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Not Your Grandma's Religious Right
Don't be shocked or awed, but the Christian right isn't
satisfied merely running the government

by Bill Berkowitz
January 6, 2005

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“In your re-election, God has graciously granted America -- though she doesn't deserve it -- a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate... Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ... Undoubtedly, you will have opportunity to appoint many conservative judges and exercise forceful leadership with the Congress in passing legislation that is defined by biblical norm regarding the family, sexuality, sanctity of life, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and limited government. You have four years -- a brief time only - - to leave an imprint for righteousness upon this nation that brings with it the blessings of Almighty God... If you have weaklings around you who do not share your biblical values, shed yourself of them.”

-- Bob Jones III, president of Bob Jones University, post-election letter to President Bush,

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, Dr. James Dobson and Alabama's state representative Gerald Allen are on the warpath. The Rev. Falwell is promising to build his newly launched Moral Majority Coalition into an awesome electoral force to be reckoned with for decades to come. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, is warning Democratic Senators that if they block President Bush's judicial nominees their political careers will be toast. And Allen wants to turn gay-positive literature, currently located at state supported institutions, to toast.

While you might have thought that President Bush's victory in November would initiate a fundamentalist time-out for hosannas and celebrations, they're keeping their joy in check. Instead of dancing in the streets, Christian right political warriors are donning full battle gear and scoping out new terrain.

The Art of Political War

During the 2000 campaign, conservative activist David Horowitz's political primer entitled “The Art of Political War: How Republicans Can Fight to Win” was distributed “compliments” of Tom DeLay, the party's majority whip, to every GOP member of the U.S. Congress, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber pointed out in their book Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing Is Turning America Into a One-Party State (Tarcher/Penguin 2004).

Horowitz's pamphlet was so highly thought of by the Heritage Foundation, Washington's premier right wing think tank, that it “sent another 2,300 copies to conservative activists around the country.” Karl Rove, the mastermind behind Bush's campaigns, called Horowitz's pamphlet, “a perfect pocket guide to winning on the political battlefield from an experienced warrior.”

According to The Nation's Scott Sherman, Horowitz's work argued that, “Politics is war conducted by other means. In political warfare you do not fight just to prevail in an argument, but to destroy the enemy's fighting ability... In political wars, the aggressor usually prevails.”

Horowitz expands upon the pamphlet's theme in the book The Art of Political War and Other Radical Pursuits (Spence Publishing Company, 2000): “Politics is a war of position. In war there are two sides: friends and enemies. Your task is to define yourself as the friend of as large a constituency as possible compatible with your principles, while defining your opponent as the enemy whenever you can. The act of defining combatants is analogous to the military concept of choosing the terrain of battle. Choose the terrain that makes the fight as easy for you as possible.”

Since the election, numerous right wing campaigns, replete with the requisite fundraising pitch, have sprung up across the Internet. From the right's efforts to Stop Specter -- which, while not succeeding in denying the Senator the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did force him to pledge his loyalty to the GOP's conservative leadership -- to the caterwauling about Christmas being under attack by the ACLU, to the campaign to ensure that Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ gets its share of Oscars, the right has donned permanent battle gear.

Operation Christian Vote

The Rev. Jerry Falwell recently announced the launching of a four-year voter registration project called Operation Christian Vote. Combining the resources of his newly founded Moral Majority Coalition and Liberty University's new Helms School of Government -- named after Jesse Helms, the retired five-term right wing Senator from North Carolina -- the Rev. Falwell said that intends to register 10 million new evangelical voters for the 2006 and 2008 general elections.

In a campaign announcement/fundraising pitch sent out via the Internet on December 13, the Rev. Falwell said that "students at Liberty will spend weekends and summers over the next four years working hand-in-hand with pastors and staff members of evangelical churches all over America, registering voters in the churches and neighborhoods along with educating parishioners on issues of concern to them.

“The Moral Majority Coalition will coordinate with pastors, and provide transport, food and other related expenses for all materials needed for this nationwide effort. The costs will be enormous, but the benefits will be long enduring for our nation.

“I believe that America was founded as a Christian nation, respective and tolerant of all religions, but we are indeed One Nation Under God. And it's time that the people of God exercised their right to vote and vote their Christian convictions.”

Dobson's Threat

Dr. James Dobson, the founder of the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Focus on the Family, and now head of Focus on the Family Action -- an arm of FotF established last year to allow public advocacy that would otherwise threaten FotF's tax-exempt status -- is threatening to bring the wrath of right wing Christians down upon any Democratic Senator that dares attempt to block President Bush's conservative appointments to the Supreme Court.

According to the New York Times, in a letter to more than one million of his supporters, Dr. Dobson promised “a battle of enormous proportions from sea to shining sea” if Bush fails to appoint “strict constructionist” jurists or if Democrats filibuster to block conservative nominees.

According to Dobson, vulnerable Democrats include Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Bill Nelson of Florida, all of whom are up for re-election in 2006.

Goodbye to All That Gay Stuff

Gerald Allen is a Republican in the Alabama state legislature. In early December, Allen introduced a bill that would ban the use of state funds to purchase any books or other materials that “promote homosexuality.” Allen's bill would prohibit taxpayer money from supporting “positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle.”

The Guardian's Gary Taylor recently asked Allen what had motivated the bill: “Was one of his children exposed to something in school that he considered inappropriate? Did he see some flamingly gay book displayed prominently at the public library?”

Allen said that it wasn't any particular incident related to his family. “Traditional family values are under attack,” Allen told Taylor. They've been under attack “for the last 40 years.” The problem is with “Hollywood, the music industry.” Allen said that we must “save society from moral destruction,” and prevent the “re-engineering society's fabric in the minds of our children” by librarians and academics. Alabamians must be “protect[ed].”

Is Allen concerned that the legislation could mandate the state to ban some of Shakespeare's works from being staged and remove books by dozens of authors from local libraries, schools and state funded universities? According to Taylor, Allen “regards his gay book ban as a work in progress. His legislation is ‘a single spoke in the wheel, it doesn't resolve all the issues.’ This is just the beginning. ‘To turn a big ship around it takes a lot of time,’” Allen said.

There's no shortage of right wing bile loosed on the land. Even Bill O'Reilly, the host of The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel, got caught up in the “attack on Christmas” nonsense. On his nationally syndicated radio program O'Reilly told a Jewish caller -- expressing his anger that Christmas is celebrated in public schools -- to “go to Israel.”

The Rev. Falwell's Operation Christian Vote, Dr. Dobson's warning, and Alabama State Representative Allen's grotesque legislation are all signs of the religious right's vision for America. Will these and likeminded projects come to pass? Stay tuned.

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.

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