Proponents of the popular religion-as-guardian-of-civil rights narrative have some rethinking to do. According to the New York Times , Richard Cizik, the longtime Washington lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals, has resigned after revealing his support for civil unions for gay couples. That’s right: not gay marriage, but the separate-but-equal compromise of civil unions that most Americans support . Cizik announced his belief in basic civil rights for gay couples during an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross . The president of the National Association of Evangelicals reportedly responded that Cizik had "lost trust and credibility as a spokesperson to and for our constituency," proving yet again that conservative religious opposition to gay marriage is less about "protecting" marriage and more about punishing gays and lesbians.
Many talking heads hailed the end of the religious-secular political divide as evangelicals embraced traditionally liberal concerns, from fighting AIDS to battling poverty. Cizik himself gained notoriety by calling for evangelicals to embrace environmentalism and combat global warming. His seemingly forced resignation provides more evidence that although the evangelical community has broadened its focus, it remains fixated on red meat culture war issues like abortion and homosexuality. Reformers like Cizik are to be applauded and encouraged. But it seems we can expect the American evangelical community to obsess about other people’s private lives, and to promote blastocysts’ rights over women’s rights, for many years to come.