Again last week, Alabama Sen. Shadrack McGill stood in front of a small group to explain his earlier comments about teacher pay at a prayer breakfast two weeks before. When he told the folks at the prayer breakfast that teachers shouldn’t be paid better because it would bring the wrong people into the profession, he was speaking about balance.
You see, McGill has read the Bible, in which he learned that God weighed the mountains and the valleys on a scale. He believes this, not in any metaphorical way, but very much in the literal sense: God measured every thing’s weight the same way your butcher prices a slab of bacon for you at the grocery store. You could, of course, ask why God would have to weigh anything — doesn’t He just know? But that would require some thinking, and for McGill, thinking can be a dangerous thing. And he’s put a lot of thought into why the Almighty puts so much attention into the weights and measures of the landscape.
“My answer to that is that he knew he was going to be spinning it real fast, and it needed to be in balance,” McGill said.
God Almighty — Harlem Globetrotter.
And just like God keeps the world from caterwauling out of control by keeping it in balance, government can keep its employees in balance by how much it pays them — more for lawmakers. Teachers? Not so much.
If you are thoroughly confused and think you’ve read something above wrong, don’t bother rereading it. You cannot follow this line of thought without stubbing your toe on it. Just understand that this man has been elected by his constituents to make laws in this state — laws you and I have to abide by.
And McGill is keen on banning all abortion with a law so broad it might even prevent fertility doctors from being able to help couples get pregnant through in vitro fertilizaton, and he bemoans the fact that he doesn’t get the support from the public he’d like. When he pushed the bill last year, he got one phone call from a pastor, but when the legislature dealt with budget issues he got thousands of phone calls and emails.
But wouldn’t that indicate to him that the public cares more about bread and butter issues like jobs, the budget and the economy?
“Not necessarily,” McGill said. “It could be less educated.”
McGill made it clear that he thinks his abortion bill is more important than the jobs bills the Republican leadership is pushing and more important than even the state budget.
So why is it so important to focus on one legislator from a place called (and I’m not making this up) Woodville, Ala.?
Because he’s not alone. An Alabama lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow students to leave school so they can study creationism off campus for class credit. (Apparently Sunday School just isn’t doing the trick anymore.) The Alabama Supreme Court has contradicted Roe v. Wade’s definition of a person. And on the national level, the GOP has somehow rekindled a debate about birth control. It’s not just one legislator, or even one legislature. From the senator from Woodville to the race for the White House, the religious right is on the march again.
Last week, President Barack Obama attempted to compromise with religious leaders who objected to their charities being required to offer birth control in their employee health insurance. The president’s compromise would have required the insurer to cover that free of charge, but still the religious right would not let up. Many of the pundits said that Obama had lost another battle, caving again to conservatives.
If Obama had lost, then that must mean that Republicans had won, right? Yes, but only until the GOP had time to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. A panel of religious leaders, convened by Rep. Darrell Issa to speak about the issue with Congress, didn’t include a single woman.
On the campaign trail, Rick Santorum has used the opportunity to remind voters why a majority of voters in Pennsylvania wouldn’t even reelect him to be their Senator. Santorum has called contraception dangerous and said that it gives people “license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” By “doing things,” he means recreative, non-procreative sex.
Procreative sex is OK, even when it’s rape. When asked whether rape victims should be allowed to have abortions, Santorum has argued that it’s better to make the best out of a bad situation. He’d require women to take their rape babies to term.
And Santorum’s church-state mingling isn’t confined to icky sex stuff. He believes the Bible dictates environmental policy, too. Defending comments in which he questioned the president’s Christianity, Santorum explained himself in a very Shadrack McGill sort of way.
“Well, I was talking about the radical environmentalists,” he said. “That’s what I was talking about: Energy, this idea that man is here to serve the Earth, as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth. And I think that is a phony ideal.”
I’m not exactly clear what it means to “husband” the Earth, but you can be sure when Santoum does it, he’s not going to wear a condom.
Santorum is guided by his religious beliefs, and while many presidents have leaned on religion to help them make decisions, Santorum takes things a step further. He does not believe that there should be a separation of church and state. America, as he would have it, would fit the definition of a theocracy.
It’s early yet, but if the rest of 2012 follows the first two months, this will be the year of the Republican Party’s missed opportunity: When Americans were in general agreement that government had grown too big, and too costly rather than exploiting that conventional sentiment, the GOP decided its time was better spent making women into baby farms. When the public believed government had become too intrusive, the religious right decided it hadn’t gone far enough. Just like 1992, the GOP is turning control of the party over to religious chauvinists and driving women voters (and many men, too) away — just where the Democrats would have them.
The Messenge Shoot Back is a column about political culture.