts throughout the country, religious conservatives say they are facing an broad-based assault on their rights — and that their platform is built simply to counter these liberal aggressors.