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Jerry Falwell and the Rise of the Religious Right

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William O
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As most posters on this forum know, Leonard Peikoff recently published The DIM Hypothesis, in which he makes the prediction that the United States will be taken over by fundamentalist Christians and turned into a totalitarian theocracy. He regards this prediction as "so highly probable as to border on certainty" (p. 341). This might lead an Objectivist student of history to wonder how fundamentalist Christians acquired such influence in the United States, what beliefs and values they promote, and what motivated them to become politically active. 

 

A good introduction to these issues is Jerry Falwell and the Rise of the Religious Right: A Brief History with Documents by Matthew Avery Sutton. The book is around 150 pages long, and intended to be "a reasonable one-week assignment in a college course" (from the foreword).

 

The book consists of two parts, a 25 page introduction by the editor outlining the rise of the Religious Right, and a second section consisting of 115 pages of historical documents, including speeches and book excerpts, that were influential in the rise of fundamentalist Christianity. Almost every entry in this book was heard or read by thousands or millions of fundamentalist Christians.

 

The excerpts tend to corroborate Peikoff's claim that fundamentalist Christians perceive America as being in a moral crisis that requires political action on their part. One of the book's virtues is that it explains these concerns in detail in the fundamentalists' own words and provides examples of the actions that fundamentalists took to combat them during the 60s and 70s, like setting up private fundamentalist schools where Bible reading and prayer were guaranteed to be legal (p. 80) and sharing their concerns with President Carter in person (p. 129).

 

So, if you have an interest in how the Religious Right historically became as powerful as it currently is, I think you will find this book a helpful introduction to the issue.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Jerry-Falwell-Rise-Religious-Right/dp/1457611104

Edited by William O
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  • 7 years later...

~Voting for or against right to procure an abortion in fall of 2022~

Arizona: Has a ban on abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy. At that point the human fetal brain is recognizable as a mammalian brain, not yet as primate, let alone, human brain. Anti-abortionists (Republicans) control both legislative chambers by only two members in each, and either can be flipped to the abortion-rights side (Democrats). Three anti-abortionists judges on the Supreme Court are up for re-election; even with their replacement, the majority will remain with the anti-abortionists. The anti-abortionist Governor and the anti-abortionist Attorney General are seats open in this election.

Georgia: Has a ban on abortions beyond 6 weeks of pregnancy. At that point, the human embryonic brain is recognizable as brain of a vertebrate, such as a fish, not yet as brain of a mammal. Some seats in the state legislature can be flipped to abortion-rights protectors, but not enough to flip either of these anti-abortionist chambers. Governor and Attorney General are up for vote in this election.

Kansas: Has legal abortions up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, which is the point at which the human fetal brain begins make changes that will bring it to the distinctively human form of primate brain. An initiative-question on the ballot this fall would amend the state bill of rights to say there is no constitutional right to abortion, opening the way for the Republican-led legislature to restrict abortion rights.

Other States in which state-directed abortion rights are being voted on this fall, at least implicitly, are:

Michigan

North Carolina

Pennsylvania

Wisconsin

Edited by Boydstun
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From the essay “Religious Doctrine, Not the Constitution, Drove the Dobbs Decision” by Linda Greenhouse:

Quote

 

Along with the decision about the praying football coach and the one requiring Maine to subsidize parochial school tuition, Dobbs belongs under “religion.”

That assertion invites pushback, I’m well aware. But step back from today’s artificial arguments about originalism and history, and consider the powerful social movement that led consecutive Republican presidents to appoint anti-abortion justices and that then drove the abortion issue through the Supreme Court’s open door.

Is there anyone who believes that if only the Constitution had included the word “abortion,” the anti-abortion movement would have failed to gain political traction? (Although the Dobbs majority treated the absence of the A-word in the Constitution as nearly fatal to Roe all by itself, it is worth observing that the Constitution’s 7,600 words, including its 27 amendments, contain neither the word “fetus” nor “unborn.”)

No one really buys the argument that what was “egregiously wrong” with Roe v. Wade, to quote the Dobbs majority, was the court’s failure to check the right analytic boxes. It was not constitutional analysis but religious doctrine that drove the opposition to Roe. And it was the court’s unacknowledged embrace of religious doctrine that has turned American women into desperate refugees fleeing their home states in pursuit of reproductive health care that less than a month ago was theirs by right.

To be sure, the Supreme Court has not outlawed abortion. Justice Samuel Alito left that dirty work to the states: Who will rid me of this bothersome right to abortion? But during the nearly two months between the leak of his Dobbs draft on May 2 and the release of the official opinion on June 24, it became painfully obvious to all that if Roe fell, abortion would soon be illegal or all but inaccessible in about half the states. That was the point, after all.

Not only did that prospect make no difference to the Dobbs majority — the official opinion was essentially unchanged from the leaked draft except for added sections that responded to, and distorted, the dissenting opinion — but Justice Alito actually had the gall to write that “we do not pretend to know how our political system or society will respond to today’s decision.” Polls conducted before the opinion’s release showing that upward of two-thirds of Americans wanted to retain a right to abortion offered a hint and were perhaps what led to Justice Alito’s self-righteous declaration: “We cannot allow our decisions to be affected by any extraneous influences such as concern about the public’s reaction to our work.”

Justice Alito took pains to present the majority’s conclusion as the product of pure legal reasoning engaged in by judges standing majestically above the fray of Americans’ “sharply conflicting views” on the “profound moral issue” of abortion, as he put it in the opinion’s first paragraph. And yet that very framing, the assumption that the moral gravity of abortion is singular and self-evident, gives away more than members of the majority, all five of whom were raised in the Catholic Church, may have intended.

The fetus is the indisputable star of the Dobbs opinion. That is not necessarily obvious at first reading: The opinion’s 79 pages are larded with lengthy and, according to knowledgeable historians, highly partial and substantially irrelevant accounts of the history of abortion’s criminalization. In all those pages, there is surprisingly little actual law. And women . . .  are all but missing. It is in paragraphs scattered throughout the opinion that the fetus shines.

“None of the other decisions cited by Roe” and Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey, the 1992 ruling that reaffirmed the right to abortion, “involved the critical moral question posed by abortion,” Justice Alito wrote. “They are therefore inapposite.” Further on, he wrote: “The dissent has much to say about the effects of pregnancy on women, the burdens of motherhood, and the difficulties faced by poor women. These are important concerns. However, the dissent evinces no similar regard for a state’s interest in protecting prenatal life.”

This was a strange criticism of the dissenting opinion, signed jointly by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. They argued vigorously for retaining the 1992 Casey decision, which in fact, in a departure from Roe, declared that the state’s interest in fetal life was present from the moment of conception. Casey authorized the states to impose waiting periods and “informed consent” requirements that the court in the years following Roe v. Wade had deemed unconstitutional.

Justice Alito knows the Casey decision very well. As a federal appeals court judge, he had been a member of the panel that upheld most of Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act in the case that became Casey. Then-Judge Alito, alone on the panel, wanted to uphold a provision of the state law that required a married woman to inform her husband of her plan to get an abortion. In affirming the appeals court’s decision, the Supreme Court in Casey emphasized in one of the opinion’s most vivid passages the unconstitutional burden that the spousal notice requirement placed on women: “We must not blind ourselves to the fact that the significant number of women who fear for their safety and the safety of their children are likely to be deterred from procuring an abortion as surely as if the Commonwealth had outlawed abortion in all cases.” Perhaps that aspect of the Casey decision still rankled. In any event, Justice Alito’s attack on his dissenting colleagues for ignoring the state’s interest in fetal life was seriously misguided.

Of course, from his point of view, Casey didn’t go far enough because the weight the court gave to fetal life was well below 100 percent. The Casey decision was five days shy of 30 years old when the court overturned it, along with Roe v. Wade, on June 24. Given that this was their goal from the start, the justices in the Dobbs majority really had only one job: to explain why. They didn’t, and given the remaining norms of a secular society, they couldn’t.

There is another norm, too, one that has for too long restrained the rest of us from calling out the pervasive role that religion is playing on today’s Supreme Court. In recognition that it is now well past time to challenge that norm, I’ll take my own modest step and relabel Dobbs for the religion case that it is, since nothing else explains it.

 

 

Edited by Boydstun
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/21/2022 at 10:36 AM, Boydstun said:

~Voting for or against right to procure an abortion in fall of 2022~

Arizona: Has a ban on abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy. At that point the human fetal brain is recognizable as a mammalian brain, not yet as primate, let alone, human brain. Anti-abortionists (Republicans) control both legislative chambers by only two members in each, and either can be flipped to the abortion-rights side (Democrats). Three anti-abortionists judges on the Supreme Court are up for re-election; even with their replacement, the majority will remain with the anti-abortionists. The anti-abortionist Governor and the anti-abortionist Attorney General are seats open in this election.

Georgia: Has a ban on abortions beyond 6 weeks of pregnancy. At that point, the human embryonic brain is recognizable as brain of a vertebrate, such as a fish, not yet as brain of a mammal. Some seats in the state legislature can be flipped to abortion-rights protectors, but not enough to flip either of these anti-abortionist chambers. Governor and Attorney General are up for vote in this election.

Kansas: Has legal abortions up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, which is the point at which the human fetal brain begins make changes that will bring it to the distinctively human form of primate brain. An initiative-question on the ballot this fall would amend the state bill of rights to say there is no constitutional right to abortion, opening the way for the Republican-led legislature to restrict abortion rights.

Other States in which state-directed abortion rights are being voted on this fall, at least implicitly, are:

Michigan

North Carolina

Pennsylvania

Wisconsin

Victory in Kansas yesterday!

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