| Guide to:|
|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
“”See, big business is kind of Communist: they want a powerful state organizing things in their long-term interests. And the guys that came into power with Newt Gingrich in 1994 are a somewhat different breed… they're people who want money tomorrow, they don't care what happens to the world two inches down the road, they're deeply irrational. And they're totalitarian: despite what they say, they in fact want a very powerful state, but only to order people around and tell them how to live, and to lock them up if they step the wrong way, and so on, a national security state, basically.
The "Religious Right" (known to some as the "religious wrong") are a voting bloc comprising religiously motivated right-wing conservatives such as American conservative Christian voters or the Hindutva movement in India.
In the US, the term is often used interchangeably with "the evangelical vote", but many of these voters are actually Roman Catholic and not all evangelical Protestants vote with the Religious Right. The religious right helped propel George W. Bush to victory in the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns. Fears that Bush might lose the support of the religious right hung over his administration; these fears led to Bush creating the faith-based initiative. By 2004, Bush was the unofficial leader of Christianity for U.S. Christians (and a fitting one at that, seeing as how he was infamously gullible and unable to tell fact from fiction). McCain and Romney never were able to claim that mantle.
Since its support for Bush, the Religious Right continues to play an important role in the Republican Party. Many Republican politicians, such as former Senator Rick Santorum, have explicitly identified themselves as religious conservatives. Indeed, it could be argued that the modern Republican Party is at heart a coalition between religious and business conservatives, in roughly equal parts.
In India, the religious right is mainly concentrated around the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which can be considered a more extreme social conservative version of the Republican Party.
Give me that old time religion
Religious outfits which have historically achieved power, influence, understanding and integration with secular authorities often help to uphold existing structures and moralities in a conservative fashion, particularly because they themselves have become "part of the old".
But when things change, the remnants of the old faiths may start looking back to an alleged golden age when everyone feared the gods (or at least feared the faithful) and
exercised self-censorship behaved themselves accordingly.
Fast-forward to today
The Religious Right in the United States of America in the 21st century represents, to a large extent, a reaction to several different Supreme Court decisions regarding the right to privacy and the separation of church and state. Two stand out in particular:
- The Court’s extending the right to privacy to include abortion in Roe v. Wade (1973). Before Roe v. Wade, the religious groups that now form the Religious Right were often liberal on abortion.
- The banning of school-mandated prayer in Engel v. Vitale (1962).
These two issues, along with the issue of government posting of the Ten Commandments, have come back to the courts repeatedly, with mixed results: adding a few restrictions to abortion, a complete absence of sponsored prayer in schools, and taking down all new Ten Commandments monuments. This has led to a certain amount of hostility to the judiciary among many in the Religious Right — witness events like "Justice Sunday" (2005-2006) and its sequel, where federal judges were denounced as anti-Christian.
It is disputed whether or not these cases were actually the cause of the rise of the religious right. Some point out that the 1971 Southern Baptist Convention endorsed abortion rights and repeated this support after Roe v. Wade. In fact Evangelical Christians had been fairly liberal on the issue, whereas conservative Northern Catholics had been the main opponents of it.
However that changed when the Carter administration (1977-1981) pushed to end the last vestiges of segregation at private schools by having any private (most of them Southern Christian) schools that had expanded under segregation to prove it was non-discriminatory in its practices to maintain its tax-exempt status. As many Baptist leaders had been some of the last influential defenders of explicit white supremacy, partly thanks to their relative independence from the larger political system because they only have to answer to their own congregation and partly thanks to the fact that Baptist churches were one of the few Southern institutions that weren't pressured to desegregate, this energized Southern Evangelicals into aligning with conservative Northern Catholics in the name of opposing an "Anti-Christian" government. Abortion, porn, and other weird pet peeves of the religious right were taken up later as issues to align two religious groups who had not before hated each other.
Particularly notable is the case of Judge Roy Moore of Alabama. After a few failed bids for a judgeship, he was appointed to a local judicial position in 1992. He began every court session with a prayer and placed a small plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. In 1994 the ACLU threatened to sue, until they saw that the issue was increasing Moore's popularity across Alabama. They did eventually sue, but the case was thrown out "on a technicality". In 1999, Moore entered as a long-shot candidate for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, with the backing of the Christian Family Association. With the publicity of his former suit, he beat a sitting justice for the position.
On July 1st, 2001, Moore used his power as Chief Justice to install a three-ton monument to the Ten Commandments (specifically the Protestant version of them, of course) in the lobby of his courtroom. Shortly thereafter, a lawsuit was brought to remove it. Though thirty-four justices ruled against Moore, and not a single one for him, he has become more popular in Alabama than ever. The rest of the Alabama Supreme Court had him removed from the Court, and because of his new-found popularity, he ran for Governor of Alabama in 2010. He came in fourth place. He again ran for the Chief Justice position and won the election in January 2013. He was thrown out again in 2016 for refusing to grant same-sex marriage licenses, after which he tried to run for Senate and lost in Alabama, of all places.
As we can see from this case, because of several judicial losses, Roy Moore and the Religious Right seem to be in a position to capture the supreme post in Alabama. Some even suggested he could run for President in 2008 (he didn't). The Religious Right seems to have learned to turn defeats into greater victories in The South, both in terms of organizational strength and electoral victories. This is one reason why, as a political strategy, the Republicans do not actually want to overturn Roe v. Wade — legalized abortion is a tremendous vote-getter and rallying point.
The Worm Turns
Legislating morality has been the primary GOP platform ever since Karl Rove became a campaign manager for Dubya in the Texas gubernatorial race of 1994. Rove's great vision was that of a country evenly divided between conservative and liberal, so that any marginal advantage he could get would equal a win. He chose to ally with the religious right to get that advantage. The slight boost they gave the Republicans allowed them to sweep into Texas and then into the presidency. The problem is that the religious right expected results. Because the fiscal conservatives who ruled the Republican party were not really interested in legislating on social concerns — because they knew the religious right were on the losing side, electorally speaking — that led to the creation of factions within the party who demanded complete adherence to both fiscal and social conservatism, and so on to Ted Cruz.
Social movement or collection of interest groups?
It is difficult to study this phenomenon because it is difficult to determine what constitutes a “religious right,” and whether it is a social movement or a collection of interest groups. Most material does not address this question; however, Catherine Lugg’s “The Christian Right: A Cultivated Collection of Interest Groups” does with discussion of why “The Christian Right” does not totally belong to either category. She argues that “social movements” are made up of people kept outside of the political process, whereas the Religious Right is made up of people who are full citizens, and are in fact courted into the political process from the beginning. At the same time, they engage in behaviors which are more similar to that of a social movement than interest groups, which are famous for being non-disruptive. The Religious Right has a long history of disruptive demonstrations, at abortion clinics and Republican meetings. She says that, in the end, the best way to describe the religious right is as a “cultivated collection of interest groups,” that occasionally compete with each other, but generally collaborate. It is important to note that while Clifton often refers to the Religious right as a social movement, he agrees that it is more useful to study it in terms of a group of related interest groups.
These attributes are not at all disputed by other writers. One even refers to how the Christian right has been brought into the Republican Party and supplies the Republican Party with leadership and mass support. This does not stop the other research from referring to it as a social movement, but they never define what they mean by “social movement.” For the purposes of this research, and because of the exactitude of this approach, the religious right will be viewed as a collection of interest groups, though acknowledging that it bears many similarities to a social movement, and that it may be part of a larger “evangelical movement” that has started receiving some amount of attention.
Beyond this, however, none of the pieces address which interest groups make up the religious right. However, they can be defined by two important criteria. One is that these groups have an explicit connection to conservative religion or “religious values.” The second, more important condition is that these groups promote government intervention to enforce or legitimize these values. This is usually done by lobbying for anti-abortion legislation, the posting of religious documents in public, and lobbying against pro-“gay rights” legislation.
Power of the religious right
Overall analyses of the political power of the Christian right organizations are hard to find. Even analyses of particular facets or organizations are difficult to come by. The few works collected here have all taken different facets of the religious right, either different strategies used by them or different areas of policy of importance, and studied those. In the end, they show a slightly contradictory image, one of both power on some levels, and complete powerlessness on others. In particular, Lugg and Clifton found areas of Christian right strength, while Wald and Corey below (and to a lesser extent Clifton) found areas of Christian Right weakness.
Lugg’s work is useful for showing one area where the Christian Right has long had most of its victories: education. Lugg’s conclusion is that the Christian Right has great influence in this field, and even their judicial losses turn into “minor moral victories” and have helped train activists for bigger fights.
These victories all come in from lobbying local leaders, in this case school boards, to change curricula. This particular study is a case study of one county’s decision to include a class on the Bible as history, using a curriculum and text developed by a Christian right organization, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in the Public Schools. The school board had a majority of members who belonged to the Christian Coalition. When the ACLU sued, Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice gave representation to the school board. A compromise was reached by the judge, but in the end the school board ended up having to give up more than the outraged parents. Overall, though, the Christian right won a victory, because the “Bible as history” courses were soon adopted in 67 other school districts in Florida. This shows that they are much more successful with strategies involving grassroots organizing than with legal strategies.
This is, overall, consistent with the findings of Romancing the GOP: Assessing the Strategies Used by the Christian Coalition to Influence the Republican Party by Brett M. Clifton. He sees three possible means by which the Christian Coalition could influence the Republican Party, and he seeks to find out how well they do so. His research is devoted to policy expertise (which corresponds to an informational strategy), financial clout and electoral mobilization (which both correspond to the “grassroots” strategy). To test strength in a given area, he surveyed local Republican Party heads and Christian Coalition heads, and did some in-depth interviews. These surveys and interviews focused both on overall influence and influence based on his three areas. His findings are that, because of both expertise and mobilization, the Christian Coalition has clout within the Republican Party, but that their fundraising is less important.
Somewhat disagreeing with this assessment are the findings of Kenneth Wald and Jeffrey Corey, who have found that the policy expertise quality is not so influential when Christian right activists are put into a place to actually create policy. This is a case study, where several Christian right activists were put onto the 1997-98 Florida Constitutional Revision Committee. He found that, despite the fact that they made up roughly one-fourth of the delegates, they experienced the least satisfaction and had the most of their recommendations rejected. (The commission was made up of, roughly, half Democrats and half Republicans, with the Republicans split in half between moderates and Christian Right activists.)
These studies are all very useful for helping show where the Christian right is strong. It seems pretty obvious that it is most strong in the mobilization and fielding of local candidates (for example, school boards), and not so strong at making policy decisions. However, none of these works studied changes in strength over time, nor are any of the methods applicable to studying it. Moreover, other than Clifton’s study, none of these were very rigorous. They are also, again excluding Clifton’s study, very focused in space and scope. If we are seeking a broader picture of the religious right, these studies contribute very little.
Most members of the religious right proudly self-identify as evangelical Christians, though most aren't actual fundamentalists. Although of many different denominations, their main theological priorities seem to be: keeping gay marriage illegal; restricting the rights of gays and lesbians; removing comprehensive sex education and the teaching of evolution from public schools; getting creationism, school-sponsored prayer and abstinence-only sex education into those schools; also overturning Roe v. Wade and outlawing abortion (some want it banned under all circumstances, while others are willing to make exceptions for rape, incest, and possibly the mother's health). For some odd reason, they are also anti-environmentalist and anti-immigration (though Bush himself and some religious right leaders like Richard Land aren't). Caring for the poor, sick and homeless is rarely mentioned.
- Michele Bachmann
- Jim Bakker
- David Barton
- Glenn Beck
- L. Brent Bozell III
- Paul Broun
- Charles Coughlin (Deceased)
- Ted Cruz
- Bradlee Dean
- James Dobson
- Jerry Falwell, one of the key leaders before his death. (Deceased)
- and Jerry Falwell Jr.
- Joseph Farah
- Becky Fischer
- Bryan Fischer
- Billy Graham (deceased), along with his son, Franklin
- John Hagee
- John Hawkins
- Mike Huckabee
- Alan Keyes
- Tim LaHaye (Deceased)
- Beverly LaHaye
- Roy Moore
- Chuck Norris
- Sarah Palin
- Tony Perkins
- Pat Robertson, another one of the key people and a founder of Christian Coalition.
- Rick Santorum
- Phyllis Schlafly, again a Catholic (Deceased)
- David J. Stewart who goes to such strong extremes to the point to criticizing all the other members, apparently for not being fundie enough!
- Randall Terry
- Rick Warren
- The one and the only..., too extreme for even the nuts listed above. (Deceased)
Religious Right in other countries
Not even countries outside of the United States are free from the religious right:
- Tadeusz Rydzyk, a Polish fundamentalist Catholic priest.
- Jarosław Kaczyński, a Polish politician and a leader of a Polish conservative party "Law and Justice."
- Jean-Marie Le Pen a French politician and almost a fascist, and in some ways, worse than any person from America since he proudly and openly admits his racism, and denies the Holocaust.
- Christine Boutin, noted for brandishing a Bible in the French National Assembly.
In Australia, the Christian Right dominate in much of northern Queensland (birthplace of Ken Ham), and the infection has also spread into parts of suburban Brisbane as well. It is also rather prevalent in suburban Sydney, New South Wales, particularly in the western parts of Sydney. The Religious Right is also prevalent in South Australia, particularly in suburban Adelaide, as well as parts of Western Australia.
In the UK, most rightwingers are only vaguely Christian (i.e. Church of England), but there have been a few extremists opposing abortion, sex education, gay rights, etc, such as Catholics Ann Widdecombe and Jacob Rees-Mogg.
- Theocracy Watch
- American Taliban
- Reformed Political Party for everything you need to know about the Dutch Christian fundamentalists
- Slacktivist: The Gay-Hatin' Gospel (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5)
- Brad Hicks: Christians in the Hand of an Angry God (part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5)
- The Onion: I'm Not One Of Those 'Love Thy Neighbor' Christians
- Chomsky, Understanding Power p. 392, The New York Press (2002).
- Religion and Politics in the United States: Nuances You Should Know
- Alan Cooperman and Thomas B. Edsall, "Evangelicals Say They Led Charge For the GOP", WaPo 11.8.4; Page A01.
- Brody, Ben, "Ted Cruz Says Obama Won Because Evangelicals Stayed Home. Is That True?", Bloomberg (3/23/15, 9:53 AM PDT).
- Not that things must go that way — witness early Islam's warpath, disrupting Middle Eastern society, or William Wilberforce and liberation theology fomenting social progress in Latin America.
- Those who didn't were not permitted to remain around to spread their unwholesome skepticism for long.
- Religious Right Has Distorted the Faith, NPR
- goplifer (March 29, 2014). "How Protestant Evangelicals shifted their abortion stance". https://goplifer.com/2014/03/29/how-protestant-evangelicals-shifted-their-abortion-stance/.
- goplifer (January 31, 2015). "Evangelicals and White Supremacy". https://goplifer.com/2015/01/31/evangelicals-and-white-supremacy/.
- Americans United For Separation of Church and State, "Bush Adviser Rove Tells Religious Right That Agenda Will Be Reality"