Yes. This. What we are seeing now, unfolding at breakneck speed, is the fracturing of the conservative political coalition. As I said the other day, when the Republican governor of Arkansas can flip-flop overnight when Wal-mart executives clear their throats, you know once and for all who wields the real power in the Republican Party.

Jennifer Steinhauer in the NYT reports:

 In Indiana, the Republican mayor of Indianapolis argued against the law the Republican governor had signed. In Ohio, a group called the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry tried to remove antigay language from the party platform. In Arkansas, the Republican governor faced a backlash from business and asked the Republican-led legislature to recall a bill seen as discriminatory to same-sex couples.

The Republican Party is in the middle of an argument with itself.

State laws seen as discriminatory against gay couples have laid bare and intensified longtime divisions in the party between social conservatives opposed to gay rights and the pro-business wing of the party that sees economic peril in the fight.

Here is what is most telling about this moment, politically: Republican politicians do not know how to talk about religious liberty. They end up like Mike Pence on Stephanopoulos, tongue-tied and mute in the face of the word “discrimination.” They clearly haven’t thought through this issue, and figured out a way to speak persuasively to libertarians and business conservatives, as well as to social and religious conservatives. There is a profound tension between gay rights and religious liberty, one that cannot be elided. But it would be nice to hear Republican leaders make an attempt to defend religious liberty as a bedrock American value, one that has to be balanced with gay rights. The compromise won’t fully satisfy anybody, but this is a clash of fundamental constitutional principles. That so many Republican leaders were unable to articulate a defense of religious liberty, and caved so quickly to the liberal-business critique, tells us a lot about these guys and what they really value, and think about.

Shannen Coffin, writing in NRO, wants to know where all the Republican bigs who signed a friend of the court brief on behalf of legalizing same-sex marriage are today. Excerpt:

But the payoff in the brief comes in the last sentence of this passage: “In a tolerant society, the right to marry can and should coexist with the right to disagree respectfully and to decline to participate as individuals based on sincerely held religious beliefs.” This is precisely the issue that has drawn the wrath of the gay-rights and corporate communities that is befalling Mike Pence and Indiana’s religious-freedom statute. According to the signatories of the brief, in a pluralistic society, gay marriage can and should coexist with the right to worship as one pleases, both in church and in one’s everyday life (including, yes, in business). So a small business can be tolerant of differences in sexual orientation while also refusing to cater to a homosexual wedding ceremony, for instance. And, importantly, the decision about “whether and how to participate in marriages between persons of the same sex” should be up to the individual and “the government should not intervene in those decisions.”  Notably, most of this discussion is contained in a footnote to the brief. But it should not be a footnote to the public debate raging in Indiana and Arkansas. If the signers of this brief held these views a month ago, where are they today, when the outrage of Apple, Starbucks, Walmart, and the Twitter universe have befallen the lawmakers who seek to defend religious liberties with the very sort of laws that these proud friends of the court claim are needed to protect religious freedom?

We have a Party of Lust on one side, and a Party of Greed on the other. For Christians, both are deadly sins. Unfortunately, many of us will feel compelled to take our chances with the GOP because they’re just embarrassed by us, and unlike the other guys, don’t actually despise us.

The Republican Party, as we are often reminded, is not a church. So what is the excuse of the Catholic bishops of Indiana’s lack of leadership on this issue? R.R. Reno, the (Catholic) editor of First Things, is disgusted by their weaselly statement calling for “dialogue.” Excerpts:

Some months ago, I predicted that Catholicism in America would basically accommodate itself to whatever sexual regime dominates our society. The accommodation won’t be explicit. The Church won’t endorse homosexuality or gay marriage. Instead, the bishops will step aside, avoid controversy, and just stop talking about things that carry a high price for dissent. This duck-and-cover non-statement fits perfectly into this trajectory.

More:

I’m all for sober, dispassionate, and non-partisan church leadership that stays focused on core moral and religious principles rather than allowing itself to be drawn into the partisan fray. But connection to reality is important too. Right now the propaganda against the Indiana RFRA has made it clear that any resistance to the magisterium of the gay rights movement will be denounced as anti-American bigotry. Can the Church survive as a public institution in such a context without capitulating?

What they should have done is patently obvious. We need religious leaders to denounce the hyperbolic propaganda for what it is and express unequivocal support for the Indiana RFRA. Such a statement would reflect a sober assessment of what best serves the common good and promises to protect, however imperfectly, the freedom of Christians (and Jews and Muslims and others) to teach, educate, and serve in accord with traditional moral teaching about sex, family, and marriage.

These are times of testing. Some are failing the test. And it matters.