In January 2004, speaking in New Orleans, President George W. Bush said, “We want to fund programs that save Americans one soul at a time.” Of course, we are told today by some that Bush was not an Evangelical at all. But that was Bush’s self-identity, and it was backed up not only by his words but as we saw in our last installment, by his actions.
For example,TheocracyWatch.org reports: “On February 4, 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives voted for provisions in a social services bill that allow religiously based job discrimination in publicly funded programs run by churches.”
Given the job Congress was doing on behalf of theocracy and against democracy, it is no wonder that in 2004 forty-one out of fifty-one senators received 100% scorecards from the Christian Coalition.
In August, Tim LaHaye’s theocratic Council for National Policy (CNP) gave the ironically-named “Thomas Jefferson Award” to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) in a meeting the press was not invited to attend. One can only imagine what the man who fought tenaciously for religious tolerance (and was called an infidel for his troubles) would have thought of this.
New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick reported on the CNP’s membership list:
“Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson, Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association and Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform. A CNP financial disclosure form for 2002 lists Norquist and Howard Phillips, founder of the ultra-conservative Constitution Party, as directors. The current president of the group is Donald P. Hodel, former executive director of the Christian Coalition.”
Ralph Reed worked on Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004. Attending the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention he asked pastors to help win votes (reported by the New York Times, June 18, 2004).
We are all used to the Religious Right’s egregious attack on the truth, inventing new lies daily even as they denounce lies as the work of the “Father of Lies” (what does that tell you?). Things were little better in ’04. The New York Times of September 23, 2004 tell us: The Republican Party acknowledged yesterday sending mass mailings to residents of two states warning that “liberals” seek to ban the Bible.
Right, and we’re going to take your guns too. Unfortunately, Christian the fundamentalist audience is more gullible than that of the boy who cried wolf. They believe it every time. No matter how many times it doesn’t come true.
In 2004, Christian Voice spent 2.9 million dollars on its Christian Voter Drive registered 355,562 new Christian voters. Unsurprisingly, George W. Bush received 78 percent of white evangelical vote. This blatant embrace of Christian fundamentalism by GOPers did not sit well with all.
As Paul Krugman relates, “A number of prominent Republicans became Democrats after the 2004 election in protest of the local GOP’s dominance by the religious right,” including the former state Republican chairman. The Kansas Republican Party responded by instituting a “unity pledge” which forces the respondent to declare “I will, at no point in my political or personal future, find cause to transfer my Party loyalty.” (Krugman 2007:212) Authoritarianism rears its ugly head.
The Economist had declared the Religious Right dead in 2000. Their song and dance was equally unconvincing in 2004. Nov 11, 2004, The Economist, reported:
It is perfectly true that one of America’s most overtly religious presidents of recent times has been re-elected with an increased majority. It is also true that 13 states this year passed state referendums banning gay marriage—in most cases by larger majorities than Mr. Bush managed—and that a plurality of American voters put “moral values” at the top of their list of concerns.
A moral majority? Not really
But they hardly formed a moral majority. Look at the figures: the moralists’ share of the electorate was only 22%, just two points more than the share of those who cited the economy, and three points more than those who nominated terrorism as the top priority. A few points difference (and the exit polls are, after all, not entirely reliable) and everyone would have been saying the election was about jobs or Iraq.
Moreover, that 22% share is much lower than it was in the two previous presidential elections, in 2000 and 1996. Then, 35% and 40%, respectively, put moral or ethical issues top, and a further 14% and 9% put abortion first, an option that was not given in 2004. Thus, in those two elections, about half the electorate said they voted on moral matters; this time, only a fifth did.”
Bizarrely, at the same time the Economist was telling liberals not to despair, Jerry Falwell was intoning:
“It is the responsibility of…every evangelical Christian …to get serious about re-electing President Bush.” (Jerry Falwell, The New York Times, July 16, 2004).
Despite the Economist’s hopelessly naïve trumpeting, for fiscal year 2005, more than $2.2 billion in competitive social service grants were awarded to faith-based organizations.
So blatant had the Religious Right’s control of the GOP become that U.S. Representative Christopher Shays, R-CT, (New York Times 3/23/05) announced, “This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy.”
True lunacy was never far around the corner:
From prayercaucus.com: “In 2005, Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia began unifying other Congressional Members and leaders to stand against this national threat; believing that through trust in God, prayer, and strategic action we can preserve and protect our religious freedom. To that end Congressman Forbes obtained a strategic room in the Capitol, Room 219, in which Congressional Members could convene before every session to pray for our country. This room is a place where members of Congress meet weekly to seek the face and hand of God for Divine wisdom and intervention in our government affairs.
These Members later formed the Congressional Prayer Caucus – an official caucus of the U.S. Congress – to formally acknowledge the important role that faith in God and prayer plays in American life and history and to stand as a sentinel to guard the right of individuals in America to publicly pray and express faith in God.”
READ ALL THE ARTICLES IN THE SERIES:
The Antecedents of American Fundamentalism 1606-1925
The Rising Tide of American Fundamentalism in the 1940s and 50s
The Cresting Tide of American Fundamentalism in the 1960s
American Fundamentalism in the 70s – The Rise of the Moral Majority
The Rise of American Fundamentalism – The Year 1980
The Rise of American Fundamentalism – the Reagan Decade
The Rise of American Fundamentalism 1990-1993
The Rise of American Fundamentalism 1994-1997
The Rise of American Fundamentalism 1998-2001
The Rise of American Fundamentalism 2002-2003
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.