IFAS | Freedom Writer | May/June 1999 | reportcard.html

Religious Right report card

By Skipp Porteous

In 1993, the Institute for First Amendment Studies published the second edition of Challenging the Christian Right: the Activist's Handbook. One section of the popular handbook listed the top ten Religious Right organizations. Here is our report card on each group's accomplishments since 1993.

American Family Association

Headed by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, 61, this Mississippi-based group focuses on "indecency" in the media, including magazines, radio, television, and the Internet. In recent years the AFA has added the "homosexual agenda" to its lists of concerns. The AFA's longstanding boycott of Disney has had no noticeable effect. Its efforts to convince CBS television to drop the "Howard Stern Radio Show" have failed. Since the AFA's founding, pornography is more available than ever, and, in spite of hate crimes against homosexuals by some extremists, gays are more widely accepted than ever.

Chalcedon

Founded by the "father of Christian Reconstruction," the 82 year-old RJ Rushdoony, Chalcedon has remained tiny. Its primary influence is with a handful of Reconstructionist-style churches.

Christian Coalition

Pat Robertson, the 69-year old founder of this group has made a fortune on numerous enterprises. Himself a presidential candidate in 1988, he founded the Christian Coalition to fulfill his dream of a "Christian America." Under the leadership of Ralph Reed, the group once showed promise for Christian conservatives. Today, despite public statements by Robertson, the group is a mere paper tiger. The Christian Coalition has never received a permanent tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Revocation of its provisional exemption would spell certain doom for the group.

Coalition on Revival

Once feared as a dangerous group bent on creating a theocracy in America, the Coalition on Revival has withered away to almost nothing. Its leader, Jay Grimstead, 65, burned out several years ago. Many prominent Religious Right leaders who had early ties with the group have long since disassociated themselves from COR.

Concerned Women for America

Founded by Beverly LaHaye, 69, who has since handed over the reigns to Carmen Pate, the group once boasted 600,000 members. However, this figure included anyone who had sent a contribution within an 18-month period. CWA generates millions of fundraising letters each year addressing the "homosexual agenda" and abortion. CWA still makes a lot of noise, especially on the local level through its many chapters. However, on a national scale they have produced few, if any, results.

Oregon Citizens Alliance

Headed by Lon Mabon, this group is now defunct.

Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family is the 800-pound gorilla of the Religious Right. Founded by James Dobson, 64, the group provides literature and tapes dealing with family matters to its constituents. At least 1% of its $100 million budget is used for political purposes. Through a tough speech in February 1998 at a Council for National Policy meeting, Dobson got the Republican Party to sit down with Religious Right leaders. Still, the GOP has only paid lip service to the movement.

Free Congress Foundation

Founded and directed by Paul Weyrich, this influential think tank lost credibility among other Religious Right groups earlier this year when Weyrich announced, "We have lost the culture war."

NACE/CEE

The National Association of Christian Educators and Citizens for Excellence in Education was founded by Robert Simonds, 74. Its original purpose was to take control of the public schools by electing conservative Christians to school board seats. Initially successful, several school boards were taken over through CEE's efforts. In virtually every case however, mainstream candidates won back the seats lost to the radicals.

Operation Rescue

Once loud and boisterous, this antiabortion group founded by Randall Terry has hit bottom. A media blitz failed to bolster its sagging membership, as seen in its dismal picket of abortion clinics and bookstores in Buffalo, New York, where only a few hundred of its members showed up this past spring.

Traditional Values Coalition

Run by the Rev. Lou Sheldon, 65, and his family, the Traditional Values Coalition is primarily an antigay organization. Sheldon's daughter, Andrea, runs the Washington, DC office of this California-based group. Lou Sheldon manages to get some press, but otherwise the group is ineffectual.

Christian Action Network

Headed by Martin Mawyer, formerly of the Moral Majority, this group is another primarily antigay organization. Like Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition, they manage to make enough outrageous statements to get some press coverage.

Eagle Forum

Founded by Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum made its mark when it almost single-handedly defeated the Equal Rights Amendment. Other than speaking at conservative conferences, Schlafly has done little since the demise of the ERA.

Rutherford Institute

This conservative Christian advocacy group is swinging toward the middle. Its founder, John Whitehead made a break from his former Christian Reconstructionist views and now approaches issues from a more liberal viewpoint.

Promise Keepers

Once feared by some as the "third wave," PK is merely a ripple. Rallies planned for state capitals on January 1, 2000 have been canceled for fear of the Y2K bug.

© 1999 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.