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Political Mobilization and Disparate Religious Groups

The Religious Right has struggled with the inclusion of non-Protestant groups. A
pamphlet distributed in 1982 states:

“America was founded by men of faith on Biblical principles! Virtually all of our founding fathers recognized the crucial importance of religious morality as the foundation for our liberty and social well-being. [It is] our Biblical imperative to be God’s standard bearer in the affairs of our nation. We cannot, in other words, rely on the unrighteous to safeguard morality in our government”36

Based on this pamphlet, it seems that the Religious Right might have easily included conservative Catholics and Jews into their midst. To some extent, there were non-Evangelical Christians involved in the formation of the Religious Right, but they have never taken on prominent roles. There are several major inconsistencies in the rhetoric of the Religious Right that would exclude other groups.

The Catholic Church, as a whole, opposes abortion. This conviction, however, is part of a “constant life ethic,” which requires believers to oppose the death penalty and other actions, such as torture, that demean human life37. As a whole, evangelical Christians do not oppose either the death penalty or torture under specific circumstances. The inconsistencies in their calls for respect for human life have alienated many Catholics who might otherwise join with the Religious Right to oppose abortion.

On the most conservative end of the spectrum of Jewish beliefs regarding abortion, some Orthodox Jews believe that abortions must be limited to cases in which the mother’s life is in direct and physical danger. Many rabbis, however, agree that a threat to a woman’s well being may not solely be physical. Because Jewish law is vague on the issue of abortion, and Judaism has a tradition of intricate scriptural analysis, Jewish laws on abortion are vague and extremely subjective. For this reason, many, if not most, Jews feel that the government should generally protect a woman’s right to abortion. The final decision is between a woman and her rabbi (and, perhaps, husband); the government has no business interfering with such a personal decision38.

There are a number of obstacles for engaging non-Protestants in the Religious right. A number of anti-abortion activists, including John Burt of Rescue America, have ties to the Ku Klux Klan and other racist organizations that have previously targeted Catholics, Jews, and non-whites39. There are additional problems for conservative Jews. Members of the Religious Right generally support Israel, but not out of any measure of sympathy for Jewish history. Instead, their support derives from Christian eschatology and a believe that a specific number of Jews must be in Israel (and then convert to Christianity) before the second coming40.

Non-Christian involvement in the Religious Right is minimal at best, but “[f]undamentalists need to recruit Catholics, Mormons, Jews, and secular conservatives because, without such support, they are powerless beyond the boundaries of their own regions”41. In order to make their arguments palatable to non-Protestants, the Religious Right must sometimes secularize their own tradition, making it appear to be far more universal than it genuinely is. Appealing to non-Protestants, whether they be other Christians, Jews, or even Muslims or secular conservatives, gives the Religious Right more political power while appealing to a broader base.


36. Bruce p. 83.
37. Balmer p. 70.
38. Rabbi Raymond A. Zwerin & Rabbi Richard J. Shapiro, “Jewish Perspectives on Abortion.” (Retrieved 4 May 2010).
39. Larry Rohter, “Towering Over the Abortion Foe’s Trial: His Leader,” The New York Times, 5 March 1994.
40. Bruce p. 87