06 February 2013

Religious right

Fred Clark of Slacktivist debunks the myth that it was Roe v. Wade which sparked the emergence of the Religious Right as a major force in American politics.

White evangelicals certainly were upset with the U.S. Supreme Court in those years, and Roe fit broadly into the pattern of the decisions about which white evangelicals were angry. But that anger wasn’t about abortion at all. That anger was about — to borrow Reagan’s preferred euphemism — “state’s rights.” It was about the belief that “that we’ve distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the Constitution to that federal establishment.”

It was about white evangelicals’ desire to run tax-exempt private schools without federal interference.

What was the nature of this interference which offended them? I bet you can guess. Clark provides a long quote from Randall Balmer's book Thy Kingdom Come to explain.

The IRS sought to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University in 1975 because the school’s regulations forbade interracial dating; African Americans, in fact, had been denied admission altogether until 1971, and it took another four years before unmarried African Americans were allowed to enroll. The university filed suit to retain its tax-exempt status, although that suit would not reach the Supreme Court until 1983.

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