Part 1
Part 2

What Really Spurred the Religious Right to Mobilize?

It was not the decision in Roe v. Wade that cemented the commitment of the
leader of the Religious Right. In fact, “the Christian Right did not emerge until several years after the anti-abortion movement”15. Instead, it was a lesser known Supreme Court case that first led them to become a political force. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the United States government looked for ways to enforce the new legislation. In the early 1970s, the Internal Revenue Service gave notice that they would no longer extend tax-exempt nonprofit status to organizations that engaged in racial segregation. This decision led to a dispute between the IRS and Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian university that, for its 45 years of existence, did not admit African American students. Although the university did start accepting African American students in 1971, interracial dating was still grounds for expulsion. The IRS found that this stipulation violated the spirit of the Civil Rights Act and revoked Bob Jones University’s tax-exempt status16.

Conservative Christian activists viewed the IRS’ decision to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University as a direct consequence of government secularization. In a Christian nation, no organization would lose special status simply for enforcing their interpretation of scriptural authority. But in a secular nation religion would have no special status, and this is exactly what seemed to be happening. It was Bob Jones’ loss of tax exempt status that first rallied evangelical Christians to take a public stand, not because of any specific attachment to the racist policy, but because they were hostile to government interference in the “sanctity of the evangelical subculture”17. In fact, abortion was not mentioned at the first meeting of the people who would make up the new Religious Right. Abortion was suggested at a later meeting convened to discuss other issues that the new movement might want to tackle18. Although most people assume that the Religious Right’s fight against abortion came directly out of the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion was, in fact, originally a secondary issue, certainly influenced by the apparent trend towards secularization, but not a direct result.

Although “opposition to abortion is only one of a series of stances [the Religious Right] has taken up in defence of the family and Christian sexual morality,” it has become the most prominent of their political activities19. Anti-abortion arguments, as well as those against homosexuality, non-marital sex, comprehensive sex education, and even contraception are part of a larger campaign by the Religious Right against what they see as the degeneration of traditional (Christian) morality.

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Part 6

15. Martin Durham, The Christian Right, the far right and the boundaries of American conservatism (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2000) p. 85.
16. Balmer p. 62-3
17. Balmer p. 64.
18. Balmer p. 64.
19. Durham p. 85.