First up from the God Machine this week is a closer look at satisfaction within the religious right after social conservatives forced Richard Grenell's ouster from Mitt Romney's campaign. Apparently, feeling emboldened, the religio-political movement now feels like it's in an even better position to call the shots with the GOP candidate in the months ahead.
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, for example, was the ringleader of the anti- Grenell effort, and argued on Thursday that Romney has proven to be "maneuverable."
"Gov. Romney is a politician rather than a statesman. While he will not do the right thing out of political conviction, he will do the right thing out of political convenience. This represents both a great challenge and a great opportunity for the pro-family community, since the governor has demonstrated in the Grenell affair that he is maneuverable. [...]"Since Gov. Romney will do the right thing when it is politically expedient, it's our job to make it politically expedient for him to do the right thing on as many issues as possible. Let's get cracking."
Conservative talk show host Janet Mefferd made similar comments, noting that Romney "doesn't seem to have much of a core," which in turn creates new opportunities for activists willing to make demands.
And therein lies the dangers of pandering to extremists: once they think they're calling the shots, they're emboldened to make more demands. By Wednesday, when those close to Romney were conceding the candidate "didn't want to confront the religious right," the movement's leaders came to a sudden realization: the Republicans' presidential nominee can be pushed around.
They forced one of Romney's spokespersons to resign, and right about now, they're wondering what else they can make the campaign do.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life found the most knowledgeable Americans about religion are atheists and agnostics.
* Christian conservatives have rallied behind Chen Guangcheng's cause in China, and Dallas megachurch leader Robert Jeffress criticized Romney's condemnations of U.S. diplomatic efforts.
* Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report found more viruses attached to religious websites than porn websites (thanks to R.P. for the tip).
* Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), chair of the House Armed Forces Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, has been opening committee meetings with Christian prayers "in Jesus' name."
* And in Kansas, Republican policymakers are considering a measure called the "Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act," a poorly-named bill which appears designed to protect discrimination against the LGBT community.
(Image: Americans United/Flick)