In the wake of Christian Right activism there has been a
growing unease over the mixing of religion and politics.
A national survey in 2008 revealed that the majority of
Americans (52 percent) believe that churches and religious
institutions should “keep out” of politics.
3. What is the Christian Right?
The Christian Right is a social movement that attempts to
mobilize evangelical Protestants and other orthodox
Christians into conservative political action.
The movement is concentrated primarily among white
evangelical Christians, and especially among the
fundamentalist and pentecostal wings of evangelicalism.
4. As a Social Movement
Like all social movements, the Christian Right is composed of
social movement organizations, leaders, activists, and
members, and it seeks to attract support from a broad
5. Objections within the Christian Right
Many leaders of the movement object to the term “Christian
Right” which they believe depicts a narrow movement.
Others object to the term on the grounds that labeling the
movement as part of the “Right” implies that it is outside the
Many liberals believe that Christian Right policies would
6. Organizations of the Christian Right
Focus on Family
The Family Research Council
ConcernedWomen for America
The Christian Coalition
Social conservatives of other faiths
Social conservatives of other races
7. The Christian Right as a Movement
Social movements are decentralized, differentiated, and
The Christian Right has no single agenda, but rather a
collection of overlapping agendas.
No one organization or spokesperson represents the
movement because of the different goals and activities of its
As has been the case with other social movements, some
elements of the Christian Right have become
Part of the institutionalization process involves training
leaders, and even members, in the rules and norms of
In general, organizational leaders have sought to distance the
group from activists who make extremist statements in public.
9. The GOP
Whereas some movement activists have worked to
institutionalize interest groups of the Christian Right, others
have been involved primarily within the Republican Party
and now constitute a major faction of the GOP.
Although movement leaders will sometimes insist for tax
purposes that theirs is a nonpartisan movement, it is clear
that the Christian Right is active almost exclusively in the
10. As a Party Faction
As a party faction, the Christian Right contends with
moderates for control of nominations; control in turn leads
to access to campaign resources and the party platform.
However the Christian Right refuses to be taken for granted
and uses its leverage as an established voting bloc to move the
party’s platform to the right on social policy.
11. The Controversy
Is the Christian Right good or bad for America???
The Christian Right is controversial for several reasons:
Its central social agenda includes issues that are among the most
heated inAmerican politics.
Agenda issues of abortion, gay rights, and education fuel great
Some citizens object to the general effort to mobilize
conservative Christians into political action.
The heated rhetoric of the movement’s leaders.
Christian Right activists argue, quite correctly, that all
organizations that raise money through direct mail seek to
demonize their political opponents.
Liberal groups make fund-raising appeals that caricature
Christian Right rhetorical appeals may be no more extreme
than those of their political opponents, but they make many
13. Christian Right Beliefs
Supporters of the Christian Right believe it is an attempt to
restore Judeo-Christian values to a country that is in deep
Supporters seek to write laws that embody those values.
Christian conservatives want stronger families, safety from
crime, successful schools, and democracy.
Critics of the movement charge that the Christian Right is an
intolerant movement seeking to impose a narrow, sectarian
ManyAmericans fear the Christian Right because they see
some movement activists issuing harsh condemnations of
Americans whose lifestyles differ from those espoused by
15. The First Amendment and Church and
The debate about the role of the Christian Right in America
takes place within a larger debate about the role of religion in
At stake are two competing visions for American democracy:
One holds that the United States is a Christian nation specially
blessed by God.
The other maintains that the country should be officially secular,
with a strong separation between church and state.
16. The First Amendment
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The Establishment Clause
The Free Exercise Clause
17. Positions Taken on the Clauses
Accomodationists believe that the Constitution merely
prohibits the establishment of a national religion.
Separationists emphasize the potential of religion to lead to
Conservatives frequently portray separationists as hostile to
18. Free Exercise Clause
There are two basic positions on the free exercise clause.
One would allow all kinds of religious activities so long as no
one is harmed.
The other would limit such activities to those within some
broadly defined community consensus.
19. Christian Preferentialists
Christian Preferentialists want a public role for Christian
symbols and practices, but resist the notion of non-Christian
groups having equal access to public support.
Religious nonpreferentialism holds that all religious groups
have a place in the public square.
20. Religion and Politics in America
America is remarkable for both its religious diversity and the
strength of it religious institutions.
America is a religiously diverse country in which religious
belief and practice are unusually common.
Underlying the diversity ofAmerican religion is a more
general support for its basic civil religion.
21. Civil Religion
Many Christian Right activists believe that the president has a
unique role to play as moral as well as political leader of the
Civil religion provides an undercurrent of unity beneath the
choppy waters of religious diversity.
Although mostAmericans expect their political leaders to express
religious sentiments, the public is more deeply divided about
whether preachers and churches should be involved in politics.
22. A Culture War?
Many Christian Right activists and some social scientists see
America engaged in a culture war between highly religious
citizens and secular citizens.
Yet the idea of a culture war oversimplifies the dimensions of
conflict over social and moral issues.