It’s a puzzle: the Christian Coalition is fighting off extinction, but the Religious Right seems as powerful as ever. “Christian Coalition losing clout” headlined the (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot on February 19, the day of the pivotal South Carolina Republican presidential primary.
Just a few years ago the Religious Right was talking about making itself more appealing and effective in mainstream politics. The head of the Christian Coalition at the time, Ralph Reed, declared that the Religious Right needed to tone down its rhetoric, overcome its tradition of racial bigotry, and reach out to Jews, Catholics and ethnic minorities.
Republican contenders for president met in Iowa recently to talk about politics and a testimonial broke out. When asked to identify his favorite philosopher-thinker, George W. Bush responded, “Christ, because he changed my heart.” Gary Bauer concurred. Senator Orrin Hatch covered the more obvious political bases by naming Lincoln and Reagan, but took care to cite Christ as well.
He who pays the piper calls the tune. This is reason enough to feel uneasy about the Bush administration’s program to transfer public funds into religious programs. No strings attached? Of course there are. Whether money comes from Dad, government or foundations, one thing is certain: there are always strings attached.
A group of 13 Ohio clergy is asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the tax-exempt status of a Washington boarding house used by conservative members of Congress.
The C Street Center, a redbrick townhouse on Capitol Hill, came to public attention last summer when use of the building was tied to several Republican politicians who had admitted to extramarital affairs.
Results of off-year state elections this November suggest that reports of the religious right’s demise are greatly exaggerated, but some observers found the movement’s influence on election outcomes rather mixed.
Health-care reform may be Priority No. 1 in Congress and at the White House, but for the 1,825 religious conservatives who gathered in Washington for the annual Values Voter Summit in September, the subject was barely on their radar screen.
Long-held assumptions about religious activists on the left and right have been confirmed in a new 40-page report issued in mid-September: the only thing both sides seem to have in common is that faith is a big part of their lives—bigger than among the general public.
Beyond that, the two poles differ dramatically on political priorities and biblical interpretation.
"Now Watergate does not bother me,” sang Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant in the unofficial Alabama state anthem, “Does your conscience bother you?” When the Watergate break-in turned into a presidency-threatening scandal in 1973, it clearly bothered Billy Graham’s conscience.