There is a growing political divide between the irreligious and religious. A recent Pew study shows that those who have no religious affiliation (Nones) are the single most ideologically committed cohort of white Americans, rivaled only by Evangelical Protestants. They overwhelmingly support abortion and gay marriage. Seventy-five percent of them voted for Barack Obama in 2008, and they placed a decisive role in his victory in 2012.
In Ohio, Obama lost the Protestant vote by 3 percent and the Catholic vote by 11 percent. (All those numbers rise if we isolate Protestants and Catholics who say they go to church every week.) But he won the Nones, who make up 12 percent of the electorate in Ohio, by an astounding 47 pecent. He racked up similar huge advantages among the Nones in many swing states.
I think its fair to say that Obama ran a values campaign last fall that gambled that secular voters would cast the decisive votes. For the first time in American political history, the winning party deliberately attacked religion. The national convention famously struck God from the platform, only to have it restored by anxious party leaders in a comical session characterized by the kind of frivolity that comes when people recognize that it doesn’t really matter. Democratic talking points included the “war on women” and other well-crafted slogans that rallied their base, which is the cohort that has no religious affiliation. At 24 percent of all Democrat and Democratic-leaning voters the Nones have become the single largest identifiable group in the liberal coalition.
The political reality of the Nones presents the deepest threat to religious liberty. We know from history that the Constitution is a plastic, flexible document. When the most numerous and powerful constituency in the Democratic Party has no time for religion—and their adversaries are most easily identified by their commitment to religion—it’s not hard to see that they’ll try to bend it in a direction that serves their political interests.