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The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party

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Biblical Law

"You and I can bring the rule and reign
of the cross to America."

Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of the 2,000-member Hope Christian Church in Bowie, Maryland
Justice Sunday II , August 14, 2005. more

In this section:
Recent Additions
Biblical Law
Legal Strategies
The Ten Commandments
Enforcing Biblical Law
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
    The Death Penalty
Judicial Nominees
Judicial Tyranny
Religious Liberty
Miscellaneous Links and Filibusters
Speech by Ralph Neas
Leadership of Orrin Hatch
Reflections on the Power of the Supreme Court
The Federalist Society
The American Constitution Society
Organizations fighting legal battles for the U.S. Constitution

To read Recent Articles, click here.

Biblical Law

Dominists seek to re-interpret the U.S. Constitution so that it conforms to their Biblical Worldview. Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel declares it's time to get Jesus into the judicial mix.

"Now we're working to establish Liberty University School of Law, which will open its doors in August 2004. We are going to teach lawyers to think in a biblical, Christian world view."

According to dominionists, the Bible has supremacy over the U.S. Constitution. In a 2002 address to the Society of Catholic Social Scientists in Ann Arbor, Mich., federal judge James Leon Holmes, appointed in July, 2004, affirmed the supremacy of the Bible:

Christianity transcends the political order and cannot be subordinated to the political order.

The principle of separation of church and state has no place in his vision for the future:

The final reunion of Church and state will take place at the end of time, when Christ will claim definitive political power of all creation, inaugurating an entirely new society based on the supernatural.

Dominionist Dream: Repeal the 1st Amendment, Talk To Action, December 16, 2005

Come the Theocracy, Whose Bible Will Rule?, Talk To Action, December 30, 2005

Legal Strategies

Looking for the Religious Right? Follow the yellow legal pad, Talk To Action, November 25, 2005. Explains with great clarity the workings of the ACLJ, the Law School founded by Pat Robertson, and its legal stategies.

God and Ceasar in America, Gary Hart, Talk To Action, November 29, 2005:

The New American Theocracy requires judges who will go along and who will continue going along for the remainder of their lives. The ultimate goal is a Supreme Court philosophically attuned to the principles and purposes of those seeking a state that incorporates and promotes their religious beliefs. Only then will the presidential decrees and compliant congressional actions sought by the right be safe from assault by a judiciary dedicated to the proposition that the law is established within the framework of the United States Constitution, not the Bible.


Since the Supreme Court decision Marbury v. Madison in 1803, it has been clearly established that the courts have the ultimate power to interpret the Constitution. But right-wing ideologues, unhappy with some of the courts' rulings, have begun to question this principle as part of a broader war on the federal judiciary. The amendment that passed this week reflected an effort to use Congress's power to stop the courts from standing up for the First Amendment and other constitutional principles. (New York Times, June 18, 2005: Congress Assaults the Courts, Again)

The United States Constitution calls for three branches of government. In order to impose their agenda on the country, Religious Right legislators have been attempting to undermine one of the branches of government -- an independent judiciary.

Christian Coalition activists "absolutely despise the federal courts," according to author and journalist Rob Boston who attended the Coalition's most recent Road to Victory gathering.

And they want their fundamentalist religious viewpoint to be the law of the land for everyone.

Rob Boston reports in Church and State, November, 2004:

Despite the Christian Coalition's best efforts, those pesky federal courts keep upholding the Bill of Rights and the separation of church and state. But not to worry, the group has a plan to fix that: take away the right of the courts to hear those cases in the first place. This bold gambit, called "court stripping," is all the rage among the Religious Right these days.

Katherine Yurica has transcripts of Pat Robertson's television show, the 700 Club from 1985 where he explained his strategy to strip the federal judiciary of its constitutional powers:

Roberston wanted to reduce or eliminate the power of the judiciary. He denied that the Constitution provides a system of checks and balances between three separate and equal branches of government...

In fact, Robertson went further: he denied that the judiciary is a co-equal branch of the government. Instead, he saw the judiciary as a department of the legislative branch, which he believed was the dominant center of power in the nation. His reasoning went like this: Since Congress has complete authority to establish the lower federal courts and to establish "the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court," the court system is necessarily subordinate to the legislative. Robertson's idea was that congress could control the court by using its power to intimidate. For example, he said, "Congress could say 'There's a whole class of cases you can't hear' and there's nobody can do anything about it!"

Representative John Hostetler, R-IN, said at the recent Christian Coalition gathering:

"When the courts make unconstitutional decisions, we should not enforce them," he told attendees. "Federal courts have no army or navy.. The court can opine, decide, talk about, sing, whatever it wants to do. We're not saying they can't do that. At the end of the day, we're saying the court can't enforce its opinions."

The Hostettler Amendment and Marriage Protection Act

Hostettler authored two court-stripping bills that passed the House. On July 23, 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives approved by a vote of 260-161 an amendment to an appropriations bill that bars the use of federal funds to enforce the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that ordered the removal of a two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the Judicial Building in Montgomery, Alabama.

One year later, almost to the day, he drafted the Marriage Protection Act. On July 23, 2004, with strong backing from the Bush administration, the Marriage Protection Act was adopted in the U.S. House of Representatives 233 to 194. The bill would strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law passed in 1996 that purports to leave the recognition of same-sex marriage entirely to each state.

To read comments on the Marriage Protection Act, Click here.

More Court Stripping Bills

On Septemeber 23, 2004, the U.S. House voted 247-173 to approve the "Pledge Protection Act," The measure, H.R. 2028, bans all federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, from considering constitutional challenges to the Pledge. "The federal courts should be open to all Americans seeking protection of their constitutional rights," said Barry Lynn of Americans United.

Church and State, May, 2004 reviews a series of court-stripping measures: "Just Keep Your Shirts On."

Some ideas put forth by the Religious Right and its allies in Congress are so breathtakingly wrong-headed that it is difficult to know where to begin criticizing them.

From The New York Times, May 10, 2005:

Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Monday that the committee was considering the creation of an "office of inspector general for the federal judiciary" to watch over the courts.

Actually, It's Judge-Busters, Los Angeles Times, May 20, 2005

An Attack on the Courts, Washington Post, July 18, 2005

Rehnquist Resumes His Call for Judicial Independence, New York Times, January 1, 2005

Why Dominionists Despise the Federal Courts

Federal courts ordered Justice Roy Moore to remove his two-ton, Ten Commandment momument from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court. In addition, a federal judge in Chesterfield County, Virginia, supported the right of a Wiccan to lead a prayer at the Board of Supervisors meetings where only Christian prayers were allowed. In another case, a federal judge ruled that the state of Louisianna's Abstinence-only sex education program had to stop proselytizing or risk defunding.

The Supreme Court ruling, Locke v. Davey, was a great victory for separation of church and state. It was a 7-2 decision, in which Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist authored the opinion. According to Barry Lynn, Executive Director of American's United, "This was staggering news. The chief justice is rarely a defender of separation of church and state." To weaken the judiciary, the religious right has been attempting to strip the U.S. federal courts of the powers.

Intimidating Judges click here

The Constitution Restoration Act of 2004, is the ultimate court-stripping measure introduced into both houses of Congress on February 11, 2004. Contrary to the intentions of the framers of the U.S. Constitution who wrote a Godless Constitution, it includes the acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, and threatens with "impeachment" and "conviction" judges who uphold church state separtion. To read the Thomas Report from the Library of Congress click here.

This link lists the thirty-nine original cosponsors of the Constitution Restoration Act as of September 22, 2004. (Two have since retired.)

To read about the Constitution Restoration Act, 2005, click here. The sponsor is Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL). For the five co-sponsors, click here.

From the Vermont Guardian, May 18, 2005

The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are the foundation of Biblical Law, so placing them in public buildings has great symbolic value.

A Presbyterian Minister by the name of Rousas Rushdooney spearheaded the Christian Reconstruction movement when his book, The Institutes of Biblical Law, was published in 1973. The three-voume, 1,894 page treatise examines each commandment of the decalogue in detail, showing the application and implications of each.

A Constitution that conforms to Biblical Law will rely on the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament as its guiding source. Dominionist lawmakers are trying to pass legislation in various state legislatures that would allow government posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings.

One such bill, The Ten Commandments Defense Act, H.R. 2045, has 116 sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, (R-Ala.) author of the bill said during an interview with TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, "The Supreme Court does not always have the final authority over the interpretation of the Constitution." At last reading, the bill had 116 sponsors.

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore gained noteriety by placing a granite monument of the Ten Commandments, weighing 5,280 pounds, in the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building. The higher courts ruled that the monument violated the U.S. Constitution.

It was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court, and Judge Moore was removed from office for refusing to take out the monument.

To read about the U.S, Supreme Court rulings on two Ten Commandments cases, June 27, 2005, click here. To read articles about that ruling, click here.

Enforcing Biblical Law

Journalist Frederick Clarkson reports on the views of Rev. Joseph Morecraft, pastor of the Reconstructionist Chalcedon Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Georgia:

"In his book, and especially when speaking at the 1993 Biblical World View and Christian Education Conference, Morecraft discussed with relish the police power of the state. His belief in the persecution of nonbelievers and those who are insufficiently orthodox is crystal clear. Morecraft described democracy as "mob rule," and stated that the purpose of "civil government" is to "terrorize evil doers. . . to be an avenger!" he shouted, "To bring down the wrath of God to bear on all those who practice evil!"

"And how do you terrorize an evil doer?" he asked. "You enforce Biblical law!" The purpose of government, he said, is "to protect the church of Jesus Christ," and, "Nobody has the right to worship on this planet any other God than Jehovah. And therefore the state does not have the responsibility to defend anybody's pseudo-right to worship an idol!" "There ain't no such thing" as religious pluralism, he declared. Further, "There has never been such a condition in the history of mankind. There is no such place now. There never will be."

Religious Schools Train Lawyers for Culture Wars, NPR - Morning Edition, May 6, 2005

Biblical Law is enforced through legislation to ban same sex marriage. It was also enforced by punishing a President for adultery. (Read when President Bill Clinton was impeached)

U.S. Senator Rick Santorum

United States Senator Rick Santorum reflected Biblical Law in an interview with the Associated Press in April, 2003, discussing a case before the Supreme Court which challenged Texas anti-sodomy laws. On June 26 the Supreme Court declared anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional. Santorum said:

If the Supreme Court says you have the right to consensual sex in your own home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.

When Senator Santorum lumped homosexuality with incest and adultery, he was suggesting that consenting adult homosexuals, acting in the privacy of their own homes, are criminals. Criminals go to prison. And Santorum doesn’t stop with homosexuality. Adulterers should go to prison as well. Who in the United States wants to put homosexuals and adulterers in prison? The same people who would impeach a President for sinning against the Ten Commandments -- those who advocate Biblical law.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Scalia is the person who could have the greatest impact in helping the Religious Right establish its sovereignty. President Bush has talked about Scalia as the justice he admires the most.

In an article published in First Things, a journal of religion and public life, in May, 2002, Scalia quotes St. Paul:

"...Government...derives its moral authority from God. It is the minister of God with powers to "avenge" to "execute wrath" including even wrath by the sword (which is unmistakenly a reference to the death penalty)."

Scalia appears hostile to Democracy: The "consensus" [that government is the minister of God]

"has been upset, I think by the emergence of democracy...It is much more difficult to see the hand of God...behind the fools and rogues...we ourselves elect of our own free will."

He sees democracy as obscuring the divine authority:

"the reaction of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to obscure divine authority...should [be] the resolution to combat it as effectively as possible."

Scalia views the United States Constitution as "dead" rather than as a living document that evolves along with society.

"...the Constitution that I interpret is not living but dead...It means today not what current society (much less the Court) thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted."

This view of the US Constitution as "dead" could become the basis of a strategy to dismantle the separation of church and state. In a speech on January 12, 2003, at a Religious Freedom Day event, Scalia said that the principle was not imbedded in the constitution and therefore should be added democratically, which means through a constitutional amendment. An amendment to the Constitution on church-state separation would be impossible to achieve in the current political climate, so the argument is disingenuous.

Scalia, speaking to a crowd of about 150 in Fredericksburg to mark a "Religious Freedom Day," asserted that America's Founding Fathers never meant to "exclude God from the public forums and from political life."

"Scalia sounds like a TV preacher, not a Supreme Court justice," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "His job is to uphold the Constitution, not promote religiosity."

Scalia, States Rights, and "Legitimate Medical Procedures", Talk To Action, January 23, 2006

Supreme Zealotry (Post editorial about Supreme Court Justice Scalia), Washington Post, March 8, 2005

Beyond the Duck Blind, New York Times, March 15, 2004:

The swelling controversy [about duck hunting with Dick Cheney when a case was pending about Cheney's energy commission] has exposed other less egregious but still troubling outside activities by Justice Scalia. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that he delivered a speech to a $150-a-plate dinner of an anti-gay advocacy group in Philadelphia even as the Supreme Court was deliberating in the Texas sodomy case last year.


Scalia was a centerpiece of the 2000 presidential race. Candidate Bush had named him as a model of the sort of judge he'd like to appoint ... Three and a half years into the Bush presidency, Antonin Scalia is an increasingly marginalized player on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Scalia To Synagogue - Jews Are Safer With Christians In Charge, from, December 2, 2004

That Scalia Charm, New York Times, March 21, 2005

Psst ... Justice Scalia ... You Know, You're an Activist Judge, Too, New York Times, April 19, 2005

The Death Penalty

Scalia's article in First Things is about the death penalty. He writes:

"Indeed, it seems to me that the more Christian a country is, the less likely it is to regard the death penalty as immoral."

The textbook, America's Providential History views the death penalty as "the backbone of civil government." The book goes back to the time God brought Noah through the flood:

"When God brings Noah through the flood to a new earth, He re-establishes the Dominion Mandate but now delegates to man the responsibility for governing other men in order to protect human life. He does this by instituting capital punishment - the backbone of civil government."

Capital crimes in a theocracy, Theocracy Alert, July 27, 2005

For information on President Bush's judicial nominees, click here.

Judicial Tyranny

"NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports on religious conservative activists' frustration with the judiciary. They often see state and federal judges as the biggest obstacles to enacting societal change -- and they're trying to find new ways to go around the courts." Go to an NPR report called, "Religious Right Chafes at Judiciary Restraint."

Religious Liberty

The principle of religious liberty has become the legal tool used to make the U.S. Constitution conform to Biblical Law. To the framers of the Constitution, religious liberty was a very important principle. It meant the freedom from the tyranny of a dominant religion. They were reacting to the dominance of the Anglican Church in England at that time. Today, Religious Liberty has come to mean the freedom of one religion to impose its beliefs on others. Teacher-led school prayer in the classroom is one way to achieve religious dominance.

Arguments for "religious liberty" are borrowed from the ACLU. ACLJ Does the name in the picture remind you of a familiar organization? The ACLJ, which sounds a lot like the ACLU, is fashioned after the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLJ was founded by Pat Robertson to fight for "Religious Liberty." Like the ACLU, the ACLJ basis its arguments on the first amendment. The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act, which the ACLJ helped draft, is about "freedom of speech."

The Alliance Defense Fund is a conservative law firm specializing in First Amendment issues. The firm is representing Tom Vail, whose book promoting a Creationist version of geology is being sold at book stores in the Grand Canyon.

The Rutherford Institute is one of a number of organizations specializing in religious liberty legal cases. In 1982 John Whitehead, its founder and President said,

"the challenge of the Christian attorney is to be a vocal, dynamic spokesman for the true legal profession - the one with Christ at its center, and stop at nothing less than reclaiming the whole system."

If you read the web site of the Rutherford Institute, its mission sounds similar to the ACLU. It's not easy to know that the Rutherford Institute was tied to the Christian Reconstruction movement in it's early years, and that Rushdooney was a favorite speaker and sat on their board. Chip Berlet reports in thr Public Eye:

"The politics of the Rutherford Institute, at least until recently, represented a form of theocratic Christianity that characterizes the hard right of the evangelical world. There is little reason to believe that a change in tone means a change in the underlying philosophy."

Rushdooney’s son-in-law, Gary North, is a prolific Christian Reconstruction writer, and founder of the Institute for Christian Economics. He wrote in Christianity and Civilization, Spring, 1982, on the subject of religious liberty.

"So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God."

Miscellaneous Links and Filibusters click here

Speech by Ralph Neas

Ralph Neas, President of People for the American Way, spoke before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, October 10, 2002. He told the committee:

Mr. Chairman, the debate over the federal judiciary is part of an epic battle over the role of the federal government. The two-prong strategy of the right-wing of the Republican Party is simple but breathtakingly radical. First, enact a permanent tax cut which will eliminate $6 trillion in revenue over the next 20 years. That will in effect starve the federal government so it will be unable to fund many vital governmental functions performed since the New Deal.

The second prong is to pack the federal judiciary with right-wing ideologues whose judicial philosophy would turn back the clock on civil rights, environmental protections, religious liberty, reproductive rights and privacy and so much more. Take away the money. And then take away legal rights that have been part of our constitutional framework for 65 years. We do indeed need a national debate. Before the American people wake up one morning and discover that their fundamental rights and liberties have vanished overnight.

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Obstructionism click here

Reflections on the Power of the Supreme Court

"This is about the future. This is about the Supreme Court," Karl Rove told the Family Research Council, March, 2002. The Supreme Court is of particular concern as some justices are likely to retire soon. The Supreme Court has the power to actually impose its will on the country as we witnessed with the opinion Brown vs. Board of Education, 1954.

Mandatory school segregation existed in twenty-one states. A very powerful Civil Rights movement along with a Supreme Court that believed segregation based on race was unconstitutional, led to the landmark decision, Brown vs. Board of Education. As a result twenty one states were required to desegregate their schools.

One scene from that period captures the power of the Supreme court to support the goals of a major movement. When James Meredith arrived on the campus of the University of Mississippi, students rioted, two men died, and hundreds of people were injured while state police stood by doing nothing. Because of the Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. Board of Education, President Kennedy sent in 30,000 troops to quell the violence. They formed a physical barrier between the new students entering school and the rioting mob. That event captures the power of a Supreme Court opinion to force an entire region of the country to act against its will (in this instance, for the good).

Many of the great movements of this century changed conditions in this country because of a remarkable group of people who sat on the Supreme Court. Civil rights, women's and reproductive rights, worker's safety and minimum wage laws, environmental protections, anti-discrimination laws affecting all minorities and disabled peoples - all those rights and protections were established because of a Supreme Court that enabled the federal government to impose laws and regulations on states and industry. A court dominated by members of the Federalist Society will unravel the hard-fought federal protections of this century.

The Federalist Society

The Federalist Society formed twenty years ago in reaction to the powers the Supreme Court was granting the federal government. It is a network of lawyers, elected officials and scholars who want to free corporations from government regulations. It is hostile to civil rights, environmental protections, worker safety laws, a separation between church and state and more.

Some prominent leaders of the Religious Right play a dominant role in the Federalist Society. For example former President of the Christian Coalition, Donald Hodel is a board member. Twenty four of President Bush's top cabinet members and most of his court nominations are members of the Federalist Society. The list includes John Ashcroft, Attorney General; Spencer Abraham, Secretary of Energy; Gail Norton, Secretary of the Interior; and Theodore Olson, Solicitor General. Other notable members are Justices Scalia and Thomas, Orrin Hatch, Kenneth Starr.

People for the American Way prepared an in-depth report. The Federalist Society: From Obscurity to Power

The American Constitution Society

The American Constitution Society is a counterbalance to the Federalist Society. Their stated goals:

Formed in Spring 2001, The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is a national organization of law students, law professors, practicing lawyers and others. We want to help revitalize and transform the legal debate, from law school classrooms to federal courtrooms. We want to counter the dominant vision of American law today, a narrow conservative vision that lacks appropriate regard for the ways in which the law affects people's lives.

Organizations fighting legal battles for the U.S. Constitution
American Civil Liberties Union People for the American Way
Americans United for Separation of Church and State Alliance for Justice

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Last updated: January-2006