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Table of contents

Perhaps most significantly, the popular fundamentalist theologian Francis A. Schaeffer saw Roe as the logical outcome of an atheistic, materialistic, Darwinian modern worldview that had come to dominate culture in Western Europe and North America. In Whatever Happened to the Human Race? Schaeffer and renowned pediatric surgeon C. Schaeffer took this idea directly to Falwell, who adopted it as a central concept for his Moral Majority, a pan-religious and nondenominational organization.

The widespread acceptance of a concept like cobelligerency pointed to the ways in which an emphasis on theological purity no longer concerned many politically active conservative evangelicals. They found an unlikely ally in former movie star and California governor, Ronald Reagan. Despite these early policy positions, Reagan nonetheless skillfully connected with religious supporters and used his own extensive resources as a master campaigner and conservative icon to woo the leaders of the Religious Right.

In This Article

In his outreach to conservative evangelicals Reagan contributed one of the most memorable moments in s politics. The Religious Right alone did not create the Reagan coalition, but its infrastructure concretized a general trend in the electorate. Conservative white evangelicals who had returned to the Democratic Party to support Carter in , now defected back to the Republican Party, solidifying a trend decades in the making.

Interlocking and cooperating organizations such as the Moral Majority, Concerned Women for America, and the Religious Roundtable helped brand party policy platforms and shape public perceptions of controversial issues. After the election the Religious Right became synonymous with the GOP in the popular imagination, a linkage that would fascinate and frustrate political conservatives and Christians alike and trouble Democrats for decades to come.

The interconnected components of the Religious Right provided important leverage in close elections across the country: in party primaries, local elections, and national congressional mid-term elections where voter turnout and razor-thin margins decided outcomes, the organs of the Religious Right could prove decisive. By the end of the s, conservative Christians could point to their new cultural and political clout. Many prominent religious leaders had gained direct access to the White House in the Carter and Reagan administrations; prominent national ministries reached massive audiences on broadcast radio and television, and on new media such as cable television; some religious leaders commanded major PACs and other political fundraising mechanisms that made even the most experienced Republican or Democratic political operatives salivate; Democrats and secularists warned of a religious takeover of the United States.

Yet, despite hyperbolic warnings of some on the left, the decentralized nature of American Protestantism and the tenuous ties between the cobelligerents of the Religious Right indicated to many pundits that the movement was in decline, or perhaps total collapse. By the end of the s the Moral Majority faced significant financial difficulties and eroding popular support.

Since the presidential election, a durable coalition composed of religious lobbying groups, public interest law firms, and Washington-area think tanks had emerged on the American political landscape. This network created a perception of unprecedented religious influence in American politics that peaked during the congressional and presidential election cycles of the s, but that would endure through the s and beyond. Marion G. Bush, the sitting vice president of a popular president, for the presidential nomination of the Republican Party in Like Falwell, Robertson was a Southern Baptist with a penchant for institution building.

He founded a university—Regent—and had boundless political ambition.

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Robertson failed to maintain his initial momentum and bowed out of the race after poor showings in the subsequent primaries. After suspending his campaign, Robertson used his remaining resources—including a mailing list estimated in the millions—to create one of the most influential and controversial charitable organizations of the second generation of Religious Right groups: the Christian Coalition. Aggressive in its support of Republican candidates and skilled at exploiting the media and political ecology of the s, the Christian Coalition, like the Moral Majority before it, was paradigmatic of the shifting nature of the Religious Right.

Under the leadership of Ralph Reed, a twenty-seven-year-old Republican, the Christian Coalition expanded its activities into more than forty states and pushed the legal limits of a charitable Christian organization. The organization persisted as a c 4 social issues advocacy group, but with a much-diminished status in the new millennium. While the Moral Majority failed to outlast the initial exuberance of the early s and the Christian Coalition struggled to maintain focus during the presidency of Democrat Bill Clinton, a number of organizations proved far more durable and survived, in part, because they remained largely single-issue pressure groups devoted to promoting a narrow agenda, not building an ambitious political network.

Alongside these policy-oriented single-issue groups, other important organizations avoided the short-term election-oriented outlook of the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition to focus on building durable institutional connections between religious leaders and policy makers. Founded in and modeled on the Council on Foreign Relations, the CNP is a membership-only organization that meets three times a year in closed-door meetings. The CNP played a pivotal role in networking Religious Right leadership with political figures in the GOP, including presidential candidates and other prominent national figures.

The political and cultural legacy of the Religious Right is complex and likely to be contested by pundits and scholars, political activists, and average citizens for decades to come. By the dawn of the new millennium, the major controversial political groups of the Religious Right had either disbanded or, as in the case of the Christian Coalition, evolved into much weaker and less ambitious organizations.

Nonetheless, many important pressure groups remained, and polling in the and presidential election cycles suggested that Republican and former Texas governor George W. Bush benefited from the support of religious conservatives and the political infrastructure of the Religious Right. Bush era. During the and presidential election cycles, religion played a key role, but in unexpected ways as Democrat Barack Obama, an African American with connections to Black liberation theology and tenuous family ties to Islam, dominated the politics of the era.

The rise of Obama and a conservative resurgence in the form of the Tea Party complicated any easy parsing of evangelicals and fundamentalists into the Religious Right or other political categories.

Two Streams into the Mainstream

Young evangelicals evolved on critical social issues, notably adopting more liberal positions on same-sex marriages and gay rights. Meanwhile, the economic populism embodied in the Tea Party movement managed to mobilize aspects of the older Religious Right and make their presence felt in the congressional midterm elections of and By , these vexing trends reached new heights with the election of real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald J. Trump to the presidency.

Particularly prominent was Jerry Falwell Jr. Although Trump was already well known for his divorces, sexual scandals, incendiary public statements, and general indifference to religion, Falwell provided Trump with prominent opportunities to speak at Liberty and helped him connect with other conservative religious leaders.


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The proximate origin of the historiography of the Religious Right was the presidential election cycles of and The need to explain the rise and fall of Jimmy Carter and the ascendency of Ronald Reagan dominated early research into the development of the Religious Right. Given the significance of national elections and campaign strategizing, it should come as no surprise that journalists and social scientists produced much of the early research on the Religious Right.

From the s through the early s much of the scholarship was dominated by social scientists focused on studying the coalition of organizations that made up the Religious Right. Edited volumes dedicated to exploring the organizational prowess of the Religious Right and offering detailed breakdowns of the religious affiliations of voters became perennial favorites of academic presses. In , sociologist Jerome L. Himmelstein provided a nuanced and far-reaching study that traced the ideological and organizational roots of the New Religious Right of the s to the Old Right of the s and the anti—New Deal forces of the s.

One of the most significant is the second edition of George M.

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Miller, Michelle M. Nickerson, Daniel K. Williams, 26 and other historians has situated the Religious Right in a much more complex narrative about the rise of the post—World War II American right wing. Much of this work is revisionist in nature and has developed a narrative that does not recognize clear boundaries between evangelicals and fundamentalists; political activists and armchair kvetchers; Catholics and Protestants; right-wing revolutionaries and rank-and-file Republicans. Heavily influenced by social history, researchers emphasizing the importance of the Sunbelt region have developed narratives that focus on women, suburbanites, church groups, and other previously overlooked groups to document the explosion of conservative activism that overlapped with and reinforced the Religious Right of the late s.

Rather than emphasizing the reactionary and discontinuous nature of the Religious Right, these works highlight common political tendencies among white evangelicals and fundamentalists that were shaped by the interaction between shifting patterns of domestic familial organization, changing demographic trends, evolving labor practices, and the growth of the federal government over the course of the 20th century. While the body of scholarship related to the Religious Right has expanded exponentially since the s, the vast majority of the literature remains focused on conservative Protestant activists.

Catholics have generated a significant amount of attention because of their resistance to abortion and the popularity of figures such as William F. Buckley, but they are nonetheless uneasy participants in the wider historiography of the Religious Right.


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Donald T. Viguerie remain absent. Alongside this growing literature focused on Sunbelt politics is an associated body of scholarship that explores the complex relationship between religion, politics, and capitalism in the 20th century.

The Religious Right in America

For example, Kevin M. Grem, Kim Phillips-Fein, and Sutton 31 —explores a network of businesspersons, intellectuals, and clergy that built an anti-New Deal, post-World War II ideology of Christian nationalism out of Protestantism, anticommunism, and laissez-faire economics. Specialized researchers interested in primary documentation of the rise of the Religious Right can consult a number of important denominational and institutional archival collections documenting the development of conservative theology and social movements in the 20th century.

Digital sources for researchers abound. Besides the obvious utility of exploring digitized back issues of national publications such as Christianity Today , the New York Times, Time magazine, Newsweek , and the Los Angeles Times , there are other important digital resources available on the Religious Right.

Many think tanks, ministries, and pressure groups have published portions of their back catalogue of books, magazines, and policy papers on the Internet. For example, the Heritage Foundation has an extensive database of reports and policy statements dating to the mids. Researchers can find more recent digitized content from such important Religious Right legacy organizations as Focus on the Family and Concerned Women for America. For those interested in the more extreme theological voices on the Religious Right, useful Internet-based sources include the websites of Christian Reconstructionists Rousas John Rushdoony and Gary North , virtual clearinghouses of newsletters, books, and policy statements from the formative decades of the s through the s.

Many academic libraries and large public libraries hold significant collections of primary sources related to the development of the Religious Right. Besides searching for publications by prominent figures associated with the movement—Robertson, Falwell, and many other leaders were prolific authors and publishers with many books, newsletters, and magazines to their credit—there are a number of useful edited primary source anthologies that place the Religious Right in context. Balmer, Randall H. Boston: Beacon, Find this resource:.

Bruce, Steve. New York: Clarendon, Critchlow, Donald T. Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America. Diamond, Sara. New York: Guilford, Dochuk, Darren. New York: W. Norton, Flippen, J. Hendershot, Heather. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Himmelstein, Jerome L. Berkeley: University of California Press, Hixson, William B.

Lichtman, Allan J. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, Groups consider their policy goals, resources that can be used in elections and constraints on the use of those resources, and the political environment, as well as other factors. The effects of interest group on American elections and policy are covered. Keywords: interest group , American elections , American policy , resources , political environment. He is the author of a number of books, chapters, and articles on religion and politics, gender politics, interest group politics, campaign finance, public opinion and electoral behavior, and the politics of social issues such as abortion, gay rights, and gun control.

Wilcox has authored, coauthored, edited, or coedited more than 30 books. Rentaro Iida is a graduate student in political science at Georgetown University. Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

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Religion and the American Presidency - Panel V - Religion and the 2004 Election

All Rights Reserved. These clinics provide counseling and support to pregnant women who are considering abortion, but do not offer abortion services. Focus assists these organizations in finding pro-life physicians to staff their facilities, providing written materials aimed at dissuading women from having abortions, and acquiring ultrasound equipment. Focus has pledged to purchase ultrasound machines by in the hopes that women who receive ultrasounds will be less likely to have an abortion.

The founding of FOFA appears to be an extension of this unprecedented reaction by Dobson to advances in gay rights. Throughout much of his career, Dobson has shied away from endorsing specific candidates for elected office. But in the last several months he has made two such political nods. One was for Rep. Both moves were made by Dobson as an individual and were not sanctioned by Focus, but because of his influence, it is difficult to distinguish between the two.

In order to run this new advocacy organization, Dobson has taken a leave of absence from his paid role as president of Focus. This will free him from the legal constraints that currently prohibit his ability to endorse political candidates by name. And there is little doubt which candidate he wishes to endorse. The formation of FOFA will make this connection much easier.