About 3,000 activists attended the National Affairs Briefing in Memphis on January 19th and 20th, 1996. More than 50 conservative leaders participated. Organizers predicted a conference attendance of 10,000, but were disappointed with a meager 1,500 on the first day, and 3,000 on the second and final day.
Ed McAteer, founder of the National Religious Roundtable and chairman of the event, said, "We believe that 1996 is a defining moment in America's five-century journey in democracy and freedom. America's destiny is at issue. The time-tested Judeo-Christian road map, set out by America's early leaders and embraced in the Mayflower Compact and other founding documents, is still a valid guide to be followed if America is to survive and prosper."
Howard Phillips, founder and president of the Conservative Caucus and the U.S. Taxpayers Alliance, delivered Friday night's keynote address. Here are some of the highlights:
"The issue in politics today is not Republican versus Democrat, or conservative versus liberal. It is rather, under what authority, and by what standard shall we live? As individuals, as families, as communities, and as a civil polity, the laws of God are fixed for all generations. His law is unchanging; it cannot be altered or amended by a two-thirds vote of Congress, by a presidential executive order, or even by a unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Abortion is always wrong, and no statute, no edict, no court order which approves the destruction of God's handiwork can contradict the Biblical injunction: 'the first duty of the law is to prevent the shedding of innocent blood.'
"Homosexual conduct is not merely a threat to public health; it is an abomination in God's sight.
"If America is to be blessed by God, if our nation is to be approved by God, we must not exalt, subsidize, or accept the legalization of that which He declares to be an abomination. A crime against the law of God is, after all, more serious than the violation of a government regulation. The judgment of God overrides the opinions of men. The Bible instructs that 'whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.' That means capital punishment must be the policy.
"Public opinion may prefer parole, probation, or even building more prisons. But God's word prescribes execution for murder, and restitution, not prison terms, for offenses against property. The land cries out for retribution. It's time to stop letting those who've killed the poor kill again. We have capital punishment, but all too often that capital punishment is for the victims not for the criminal. We must sentence to death the guilty murderers so the law-abiding innocents may live. And at the same time, we must never let our politicians forget that we have a God-given right and duty to defend ourselves and our families, which cannot be delegated and must not be surrendered. The right to keep and bear arms must be preserved.
"Today, our civil government is not accountable to the laws of God, because those of us who profess to honor God, and to accept Him as the Lord of our lives, have failed as stewards of God's justice to hold accountable, through us to Him, the officials of civil government who use our votes and our taxes to implement their anti-Biblical policies.
"Let's take these politicians off the pedestal and recognize that elected officials are supposed to be our servants, not our masters. In that way, we may better obey our Master in Heaven.
"The fundamental issue is this: What is the source of law? There are only three possible answers. Either the government itself is the source of authority, or B, it's our broad reason, or C, it's the Holy Bible. The correct answer is, of course, the Holy Bible. God's word is the source of truth and law. Only the Bible holds the true course; all other options are broad, false, and imperfect.
"By appointing pro-life judges, vetoing funds for Planned Parenthood, and prosecuting abortionists and abortuaries for violation of federal law, we can end legal abortion in America.
"My friends, it's time for us to do our duty; it's time for us to put principle ahead of party; to put policy ahead of political personality, to put God and country before political correctness, and for us to recognize that the duty we owe God ought to be of greater concern or priority to us than any stigma we might acquire by reason of our rejection of conventional political wisdom."
Phillip's speech was interrupted numerous times by applause. Afterward, event organizer Ed McAteer said, "In my opinion, there is no greater constitutional authority in America than Howard Phillips. And, would you believe, he's an embracer of both books of the Bible; he is a son of Abraham. Some of you know that; he is my Jewish friend." (After Phillips' conversion from Judaism to Christianity, he came under the influence of the teachings of Christian Reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony in 1975.)
In 1980, at a Dallas gathering, over 20,000 people, including 200 media representatives and 5,500 Christian ministers, attended the first National Affairs Briefing. One explanation for the lower turnout is that there are now several such conferences each year, and the Radical Religious Right is more organized at the grass roots than 16 years ago, thus focusing its energies on local politics.