AMAC Exclusive – By Seamus Brennan
As the 2022 midterm campaign season enters its final days, Democrats seem to have been doing everything possible to alienate themselves from ordinary Americans. But the GOP has neglected to highlight one key issue that could not only bolster Republicans’ chances in the November 8 midterms, but could also reveal the extraordinary extent to which Democrats are antagonistic toward organized religion and Americans of faith.
One of the Democrats’ greatest political vulnerabilities, though it often goes unnoticed, is their jarring record of hostility against the Catholic faith. Some entities on the right have, on occasion, acknowledged this trend (most notably in a December 2020 ad that was ultimately rejected by the establishment wing of the GOP)—but by and large, conservatives have remained silent on the matter. If Republicans play their cards right, however, and openly campaign on the left’s anti-Catholic attitudes, it would amount to political dynamite that could mobilize voters of faith, particularly Hispanic Catholics, many of whom have recollections of anti-Catholic persecutions in Latin American countries, and solidify the party’s prospects for a red wave—or even a red tsunami.
The Democrat Party’s hostility toward faith traditions—particularly Catholicism, Judaism, and many sects of Protestant Christianity—is nothing new. In 2012, for instance, party operatives controversially removed the word “God” from the official party platform. But in recent years, a more aggressive and militant form of anti-religious bigotry has infused the Democrat platform.
Notably, Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee in the fall of 2020 were unusually centered around her Catholic faith—doubling down on California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s 2017 comments that Barrett’s faith prevented her from serving as a judge. The anti-Catholic spectacle surrounding the Barrett confirmation prompted several Catholic groups to sound the alarm, including the Catholic Coalition Against Religious Tests for Office (CCARTO), which published a letter urging Democrat senators to “stand against religious persecution by their party.”
“The Democrat Party has a Catholic problem with their leadership, including Senators Feinstein, Durbin, Schumer, Booker, and Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris,” the letter stated.
This episode caused even prominent secular figures—including the President of Princeton University—to speak out. In September 2017, Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber issued an unprecedented letter to Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging them to “refrain from interrogating nominees about the religious or spiritual foundations of their jurisprudential views.” The University of Notre Dame and the Anti-Defamation League echoed Eisgruber’s sentiment, also releasing statements condemning the rhetoric.
The left’s problem with anti-Catholic bias was again raised with the nomination and appointment of now-Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, who infamously spearhead progressives’ longstanding efforts to force the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order, to violate their religious precepts and pay for birth control. Becerra, CCARTO said in a December 2020 statement, “spent years tormenting the Little Sisters of the Poor in court, trying to force them to pay for things like abortion pills against their consciences.”
Yet another noteworthy instance of the left’s anti-Catholicism can be seen with the shocking series of attacks on pregnancy centers and Catholic parishes following the Supreme Court’s June ruling in Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization, which allowed states to enact commonsense abortion regulations as determined by the legislatures of those states.
But even though the Democrat Party’s well-established pattern of anti-Catholicism continues to raise concerns for faithful Americans of all stripes, the Republican Party establishment has remained strangely silent on the matter.
Most notably, in December 2020, CCARTO released a powerful advertisement pressing then-Georgia senatorial candidate Jon Ossoff to condemn the left’s anti-Catholic political and rhetorical streaks. The ad, which was reportedly offered to the Karl Rove-led advertisement campaign in the weeks leading up to the January 2021 Georgia Senate runoffs as part of an effort to mobilize the state’s 1.2 million Catholics, was turned down by Rove. Following Ossoff’s victory, Rove and other establishment-minded Republicans predictably resorted to blaming President Donald Trump rather than acknowledging the lost opportunity of campaigning against the Democrats’ anti-Catholic bigotry.
In the closing days of the campaign this year, the GOP has yet another opportunity to bring the left’s anti-religious attitudes to the attention of tens of millions of American Catholics—and some groups have already taken note. Earlier this year, CatholicVote—a Catholic political advocacy group—launched a $3 million ad campaign aimed at Catholic Democrats who fail to stand up for the protection of religious organizations and individuals facing violent threats and attacks from radical liberals (the group designated an additional $2 million toward the campaign in October).
“This is a big historical shift,” said CatholicVote president Brian Burch, noting the major political realignment initiated by the 2016 election of Donald Trump. “Obviously for half a century, the Democratic Party was home of the Catholic vote—Catholic voters from [the] immigrant class, to unions, to [the] working class.” But now, the calculus is changing—and the GOP has a window of opportunity to establish itself, for the first time in American history, as the party of Catholics.
A conservative Super PAC has similarly spoken out on the left’s anti-Catholic bias. Frontiers of Freedom Action is now running ads against five incumbent Senate Democrats in New York, Arizona, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Nevada that emphasize Democrats’ complicity in an “anti-Catholic religious test” for judicial nominees and presidential appointees.
Whether it knows it or not, the Republican Party is sitting on a political goldmine. If it chooses to expose the anti-religious bigotry of the left for what it is and treat Democrats’ anti-Catholicism as a serious campaign issue this fall, it could very well find itself on the path to an unprecedented electoral majority.