It Gets Better?: The New Right’'s Countermobilization of Religious Rights Contra LGBT Rights

40 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2012 Last revised: 21 Aug 2012

Date Written: 2012


From fire hoses in the street to referendum campaigns, the New Right has had a multitude of approaches to rights activism throughout its existence. These various responses show how the New Right has always been uncomfortable with rights and rights language. However, the New Right has become more accepting, even if still cautious, of rights as the usefulness of rights in American politics has been demonstrated again and again. In this paper, I examine one specific political arena where the New Right has come to embrace rights: religious rights. More directly, I study the mobilization of religious rights to counter efforts to increase tolerance towards the LGBT community in public schools through anti-bullying campaigns and Gay-Straight Alliance groups.

My arguments proceeds through a content analysis of the discursive frames employed in support of these initiatives, as well as the New Right’s countermobilization of religious-rights rhetoric to attempt to prevent these initiatives. This countermobilization, a part of the “culture wars,” is indicative of a broader conservative embrace of the logic and rhetoric of rights to advance their own positions while delegitimizing the positions of others. Next, I explicate the ways in which the New Rights’ countermobilization of religious rights rhetoric creates the conditions whereby they simultaneously advance their rights claims while trying to narrowly define the American community. While the New Right rejects identity politics in all forms, it is caught in a potential paradox when it mobilizes around a religious identity. To circumvent this potential paradox the New Right blends a religious identity with an American identity, strengthening religious rights claims, and reasserting status quo hierarchies in the United States. If a religious identity is concomitant with an American identity, then mobilization around a religious identity is not identity politics, but rather merely politics and rights in their purest form. The rhetorical effect is to strengthen the positioning for these religious-rights arguments, while effectively delegitimize counter arguments. The practical legal effect is that the legal conditions are now primed for expanding religion in everyday life, including in public schools, regardless of the impact this might have on minority groups. Rights, typically seen as a political force for progressive change, are now being used to defend status quo hierarchies and prevent greater social inclusion.

This essay concludes with a broad theoretical discussion of the implications of the New Right’s embrace and use of rights, specifically religious rights. The rights rhetoric used by the New Right to advance claims to religious rights is particularly threatening for increased acceptance and tolerance within the American community, which underlies politically intractable situations. After all, there is no compromising with “moral degenerates” over questions of morality. Thus, I conclude that the increased moralizing of political rhetoric as the New Right advances new rights claims works to harm the broader community, shutting others out of the process, all in the interest of advancing rights for a majority group that claims victimhood at the hands of social engineering liberal elites.

Keywords: New Right, New Christian Right, Rights Mobilization, Religion, Public Schools

Suggested Citation

Tagliarina, Daniel, It Gets Better?: The New Right’'s Countermobilization of Religious Rights Contra LGBT Rights (2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Daniel Tagliarina (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut ( email )

Storrs, CT 06269-1063
United States

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