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One Ahead, Two Back

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Just when a glimmer of hope emerges from Republican-dominated Washington, it's followed by dismal setbacks.

On June 15, the Supreme Court decreed that gays can't be fired from jobs simply because they have a different sexual orientation. It was another breakthrough for human rights, and a blow against gay-hating white evangelicals, the heart of the Republican Party. Progressives cheered - and hoped that decent values finally may have a chance in the capital.

But two weeks later, on June 30, conservatives on the high court trampled the First Amendment and the separation of church and state. Right-wing justices ruled that tax money may be funneled into church schools via tax writeoffs. Although Montana's constitution flatly forbids tax funding of religion, the justices killed that ban and opened public floodgates everywhere.

And a week later, on July 8, conservative justices gave hidebound employers more freedom to halt free birth control for female employees. Bosses were granted "religious freedom" to block birth control - but women workers have no such freedom to choose contraception. The Washington Post calculated that up to 126,000 women may lose coverage as a result.

Both of the latter rulings serve the "religious right" and the GOP. For liberals, the monthly scorecard was one step ahead and two back. This shows the crucial need for progressive Americans to win more elections and reduce conservative control in Washington.

Personally, I have a blind hope - almost a religious faith - that the "moral arc of the universe" will continue bending toward justice. Ever since the Enlightenment, progressives have won victory after victory to advance personal liberties and decency. In many long battles, they defeated conservatives, time after time. Here's a record I sometimes cite:

Conservatives tried to retain slavery, but they lost.

They tried to block voting by women, but lost.

They tried to prevent couples from using birth control, but lost.

They tried to obstruct Social Security pensions for oldsters, but lost.

They tried to outlaw labor unions, but lost.

They tried to prevent unemployment compensation for the jobless, but lost.

They tried to keep stores closed on the Sabbath, but lost.

They banned alcohol during Prohibition, but eventually lost.

They tried to sustain racial segregation, but lost.

They supported government-mandated prayer in school, but lost.

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James A. Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia's largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.  Mr. Haught has won two dozen national news writing awards. He has written 12 books and hundreds of magazine essays and blog posts. Around 450 of his essays are online. He is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine, a weekly blogger at Daylight Atheism, (more...)

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