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US Presidential elections: Christian right in decline: Religious conservatives have become disliked

With all the alarming news that comes out on a daily basis, it’s hard to believe anything good is happening out there. But there are a few promising signs that one good thing is happening: The religious right really is facing a decline in influence. The story has just a few tendrils and shoots — make no mistake, the religious right is still far too powerful — but there are hopeful signs that they are on the decline. And the best part is they did it to themselves.

Derrick Gordon, a guard for Seton Hall’s basketball team, is the first openly gay Division I player in NCAA basketball, and Wednesday he got an unlikely supporter in the form of the usually conservative-leaning New York Post. The Post gave laudatory coverage to Charles Barkley for defending Gordon against homophobic haters.

“I really hate them sumbitches,” Barkley told TMZ in an interview about the Westboro Baptist Church, an anti-gay organization that plans to picket one of Seton Hall’s games. “Hopefully, somebody will beat the hell out of those Westboro people.”
While we here at Salon cannot condone threatening or even wishing violence on people, there is still something heartening about this whole story. Professional and college athletics tend to be the last bastion (besides fundamentalist religion, of course) of this sort of mindless homophobia and sexism. It wasn’t that long ago that it was hard to imagine someone in that world not only defending a gay athlete, but doing so swiftly and without any apparent fear of blowback from homophobic fans. But Barkley seems unconcerned about whiny homophobes, saying instead he wishes “the best” for Gordon.
Barkley’s right that the Westboro protesters, who picket soldiers’ funerals because they are so hungry for attention, are terrible people. Ironically, however, it’s this very terribleness that has helped get us to this point where a prominent figure like Barkley can be unequivocal in siding with a gay player like this. Whatever they are trying to accomplish, what the Westboro folks did was publicly and loudly and repeatedly tie anti-gay attitudes to a general hatefulness and disrespect for basic decency.
Most anti-gay conservatives tried to keep their distance, but still, the Westboro people were always there, unvarnished in their loathing, stripping away the religious justifications and posturing to reveal the beating heart of hatred that fuels anti-gay attitudes. They are cartoonishly evil and easy to hate. And their mere existence makes the targets of their hatred — LGBTQ Americans — much easier to sympathize with.
There’s been a lot of writing in recent months, spurred by the Donald Trump campaign, about the decline in the power of the religious right. To be clear, the Christian right still basically runs the Republican Party and has been behind a powerful and successful movement to destroy reproductive rights. But now that power is under threat because, seemingly overnight, people have started caring a lot less what the fundamentalists think.
Will Saletan at Slate reported on Tuesday that the Faith Angle Forum, which he has covered for years, was under a cloud of despair this year. “For them, Trump’s support among self-identified evangelicals is an embarrassment and a puzzle,” he writes.

They gave him many reasons they hate Trump — supposedly his hatefulness, misogyny, viciousness, etc. — but since those things never bothered them coming from, say, Ted Cruz, the likelier explanation for the anti-Trump sentiment among the movers and shakers of the religious right is that he’s just not one of them. He may sign off on the standard-issue Republican opinions on abortion and gay rights, but you get the sense that he doesn’t really care and would totally be pro-choice and pro-gay marriage tomorrow if he thought that’s what would get him votes. That so many conservatives prefer him to someone who mimics piety more persuasively is a slap to the face. They want fealty from Republican voters, and instead they’re getting a “yeah, yeah, abortion this gays that, let’s hear more about this wall” reaction.
Read more: Christian right in decline: Religious conservatives have become so belligerent and greedy, people are turning against them -

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