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The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party

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"There will be Satanic forces...

We are not... up just against human beings, to beat them in elections. We're going to be coming up against spiritual warfare."
Pat Robertson, Road to Victory, 1991

In this section:

War on Secular Society
Dominion Mandate
Who is the Theocratic Right
Estimate of political strength
Why We Should Care

War on Secular Society

"We need to find ways to win the war" Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political strategist, and deputy chief of staff told a gathering of the Family Research Council in March, 2002. The Family Research Council is one of the most powerful lobbying organizations of the theocratic right today. Rove wasn't talking about the war on terrorism. He was talking about the war on secular society.

The Reverend Tim LaHaye co-authored Mind Siege: The Battle for Truth in the New Millennium, published in 2000. The best-selling book issues a call to arms for evangelical Christians to battle against secular humanism. Mind Siege declares that secular humanism is a "religion," and issues marching orders to evangelical Christians to gear up for an all-out battle to root secular humanists out of public life; their bottom line is that "No humanist is fit to hold office."

LaHaye, best known for the Left Behind series, was one of the founders of the Moral Majority. He first declared war on secular humanism in 1980 with his widely read book, The Battle for the Mind, in which he claims that evangelicals need to become politically involved to fight the great evil, secular humanism, that is threatening to destroy America.

Paul Weyrich said in a talk:

"The real enemy is the secular humanist mindset which seeks to destroy everything that is good in this society."

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, explained the nature of the war on secularism in 1991 at a Christian Coalition Road to Victory gathering:

"It's going to be a spiritual battle. There will be Satanic forces.... We are not going to be coming up just against human beings, to beat them in elections. We're going to be coming up against spiritual warfare."

Robertson named his enemies in a 1992 newsletter, Pat Robertson Perspective. The list includes, among others, the National Organization for Women, the National Education Association, the National Council of Churches, the Gay-Lesbian Caucus, as well as People for the American Way, and Americans United for a Separation of Church and State. They are lumped together as the "Radical Left."

"The strategy against the American Radical Left should be the same as General Douglas MacArthur employed against the Japanese in the Pacific... Bypass their strongholds, then surround them, isolate them, bombard them, then blast the individuals out of their power bunkers with hand-to-hand combat. The battle for Iwo Jima was not pleasant, but our troops won it. The battle to regain the soul of America won't be pleasant either, but we will win it." (from the book, Pat Robertson, The Most Dangerous Man in America? by Rob Boston).

Noting that the country is facing a war in Iraq, Alabama Governor Bob Riley declared,

"There is another war going on in this country. This one is far more insidious. It's one that you just can't go and attack. It's a war for the absolute soul of this country."

Gov. Riley was Speaking to the Alabama Christian Coalition's "Friends of the Family" Celebration, March 8, 2003. Gov. Riley has asked his political allies to enlist in a crusade to restore the Christian character of America.

Rev. D. James Kennedy, pastor at the 9,000 member Coral Ridge Presbyterian and founder of the Reclaiming America for Christ movement reaches a viewing and listening audience of about 3.5 million people every Sunday morning. He talks about going beyond the destruction of the Berlin Wall to battering down

"the even more diabolical 'wall of separation' that has led to increasing secularization, godlessness, immorality, and corruption in our country."

"God has called us to engage the enemy in this culture war. That is our challenge today." Kennedy wrote in Character & Destiny: A Nation In Search of Its Soul, (Zondervan Publishing House, 1997). In the same book he states:

"How much more forcefully can I say it? The time has come, and it is long overdue, when Christians and conservatives and all men and women who believe in the birthright of freedom must rise up and reclaim America for Jesus Christ." (written with Jim Nelson Black)

If the theocratic right is waging war, they also see themselves as victims. From Federal Judicial nominee Janice Rogers Brown, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, April 26, 2005:

"These are perilous times for people of faith, not in the sense that we are going to lose our lives, but in the sense that it will cost you something if you are a person of faith who stands up for what you believe in and say those things out loud."

Church and State reported, April, 2003:

"House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) is helping a controversial Religious Right group raise money to defeat a so-called 'war on Christianity' in America and preserve the nation's alleged "Christian heritage."

DeLay endorsed a campaign by the Rev. Lou Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), which claimed in a fund-raising letter that it will raise $12.6 million to

"stop the all-out assault on Christians being waged by our government, by America's educational institutions, by the media and throughout popular culture." (To read a current fundraising letter by TVC, click here.)

War on Christians, Alternet, March 17, 2006:

According to the Revealer : "'The War on Christians' conference is coming to D.C., featuring a modified-A-list of conservative heavyweights organized by Vision America, including Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, Sen. John Cornyn, Phyllis Schlafly, Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Tom DeLay, as well as some Jews..."

Justice Sunday II, according to The American Prospect, was nothing less than an effort to "reinforce a sense of victimhood:" speaker after speaker hammered on the theme of oppression of Christians by a shadowy liberal establishment, it became clear that, like many of the sermons, books, and articles written by leaders of the Christian right, the real purpose of "Justice Sunday II" was to reinforce a sense of victimhood among the broadest possible swath of American Christians.

Funding the Culture Wars by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy provides a detailed account of who provides the money for the culture wars and where it is going. (January, 2005)

Richard Viguerie, who pioneered direct mail fundraising for the theocratic right, spoke on December 15, 2004, to Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air. He talked about how people of his belief have been attacked and victimized by secular society.

From the Reverend Rod Parsley, a rising star of the Religious Right speaking at a "War on Christians" Conference held in Washington, D.C, March, 2006:

"We are at a point of crisis. Our culture is in chaos. The moral foundations, once constructed by the tenets of our faith, are quickly crumbling around us, with no sign of a cure."

At a Washington, D.C., gathering in late March sponsored by his Vision America organization, the Texas preacher and an array of invited speakers spent hours blasting the alleged enemies of Christianity and arguing that to save America from moral ruin more evangelicals needed to get politically active.

Dominion Mandate

The term dominion means control over, in this case control over all the democratic institutions in this country. Sara Diamond in her book Road to Dominion is credited with recognizing dominion as a political goal. She defines Dominion Theology in an article for Z Magazine in 1985:

Christians are mandated to gradually occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns.

"Our aim," according to Pat Robertson at a banquet in 1984, "is to gain dominion over society." The path to dominion was made clear when Robertson told the Denver Post in 1992 that his goal was to "take working control of the Republican Party."

Katherine Yurica's article, The Despoiling of America provides a comprehensive overview of Dominionism, the Bush administration, and the Neoconservatives.

Authors Mark Beliles and Stephen McDowell have written an influential textbook for Christian schools titled America's Providential History.

"The Puritans are prime representatives of this "spirit of dominion... They recognized the scriptural mandates requiring Godly rule, and zealously set out to establish that in all aspects of society."

Dominion theology provides the theological rationale for a "Christian" nation. John F. Sugg writes in the Weekly Planet, Tampa, Florida, March 2004:

Dominion theologians ... preached ... that it was Christians' job to take over the world and impose biblical rule. Christ would not return, they said, until the church had claimed dominion over all of the world's governments and institutions ...

In 2000, the Republican Party of Texas declared that it "affirms that the United States is a Christian nation." Last month, [February 11, 2004,] that sentiment reached the national level. The Constitution Restoration Act of 2004 would acknowledge Christianity's God as the "sovereign source" of our laws. It would reach back in history and reverse all judicial decisions that have built a wall between church and state, and it would prohibit federal judges from making such rulings in the future.

An article appeared in Harper's, March, 2003 called "Jesus Plus Nothing: Undercover among America's secret theocrats" by Jeff Sharlet. While the term "dominion" isn't used, the goal is the same. Says Sharlet, the ultimate goal of the Family is "a government built by God," which is by definition a theocracy.

Sharlet's article, Inside America's most powerful megachurch, along with Chris Hedges' Feeling the hate with the National Religious Broadcasters, make up a two-part series called Soldiers of Christ. (Harpers, May, 2005) Sharlet's description of the New Life Church in Colorado springs illustrates how the dominionism movement is organized socially.

Who Is The Theocratic Right?

Americans United has compiled a very good guide to the Religious Right.

Here's a longer answer: This site is not about...

This site is not about religion. Many religious leaders, including those from mainline Christian churches, are deeply concerned about the religious right. The Interfaith Alliance, for example, "is a nonpartisan, clergy-led grassroots organization dedicated to promoting the positive, healing role of faith in civic life and challenging intolerance and extremism."

This site is not about Christianity. The theocratic right does not view mainline Christians as true Christians. Some call this movement the "Christian right," but there are many Christians who consider themselves at the right wing of the political spectrum, but don't necessarily support the agenda of the theocratic right. Likewise, many people identify themselves as "Christian" and "conservative," but don't support the goals of the religious right.

The term Evangelical should not be used as synonymous with the theocratic right. Evangelicals cover the whole political spectrum. Former President Jimmy Carter, America's first evangelical Christian president, still teaches Sunday school at his Baptist church in Plains, Georgia. He said in an interview with The American Prospect, April 5, 2004:

When I was younger, almost all Baptists were strongly committed on a theological basis to the separation of church and state. It was only 25 years ago when there began to be a melding of the Republican Party with fundamentalist Christianity, particularly with the Southern Baptist Convention. This is a fairly new development, and I think it was brought about by the abandonment of some of the basic principles of Christianity.

This site is not about Republicans. To quote a highly respected, very conservative Republican, former presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater,

Our problem is with ... the religious extremists ... who want to destroy everybody who doesn't agree with them. I see them as betrayers of the fundamental principles of conservatism. A lot of so-called conservatives today don't know what the word means. (1994)

From another seasoned Republican to whom Goldwater spoke those words, Bill Rentschler,

Prepare yourself, fellow Americans, for historic change, the most dramatic and far-reaching change in your lifetime, a sweeping metamorphosis that may alter radically the distinctive, time-honored structure of the fabled American experiment, which has endured for most of the last 225 years.

The Republican Main Street Partnership, is a group of GOP moderates that includes Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, Gov. George Pataki of New York, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. Salon claims moderate Republicans are feeling desperate.

It's no wonder moderates are feeling desperate. After all, a faction within their own party is fighting to purge them -- and that faction includes some of the nation's most powerful Republicans.

This site is about...

While this site is not about Republicans, it is about Republican strategists who target people of a certain faith as a way to expand the base of their party, and about a very specific group of religious leaders who are using the Republican Party as a way to gain dominion over society. As explained by journalist and author Chris Hedges:

This movement is a hybrid of fundamentalists, Pentacostals, Southern Baptists, Conservative Catholics, Charismatics and other evangelicals, all of whom are at war doctrinally, but who nonetheless share a belief that America is destined to become a Christian nation, led by Christian men who are in turn directed by God...Lately the leaders of the movement have even begun to reach out to Mormons.

America becomes, in this militant biblicism, an agent of God, and all political and intellectual opponents of America's Christian leaders are viewed, quite simply, as agents of Satan.

Estimate of Political Strength

The best way to estimate the strength of the theocratic right is to go to their organizations and see how they rate our legislators. To view how Christian Coalition rates the U.S. Congress, click here; the Eagle Forum, click here. To view the scorecards of the most powerful organization of the theocratic right, the Family Research Council, click here.

The magazine Campaigns and Elections has published two studies map usa evaluating the relative strength of the Religious Right in state Republican Parties. The studies were directed by John C. Green, professor of political science and director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at The University of Akron.

The color-coded maps to the right demonstrate a shift from the year 1994 (top) to the year 2000 (bottom). Red is strong, green moderate, and yellow weak. The study's conclusion:

"In 2000, Christian conservatives were perceived to hold a strong position in 18 state Republican parties, the same number as in the 1994. The moderate category had 26 states, exactly twice the 1994 number. And the weak category declined to seven cases, down from 20 six years prior. Clearly, the biggest change was the increase in the moderate category, but there was considerable movement in all categories."

This link provides the chart by states produced by the above study.

The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act, a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 107th Congress, was intended to bypass campaign finance reform and allow houses of worship to collect money for political campaigns. It was drafted with help the American Center for Law and Justice, a law school founded by Pat Robertson. These contributions would have been both anonymous and tax exempt. This bill was lobbied for intensively by virtually all the key organizations of the theocratic right, and opposed by a strong coalition of mainline religious groups. It was defeated in the House of Representatives on October 3, 2002, thereby denying unrestricted campaign contributions to be made through the collection plate.

Because most groups except the theocratic Right opposed the bill, it was a good measure of their numbers in the House in 2002. Roughly 43% of those who voted supported the bill (178 for, 239 against). Candidates backed by the theocratic Right won 18 new seats in the House of Representatives in 2002. The bill was re-introduced in January, 2003. It is in the House Ways and Means Committee with 160 sponsors.

From Church and State, February, 2004:

The North Carolina congressman has been successful at garnering more support for the new bill, which like its predecessor was written with the help of ACLJ attorneys. The measure, which is pending in the House Committee on Ways and Means, has more than 160 cosponsors, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). Legislative staff at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, as well as other public interest groups, believe the bill is gaining momentum and that its chances for being approved by the House are greater each day.

The Hostettler bill, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 23, 2004, indicates the strength of the religious right. While media attention focused on the two-ton granite monument of the Ten Commandments placed in the lobby of the Alabama Supreme Court by its Chief Justice Roy Moore, little, if any attention was focused on a House measure that passed by a vote of 260 - 161. The Hostettler bill blocks the federal government from spending any tax funds to enforce the 11th U.S. circuit Court of Appeals order to have the monument removed. During floor debate, the author of the bill insisted that Congress has the power to curb the courts. This bill is an assault on an independent judiciary.

From Church and State on the Hostettler bill:

One Alabama newspaper blasted the amendment. Calling the move "outrageous and wholly unconstitutional," The Tuscaloosa News editorialized July 30, "While the amendment can and certainly should be stripped from the bill in the Senate, Hostettler's move shows that the same kind of blatant disregard of the law that Moore is trading in back here in Alabama is also current in Washington. That his ploy is not likely to stand does not make it any less outrageous."

Why We Should Care

The Covert Kingdom -- Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Texas

From Joe Bageant May 18, 2004

But until progressives come to understand what [fundamentalists] read, hear, are told and deeply believe, we cannot understand American politics, much less be effective. Given fundamentalist Christianity's inherent cultural isolation, it is nearly impossible for most enlightened Americans to imagine, in honest human terms, what fundamentalist Americans believe, let alone understand why we should all care.

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Last updated: March-2006