The center-right movement needs voices that are willing to lay out rational, non-religious arguments for conservative principles beyond just the fiscal realm. Conservative leaders need to be willing to accept the rise in gay marriage, which, as former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman argues, promotes community stability and family values.
John F. Kennedy, who broke religious barriers by serving as the nation’s first Catholic president (albeit as a Democrat), has an applicable answer to folks who worry that courting seculars would somehow rob them of their own convictions: “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs,” he said. “Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” Republicans are quick to defend religious groups that feel threatened by policies that encroach on religious liberty; they should apply similar vigor toward protecting the cherished American right to freedom of conscience unconstrained by religious dogma.
In the shifting political landscape, it is clear that secular voters will continue to become a more powerful voice. The question is whether Republicans are willing to listen and engage.
Carrie Sheffield is a freelance writer in New York City and former D.C.-based political reporter.