Hostility to the Constitution's separation of church and state is the defining feature of the religious right. The religious right is reacting to what it perceives as a moral and social crisis allegedly brought about by U.S. Supreme Court rulings of the past fifty years. The movement's central issues are abortion, homosexuality, feminism, evolution, school prayer, school curricula and school choice, and the media.
Learning from its organizing errors of the 1980s the religious right of the 1990s has been successful in organizing at the local level. Ralph Reed, executive director of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition told The Washington Post (March 14, 1990) "The Christian community got it backwards in the 1980s. We tried to change Washington when we should have been focusing on the states. The real battles of concern to Christians are in neighborhoods, school boards, city councils and state legislatures." Tim LaHaye of Concerned Women for America told Christianity Today (December 15, 1989), "In the nineties, the religious right is going to be composed of a host of independent, locally sponsored and funded organizations that work in unison."
ABOUT THE COUNCIL
La Haye's prophecy has come to pass. Under the umbrella organization the Council for National Policy (CNP) the radical right has been extraordinarily effective in realizing its political agenda. Its secretive membership boasts antiabortion crusaders, gun rights proponents, religious crusaders, antitax advocates, financiers, politicians, and political organizers. CNP member, the anti-Equal Rights Amendment champion, Phyllis Schlafly was one of at least seventeen CNP members to serve as a delegate to the GOP convention this past August. The CNP's newsletters take credit for everything from helping to kill health care reform to blocking regulations restricting religious expression in the workplace. The CNP, a nonprofit, tax-exempt educational group, founded in 1981, has more than 500 members, who were admitted by-invitation-only, including senators, congressmen, and leaders of almost every national radical right group, among them: CNP president Ed Meese, the Reagan administration's attorney general; Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson; Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed; the U.S. Taxpayers Party founder, Howard Phillips; Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt; radio talk show host Oliver North; direct mail wizard Richard Viguerie; Amway Corporation founder Richard DeVos; and members of the Coors family.
AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION
CNP member's groups carve out distinctive niches. CNP member Rev. Don E. Wildmon's American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Mississippi, founded in 1977 as the National Federation for Decency, states that it is "a Christian organization promoting the biblical ethic of decency in American society with primary emphasis on TV and other media." It opposes sex, violence, profanity, "anti-Christian bigotry," and positive portrayal of gays in the media. Wildmon's comment that "Hollywood and the theatre world is (sic) heavily influenced by Jewish people" and his belief that there is a conspiracy among television network executives and advertisers which amounts to "a genuine hostility towards Christians and the Christian faith" and that "[T]his anti-Christian programming is intentional by design." These comments have led some to question whether anti-Semitism is part of Wildmon's agenda.
CNP member Phyllis Schlafly's group Eagle Forum, founded in 1972 based in Alton, Illinois, led the fight to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. Eagle Forum is anti-choice, anti-gay, and promotes "pro-biblical" values.
CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA
CNP members Beverly and Tim LaHaye's group Concerned Women for America (CWA), was founded in 1979 in San Diego, California and moved to Washington, DC in 1985. Its stated purpose is to "preserve, protect, and promote traditional and Judeo-Christian values through education, legal defense, legislative programs, humanitarian aid in Central America and related activities which represent the concerns of men and women who believe in these values. In Ms. LaHayes' 1976 book The Spirit Controlled Woman (Harvest House Publishers), LaHaye wrote that "spirit controlled women" are "truly liberated" because they are "totally submissive" to their husbands. CWA uses prayer to motivate its members into action relating to its goals of opposing abortion, opposing homosexuality, opposing premarital sex and opposing the Equal Rights Amendment.
FOCUS ON THE FAMILY
CNP member James Dobson's group Focus on the Family, founded in 1977, is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. According to Christianity Today, Focus on the Family is the number one ministry in the U.S. by income. Its 1995 budget was $101 million dollars, most of which went to producing ten radio programs and eleven magazines. There are an estimated two million members or subscribers, but wealthy donors also play a significant role in Focus' funding. Dobson attained celebrity status with his books on raising children, following a strict discipline often called "tough love." Focus' Citizen magazine instructs its more than 300,000 readers how to combat gay rights, abortion, pornography, and sex education. Focus' Community Impact Seminars teach members of local churches how to become political activists. Its training manual, Community Impact Curriculum, explores the "duty" of Christian political involvement; promotes a "Christian America," and attacks separation of church and state. Focus played a major role in the passage of Colorado's Amendment 2, which was struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 20, 1996.
FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL
CNP member Gary Bauer's Washington DC-based research and lobbying group, the Family Research Council, was spun off from Dobson's Focus on the Family in 1992. Between 1988 and 1992 the Family Research Council functioned as Focus' Capitol Hill lobbying arm for its public policy initiatives. Since the split, the groups have maintained a close connection. Dobson stated, "We will be legally separate, but spiritually one." Dobson is a Family Research Council board member and Bauer is a regular guest on Dobson's radio broadcasts. According to The New York Times, Bauer is "a rare bilingual breed: a man who can speak both the language of the Christian right and the language of Washington insiders."
CNP member R.J. Rushdoony is the "father of Christian Reconstructionism" and president of Chalcedon, a Vallecito, California based nonprofit group, that teaches that every aspect of society must come under biblical law. This includes the death penalty for "practicing homosexuals," abortionists, heretics, blasphemers, and even disobedient sons.
The group holds seminars, promotes speakers, and publishes numerous books, position papers, its magazine Chalcedon Report, and distributes a series of 16 programs on videotape. Chalcedon assisted in founding the Rutherford Institute.
THE RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE
The Rutherford Institute was founded to utilize the courts to promote the religious right agenda. CNP member John W. Whitehead, Esq. is president and chairman of the board of directors of the Charlottesville, Virginia-based Rutherford Institute.
TRADITIONAL VALUES COALITION
Former CNP member Rev. Louis P. Sheldon heads the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), that works to "educate and inform its member churches on legislative action relating to issues of pro-family concern." TVC denies the existence of church-state separation; supports state-sponsored prayer in public schools; the teaching of the biblical story of creation "creation science" instead of evolution in science classes; the repeal of civil rights protections for gays and lesbians; and "reparative therapy" for gays and lesbians.
AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE
CNP member attorney Benjamin W. Bull, formerly with the legal arm of convicted felon's Charles Keating's Phoenix-based Citizens for Decency Through Law, then with Don Wildmon's American Family Association, is now Senior Litigation Council for Pat Roberts on's American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
The ACLJ, based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, founded in 1990 as a nonprofit legal agency "dedicated to the promotion of pro-liberty, pro-life and pro-family causes." The ACLJ has adopted the motto "To defend the rights of believers." This past summer Ben Bull brought attorney Jay Sekulow, the ACLJ's lead counsel, into the CNP.
CNP members Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed's group, the Christian Coalition, based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was founded in 1989 out of the ashes of his failed 1988 presidential campaign. According to Robertson, "The mission of the Christian Coalition is simple — to mobilize Christians — one precinct at a time, one community at a time — until once again we are at the head and not the tail, and at the top, rather than the bottom, of our political system."