Christian Right Roots: Marshner and McGraw
Looking back at the early days of the Christian Right shows how its roots are showing today. According to Jean Hardisty, “Much of the credit for crafting the antifeminist agenda belongs to…[Marshner, then with the] Free Congress Research and Education Foundation and Onalee Mcgraw of the Heritage Foundation.~72
Connie (Connaught) Marshner began her conservative political career as a campus activist in the early 1970s joining the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at the University of South Carolina. She moved to Washington soon after graduation, and her ambition and skills helped propel her quickly into responsible positions unusual for her age and gender. An early employee of both the Heritage Foundation and the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, at 19 Marshner met New Right mastermind Paul Weyrich and began to benefit from his mentoring.
Highly critical of the women’s movement’s growing influence on the culture and on public policy, and with the support of her male bosses, Marshner became a strategist for the anti-feminist backlash. She authored a series of issue pamphlets at Heritage on the conservative response to feminism, sharpening her arguments against women’s issues like child care and abortion. By 1979 she worked alongside Phyllis Schlafly, organizing women around traditional definitions of the family. Marshner created a network of evangelical women opposed to the ERA, abortion, gay rights and pornography, durable issues that live on in today’s Christian Right campaigns.
Her organizing skill crafted a walkout at Jimmy Carter’s ground-breaking White House Conference on Families, generating national attention about traditional values. As part of Heritage’s think tank support for the Reagan administration, Marshner crafted the Family Protection Act which, although it did not pass, embodied the New Right’s domestic agenda opposing a range of liberal and progressive issues such as abortion and gay rights. She admitted that some of its provisions were designed to provoke outrage among Democrats, which created an opportunity to attract moderates to the New Right’s agenda centered on preserving the traditional family.~73
A Roman Catholic mother of four and author of books with titles like Decent Exposure: How to Teach Your Children about Sex and Can Motherhood Survive: A Christian looks at Social Parenting, Marshner embodies, in her words, the “new traditional woman,” a self-sufficient career woman who values her faith and her family as much as she does her success in the working world. In 1984 she became executive vice president for Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation, editing Family Protection Report, a newsletter designed to keep track of the emerging Christian Right by focusing on family values. In 1988, Marshner was on the Executive Committee of the Council for National Policy.~74
For years Marshner has worked behind the scenes, unknown to most but central to the rise of the New Right. She served on the Executive Committee of the secretive Council on National Policy, has advised various conservative campaigns, and worked for Morton Blackwell’s Leadership Institute, where she continues to share her framing and organizing skills. It was in this capacity that she appeared at the Values Voters Summit.
Marshner is helping coordinate an antiabortion political training program January 21-28, 2007 at the Leadership Institute, which is aimed at attracting organizers from around the world.~75
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