A Short History of the Religious Right - Texas Freedom Network
From the Texas Freedom Network:
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT
In the 1970’s, the religious right as we know it today was a cultural force, but it was not a political force. The religious right used the years of the Reagan administration to build an infrastructure, organizing precinct by precinct and church by church with very modern political tactics. Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, founded in the 1970’s, was one of the first attempts to organize the religious right at the national level. (Falwell in 2004 announced the formation of a successor group, the Moral Majority Coalition.) Rev. Pat Robertson founded the far-right Christian Coalition in 1988, the year Robertson lost a bid for the White House. The Christian Coalition has focused on grassroots mobilization and has advanced its radical agenda through, among other tools, distributing highly partisan voter guides to millions of church members around the country. Other prominent groups at the national level include Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and Eagle Forum.
Religious Right in Texas
Many of these national organizations have chapters in Texas, including the Texas Christian Coalition, Texas Eagle Forum and Free Market Foundation (an affiliate of Focus on the Family). Texas also has its own home-grown organizations associated with the religious right. For example, the late Mel and Norma Gabler of Longview founded Education Research Analysts, which pressures the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) and publishers to censor textbook content that the group deems to be anti-Christian or unpatriotic.
In fact, controlling the education of young people has been a consistent goal of the religious-right movement. In the last 15 years, for example, key donors on the far right have funded numerous candidates running for the SBOE. Far-right SBOE members have worked, with varying degrees of success, to censor or reject altogether textbooks in subjects such as health, environmental science, biology and social studies.
Some far-right groups, such as the Texas Restoration Project, are modeled after similar organizations in other states. The Texas Restoration Project has recruited thousands of conservative evangelical pastors to support far-right causes and candidates. In 2005 the group worked to pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions and was tied closely to Gov. Rick Perry and his reelection campaign. (You can read more about the Texas Restoration Project in a 2006 report here and in a press release here.)
Religious-right groups have also found common cause and willing partners with groups that, while not expressly founded on Christian-right principles, are similarly suspicious or contemptuous of secular institutions such as public education and government social services. One such organization, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), pressured textbook publishers in 2002 to make substantial changes to social studies content that the organization called “anti-Christian” or “anti-Western.” TPPF has also strongly opposed adequate funding for public schools and any state role in providing health insurance to children from low-income families that have no other access to health care.
The Religious Right and the Texas Republican Party
Perhaps the greatest success of the state’s religious-right movement has been its complete takeover of the Republican Party of Texas. This effort progressed steadily during the 1990s and was complete by the end of Gov. George W. Bush’s administration in 2000. In fact, Texas delegates to National Republican Party Conventions make up essentially a “Who’s Who” of the religious-right movement in Texas. Rank-and-file Republican activists have often found themselves left off delegate lists and replaced with professional leaders and activists of far-right groups such as the Texas Christian Coalition, Texas Eagle Forum and the Free Market Foundation.
Far-right dominance in the state GOP is also evident in the party’s platform. Delegates to state Republican conventions have adopted a party platforms that declare the United States to be a “Christian nation” and called the constitutional principle of separation of church and state a “myth.” Click here for an analysis of the Texas GOP’s 2008 platform. Click here to read the full platform. For earlier Texas GOP platforms, see Appendix C of The Anatomy of Power for the 2004 platform and Appendix F of God’s Lawgivers for the 2006 platform.