Religious Right Watch is an Internet-based project dedicated to educating people about one of the most important political movement in America in the last 30 years: the Religious Right, which is also known as the Christian Right because the vast majority of the Religious Right's leaders, members, and institutions are Christian.
This web project is essentially a blog; but, in addition to its regularly-posted news, narrative, and commentary, RRW will offer helpful resources, such as a glossary (just what is the difference between an Evangelical and a Fundamentalist, anyway?) and links to important perspectives and information concerning the Christian Right.
Why should you care about the Christian Right?
Because in 1973 the Christian Right was just an idea: it was nothing but a group of Christian men—a small group—with a design for a Christianized America. What is more, a rising new conservatism within the Republican Party had designs for a more socially, philosophically, and economically conservative America. These two groups, which very significantly but not completely overlap demographically, gained power together--worked together. They seldom let their few differences divide them.
But over the course of 30 years, that design in the minds of a relative handful of individuals brought to pass (beginning in the mid-1990's) a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate, a President (in 2000), and numerous high-powered judges comfortable with or openly supporting political goals that back in 1973 Americans outside of then-radical Christian circles would have thought impossible to achieve, but that have become commonplace proposals and plans beloved of the Christian Right and most Republicans alike:
*the destruction of the independence of State from Church (and Church from State)
*the dismantling of all government social programs in order to place their duties into the domain of religious organizations and churches
*the reversal of the women’s rights movement, including its gains relative to reproductive choice
*the criminalization of (and the censoring of discussions concerning, artistic depictions of, or education about) any kind of consensual sexual activity that isn’t between husband and wife
*the compromising of the teaching of evolution and other scientific beliefs in public schools
*the squelching of media outlets that do not reflect conservative views
*the limiting of sex education in public schools to abstinence-only options (i.e. the withholding of practical and medically important information about safe sex)
*the imposition of sweeping so-called “decency standards,” and
*the weakening of the third branch of U.S. government--an independent judiciary.
If you doubt that these ideals of the Christian Right could ever come to pass, then consider asking Dick Gephardt about it.
Gephardt was a Congressman from Missouri, a populist Democratic and fairly progressive. He also was the last Democratic Congressman to be Speaker of the House of Representatives after many years of Democratic dominance in Congress. In 1994, twenty years after the Christian Right first began to inveigle its way into the Republican Party, Congressman Gephardt stood in the House of Representatives and surrendered its gavel to a Congressman--Newt Gingerich--of a victorious Republican Party placed in power in no small part by an ever-more-organized Christian Right. It was the first time in 40 years--since 1954--that Republicans were claiming control of the House. The Senate and the Presidency would follow shortly on.
For anyone who had the eyes to see or the ears to hear at the time, there was nothing surprising about the “Republican Revolution” of 1994 or the fact that so many of its political ideals were reflective of the Christian Right's goals.
As far back as the early 1980's and before there were signs of what was to come. Here are words from 1985, spoken by two of that small group of men who started the Christian Right movement, Pat Robertson and Tim LaHaye….
The occasion was a nightly broadcast of a conservative Christian TV show called The 700 Club. Already in 1980, The 700 Club had gained an audience of 20,000,000 viewers. By 1985, it had 60,000,000 viewers—about 25% of the American population then.
Pat Robertson was the host that night, and Tim LaHaye the guest.
“We have enough votes to run the country,” Robertson said, “and when the people say, ‘we’ve had enough,’ we’re going to take over the country.”
(Robertson had said as much before, back at a "Washington for Jesus" rally in 1980.)
Then LaHaye lays it out clearly. He says:
“There are 110,000 Bible-believing churches, but there are only 97,000 major elective offices in America. If we launch one candidate per church, we can take over every elective office in this country within ten years.”
Just three years later, in 1988, Pat Robertson ran for President and nearly won the Iowa Republican Caucus.
Like idiots examining a burned-down house and concluding that it must have been made of ashes, the mainstream media and many progressives misread Robertson’s eventual exit from presidential politics as indicative of the Christian Right's decline.
But, the truth was that Robertson's campaign was part of the Christian Right's marching and maneuvering toward additional electoral conquests. The campaign had served its purposes: to test the waters, to make the Christian Right more unified and its efforts more orchestrated...in practical terms: to build its database of voters and identify emerging political talent at every level: local, county, state, federal.
Pat Robertson's 1988 Presidential campaign was for the Christian Right an important war game, and the leaders of the Christian Right were largely encouraged by its lessons.
By the early 1990’s, following Robertson’s campaign, local school boards and county and state offices, mainly in the South and Midwest at first, were falling to the Christian Right routinely, and the Christian Right was well on its way to completely taking over the Republican Party in several states. Already by 1992, the platform of the Republican Party in Washington State called for the criminalization of "witchcraft and yoga classes.”
That may sound absurd. Clearly, a lot of other people thought so, since it was only a relatively small number of journalists and organizations who noted what was happening. In general, American progressives (largely culturally isolated on the two coasts) and clueless Democratic Party leaders were dismissive of the Christian Right's rising stock in and outside of the Republican Party. And so they didn’t do anything, and didn’t do anything...while the Christian Right did plenty.
Thus, it can be seen as having been all but inevitable that by 1994 the Christian Right--mostly through one of its big organizations at the time, the Christian Coalition--was distributing 40,000,000 voter guides for the midterm elections: those same elections after which Representative Gephardt handed over the gavel to conservative Republican Gingrich, the Congressman from the same Georgia county that in that same election cycle passed a resolution stating that homosexuality was contrary to “community standards,” ordered the cut-off of county funds for the arts, and stopped funding of abortion services through the county employee health plan.
And so, since good people stood by and did too little, those "absurd" state platforms went from 1992’s call for the eradication of witchcraft and yoga, to calls like the one in the Texas Republican Party Platform in 2000 reading:
We support the abolition of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Fire arms; the Office of the Surgeon General; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Education, Commerce, and Labor. We also call for the de-funding or abolition of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Public Broadcasting System.
Six years after the 1994 Republican Revolution, the Christian Coalition, in 2000, was distributing 70,000,000 voter guides—nearly double the number from five years before—an increase of 5,000,000 new voter guides a year.
Also, the Republican majority in Congress increased in that time, with many of the new members being conservative evangelical Christians. And, of course, George W. Bush was elected President of the United States. Congress and Bush began enacting those Christian Right ideals once dismissed by progressives as impossible: first came an international gag order on mentioning the word “abortion,” then: bans on stem cell research, programs to shift government social services to houses of worship and religious charities through the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and open attacks on the court system—bold, threatening dismissals of the ideal of objective, independent-minded judges.
As someone raised within the fundamentalist Christian subculture, for more than a decade I have been shocked and disappointed by the ignorance on the part of progressive political leaders and the mainstream media about the rise and influence of the Christian Right.
This website hopes to play some small role in addressing that lack of awareness and information.
Religious Right Watch joins a community of faithful promoters of liberty who want something better than the Christian Right's narrow view of America’s future--a community of liberty and equality for all Americans, instead of the Christian Right’s movement of fear against many Americans. It is a community of noble enterprises I refer you to like the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way, TheocracyWatch.org, and Political Research Associates, and Talk2Action.com.
The Christian Right has managed a tremendously successful assault…. Putting off until tomorrow the discomforts that come with taking action could be treacherous.
Apathy and discouragement are the two most menacing obstacles before progressive patriots. When Christian Right founders are asked where they learned their skills of political organization, they invariably answer—“The Civil Rights and Labor movements.” The words of the Christian Right’s leaders bear witness: progressives made this country great. The greatness of America and American progressivism are so intertwined that the Christian Right itself could not avoid using progressives' tactics.
Progressives are the authors of America’s notion of itself as its best, and we will be deemed to have held very cheap past accomplishments of progressives before us if we aren’t driven to re-invigorate American progressivism. We have moved America forward before: for black men, women, and families once treated under the law as mere property; for children once forced to work in factories; for the elderly, a majority of whom once lived in genuine poverty before Social Security; for rural America once literally kept in the dark without electricity; for soldiers once unable to get a aid for college after serving this nation; and--more recently and less convincingly--for Americans who happen to be gay or who happen to be born with or by accident encounter physical limitations.
Again and again, progressive patriots have been the ones to improve and protect American lives by bringing Americans together and entering fully into electoral politics for the sake of keeping forever secure the blessings of American liberty.
With that in mind, it's time for us to move America forward again, together.