The Film Archives
Published on Nov 13, 2013
One early effort to institutionalize the Christian right as a politically active social movement began in 1974 when Dr. Robert Grant, an early movement leader, founded American Christian Cause to advocate Christian moral teachings in Southern California. More: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/074…
Concerned that Christians overwhelmingly voted in favor of President Jimmy Carter in 1976, Grant expanded his movement and founded Christian Voice to mobilize Christian voters in favor of candidates who share their socially conservative values.
In the late 1980s Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition, building from his 1988 presidential run, with Republican activist Ralph Reed, who became the spokesman for the Coalition. In 1992, the national Christian Coalition, Inc., headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, began producing voter guides, which it distributed to conservative Christian churches. Under the leadership of Reed and Robertson, the Coalition quickly became the most prominent voice in the conservative Christian movement, its influence culminating with an effort to support the election of a conservative Christian to the presidency in 1996. In addition, they have talked about attempting to intersperse the traditional moral issues associated with the Christian right into a broader message that emphasizes other political issues, such as healthcare, the economy, education and crime.
Focus on the Family’s Visitor’s Welcome Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Political activists worked within the Republican party locally and nationally to influence party platforms and nominations. More recently Dr. James Dobson’s group Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs, and the Family Research Council in Washington D.C. have gained enormous clout among Republican lawmakers. While strongly advocating for these moral issues, Dobson himself is more wary of the political spectrum and much of the resources of his group are devoted to other aims such as media. However, as a private citizen, Dobson has stated his opinion on presidential elections; on February 5, 2008, Dobson issued a statement regarding the 2008 presidential election and his strong disappointment with the Republican party’s candidates.
In an essay written in 1996, Ralph Reed argued against the moral absolutist tone of Christian right leaders, arguing for the Republican Party Platform to stress the moral dimension of abortion rather than placing emphasis on overturning Roe v. Wade. Reed believes that pragmatism is the best way to advocate for the Christian right.
The Christian right believes that separation of church and state is not explicit in the American Constitution, believing instead that such separation is a creation of what it claims are activist judges in the judicial system. In the United States, the Christian right often supports their claims by asserting that the country was “founded by Christians as a Christian Nation.” Members of the Christian right take the position that the Establishment Clause bars the federal government from establishing or sponsoring a state church (e.g. the Church of England), but does not prevent the government from acknowledging religion. The Christian right points out that the term “separation of church and state” is derived from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson, not from the Constitution itself. Furthermore, the Alliance Defense Fund takes the view that the concept of “separation of church and state” has been utilized by the American Civil Liberties Union and its allies to inhibit public acknowledgment of Christianity and restrict the religious freedoms of Christians.
Thus, Christian right leaders have argued that the Establishment Clause does not prohibit the display of religion in the public sphere. Leaders therefore believe that public institutions should be allowed to display the Ten Commandments. This interpretation has been repeatedly rejected by the courts, which have found that such displays violate the Establishment Clause. Public officials though are prohibited from using their authority in which the primary effect is “advancing or prohibiting religion”, according to the Lemon Supreme Court test, and there cannot be an “excessive entanglement with religion” and the government. Some, such as Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, argue that the First Amendment, which specifically restricts Congress, applies only to the Congress and not the states. This position rejects the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.
Generally, the Christian right supports the presence of religious institutions within government and the public sphere, and advocates for fewer restrictions on government funding for religious charities and schools.
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