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A fascinating article in The Guardian claims that the Christian Right was formed not in response to Roe v. Wade, but in response to the rescinding of the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, a whites-only religious institution. This is important in understanding the latest right-wing pseudo-scandal regarding queries by the IRS about the prayers used by certain anti-abortion groups.

(based on a post at Mercury Rising)

Sarah Posner in the Guardian writes :

For anyone who knows the history of the religious right, the possible revocation of tax-exempt status for claimed religious belief is a potent flashpoint. In his book, Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament, religion historian Randall Balmer argues that contrary to conventional wisdom, which Balmar calls the “abortion myth”, evangelical voters were not propelled to political activism by the supreme court’s 1973 decision in Roe v Wade.

Instead, the issue that mobilized these voters was the IRS’s 1975 revocation of the tax-exempt status of the segregationist Bob Jones University. Rightwing religious architect Paul Weyrich told Balmer that it was “the federal government’s moves against Christian schools” that actually “enraged the Christian community”.

Balmer wrote:

Although various Roman Catholic groups denounced the ruling, and Christianity Today complained that the Roe decision "runs counter to the moral teachings of Christianity through the ages but also to the moral sense of the American people," the vast majority of evangelical leaders said virtually nothing about it; many of those who did comment actually applauded the decision.
This history is becoming more interesting because of the current IRS hearings, in which are emerging another pseudo-scandal, namely the supposed harassment of anti-abortion groups by the IRS. Posner:
At last week's ways and means committee hearing on the Internal Revenue Service's treatment of tax-exempt organizations, Representative Aaron Schock (an Illinois Republican) helped propel a new firestorm across conservative media: in addition to tea party groups, Schock maintained, anti-abortion organizations were also being subjected to "horrible instances of IRS abuse of power, political and religious bias, and repression of their constitutional rights".
The following is a bit of an aside.  Aaron Schock is most famous for having prominently supported the military coup against the elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya. From Democracy Now:
Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina and three Republican congressmen are heading to Honduras to meet with the coup government in defiance of the Obama administration. Senator John Kerry, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, initially blocked the trip from happening but relented late yesterday. Also traveling will be Republican Congressmen Aaron Schock of Illinois, Peter Roskam of Illinois and Doug Lamborn of Colorado. All four have been vocal supporters of the June coup that ousted the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya.
So, what's Schock, representing IL-18 (Springfield, Peoria, Bloomington), the definitely not-gay, anti-environmental non-candidate for governor, doing carrying water for the Honduran coup and for groups like, hypothetically, Operation Rescue? And, since we know that abortion/contraception may have been a significant issue in the Honduran coup, is there a connection? (see also here for the role of Opus Dei, presumably in the form of Cardinal Maradiaga, in overturning the decision of Zelaya to permit emergency contraception).

These aren't rhetorical questions. I'd like to know.

At any rate, for the immediate future, the relevant point is raised by Posner:

Questioning anti-abortion groups [by the IRS] – even the content of their prayers – could very likely have been aimed at determining whether these groups engaged in activities outside abortion clinics that ran afoul of the law. Because of the history of abortion clinic violence by those claiming a religious imperative, the IRS could have been attempting to determine whether the groups' activities were in violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (Face), a 1994 law which prohibits the use of force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction to injure, intimidate or interfere with someone's access to or provision of reproductive health services.
The rise of the Christian Right never was about abortion. It was about defending their tax gimmes.  
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Comment Preferences

  •  Having Been Participating In These Churches In (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, Mokurai, radarlady

    this era as a visiting wedding/funeral musicians, I don't agree.

    The Goldwater libertarians who were the genesis of the RW Revolution went soliciting the evangelicals. It wasn't a case of the evangelicals self-organizing and approaching the conservatives.

    And it predated abortion.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed May 22, 2013 at 08:56:38 PM PDT

    •  I suggest reading Balmer (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Farugia, Sandino, radarlady

      The Christian Right is an old movement, and it has always had connections to reactionary politics. I don't doubt that the reactionaries who supported Goldwater went looking for allies in the church. One should point out that libertarians and theocrats have nothing, at least nothing particularly obvious, in common.

      But Balmer has clear evidence that what set off the formation of the hyper-politicized form of the Christian Right  was the Bob Jones University tax case. I suggest reading and thinking about that evidence. It's striking and helps me to understand how the Christian Right could form common cause with people who they generally regard as mortal enemies.

      At any rate, you do agree that abortion was not what brought the Christian Right into the Republican Party.

      •  Civil Rights Act gave GOP the wedge they (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        a2nite, radarlady

        needed to attract Christian Right.  LBJ observed, upon signing the Act, that his action had handed the South to the GOP.  Of course, the Christian Right is more or less centered in the South and West, and somewhat  MidWest

        •  I agree that the Civil Rights Act was a catalyst (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          a2nite, radarlady

          The Civil Rights Act was the crack in the dam that helped to end the religious exemption for Bob Jones University. The end of the tax exemption was what spurred the formation of the Moral Majority. Nixon's Southern Strategy meshed perfectly with the desires of the Moral Majority to achieve political power. They did so by displacing some southern Democrats and cowing others.

          •  to complicate the history here, the time was ripe (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            for Nixon's strategy as the Southern Dixiecrats had been casting around for years after Thurmond's run failed to find a solution to the dilution of their power in the Congress, many times as the result of their seniority and control of key committees.

            As I remember the BJU debacle, they had embraced racial segregation as biblically inspired (ref: Phineas among others) and had already decided to forgo many forms of federal student aid.  However they still participated in the GI Bill and it was this source of funding which was challenged.  (Small note here that the university has always been run as family business by the Joneses.  They also used to have a fantastic art collection though this was 40 years ago)

    •  I would hold that we have seen manisfestations (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of a nascent Christian Right at regular intervals in our history, roughly occurring along with the various "Awakenings" in our history.  We are currently in the throes of our Fourth Awakening.

      This overview is a bit flawed but at least gives the general dates of each Awakening.  Please note that each Awakening took a different face in each part of the country so that the Second Awakening saw in one part a growing movement for abolition while in another, the same fervor grew as clergy insisted slavery was ordained by God.

      While the early Awakenings could not be characterized as "right wing" per se, they still laid the necessary groundwork for the current Awakening today.  (for an example, check out the importance of the Schofield Bible to a good many on the right today)

  •  That's a very important piece of history. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CharlesII, radarlady

    I've know about it since the 90s but it's fairly rarely brought to the surface.

    The country would gain a lot at knowing this bit. It tells you all you need to know about the "religious" right, very right-wing but its "religion" was really about Mammon and racism.

    I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

    by Farugia on Wed May 22, 2013 at 09:44:43 PM PDT

  •  Christian Right is more of a hydra than a single (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, radarlady

    monolithic entity.  Generally there is agreement that the present incarnation owes its philosophy to Rushdoony among others and its peculiar stature in society currently to Falwell, Kennedy and other Moral Majority leaders of the 90's.

    We can also trace the GOP's courting of the Christian Right dating back to Nixon's Southern Strategy and some would argue even to his ideological love affair with Billy Graham.  The BJU flap did help expose the racist roots behind this movement but their beliefs are old beliefs as I have read a good many antebellum apologetics from various ministers trying to establish a biblical foundation for the American version of African slavery.  I did find this timeline for modern Christian Right:

    RRW tracks the Christian Right:

    •  Moral Majority dissolved in 1990 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, radarlady

      The Moral Majority was formed in 1979, though its roots go back to 1976. Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.

      Balmer is referring to Falwell (and Dobson), though D. James Kennedy was also in at the start of the Moral Majority. I encourage you to read the link.

      Again, the Christian Right has existed for a very long time, and has always had ties to reactionary politics. What differentiates the rise of Falwell & Co. from other Christian Right movements is that they represented a hyper-politicized form of the Christian Right. Until relatively recently, many fundamentalists regarding politics as polluting, and avoided it.

      •  Moral Majority was just a rubric they adopted (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RockyMtnLib, a2nite, radarlady

        MM did not actually "dissolve" in 1990 but rather was rebranded.  I think of it as equivalent to  Big Tobacco's move to "light" cigarettes when the SG first began criticizing them as harmful.  Moral Majority just changed its name a bit and soldiered on.

        In the south at least, while fundamentalists claimed to avoid politics as " worldly" and "corrupt", they also used the political system to their advantage whenever the need arose, for example the passing and enforcement of "Blue Laws" to this day or localities going dry even though surrounding counties were "wet".  I would say their disdain for politics was more cosmetic than anything  

        •  I think you're confusing different things (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Musial, radarlady

          First, it's true that the people in the Moral Majority didn't just disappear. They moved on. But it's my impression that Jerry Falwell lost influence, while Dobson gained influence over Republican politics. So the end of the organization reflected an actual shift in the character of Republican politics. It was in the 1990s when the party became radicalized and sociopathically destructive through the rise of Newt Gingrich. I don't think the two events are separate.

          Second, it's certainly true that fundamentalists have influenced politics for a long time. But they did not engage in it. It's a whole different thing to have a Jerry Falwell acting as  a ward heeler for Ronald Reagan than to have Pat Robertson running for president. The old line Republican politicians gave the Christian Right what they wanted on social issues, but ran business as directed by the corporate elites which controlled the Party. Now the crazies run everything. Big difference.

          •  why Honduras, or Iran Contra, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            what role in military and imperialism?

            •  The right is a complex web of interests (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Musial, ScienceMom, radarlady

              Michael Lind, in Up From Conservatism, captured the extent to which the right is a coalition of people who hate one another and are held together mostly by common financial interests.

              Abortion politics was a way of bringing in conservative Catholics. In Latin America, the oligarchy is the slumlords who make it possible for American oil companies, gold mining companies, agribusiness, and so on to make superprofits. The Catholic Church is a major player in the oligarchy.

              I hadn't mentioned Iran-Contra. However, the Latin American end of Iran-Contra was about suppressing a non-existent threat from communism. The Catholic Church is a major player in that, of course, having actually suffered under communism (and having participated in committing serious crimes against communists/socialists in Franco's Spain). But more importantly, hysterical anti-communism is part of the glue that holds together the right.

              It's counterproductive for the US to have intervened in Honduras (as it was counterproductive to have intervened in Central America 30 years ago). But foresight and wisdom was never a hallmark of the right. It is indeed a confederacy of dunces.

  •  Sheessh, what outrage will Obama's IRS do next? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A fascinating article in The Guardian claims that the Christian Right was formed not in response to Roe v. Wade, but in response to the rescinding of the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, a whites-only religious institution.
    the horror, the horror.
  •  The Christian Right came into existence (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    although obviously not under that name, in the 1845 split between Southern and Northern Baptists over slavery, which the South proclaimed to be God's will in the Curse of Ham, and the North increasingly proclaimed to be an abomination before God. All of the racism, misogyny, bigotry, denial of science, and Mammonism of the Christian Right and the Republican Party today were present before the Civil War.

    But they were Democrats back then and for a century after the Civil War. It took decades for racist, segregationist Democrats to switch fully to the Republicans, following Strom Thurmond in 1964, immediately after the Civil Rights Act. Republicans welcomed him.

    Jackie Robinson, a Rockefeller Republican, attended the 1960 Republican convention in support of Richard Nixon, but said of the 1964 convention that he began to understand how a Jew in Hitler's Germany must have felt.

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Thu May 23, 2013 at 09:41:45 AM PDT

  •  The idea that it was the Bob Jones U case (0+ / 0-)

    was noted in God's Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right, by Daniel K. Williams, in 2010. But he argues that it really goes back to the Creationism fight, including the Scopes Trial, in the 1920s.

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Thu May 23, 2013 at 09:46:23 AM PDT

    •  Balmer's book is from 2006 (0+ / 0-)

      So, I think he gets credit for unearthing this important tidbit.

      Again, what Weyrich was describing was a transition from fundamentalists influencing politics on a piecemeal basis through voting to fundamentalists entering politics on an organized basis, including fielding candidates.

      The Establishment, whether Democratic or Republican never had much problem catering to them on social issues. But when it got down to foreign policy and economics, the Christian Right is notoriously inept. They're actually dangerous when in power, because they never learn. So they keep making the same mistakes on larger and larger scales. Give them a chance, and they'll declare a New Crusade and put us on the gold standard. Guys like John Boehner may be corrupt, but they're not quite that stupid.

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