Ann Coulter: New Leader of the Religious Right?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Aug 24, 2006 at 08:09:01 PM EST
Is author and pundit Ann Coulter on her way to becoming the new leader of the religious right?

Well, maybe not exactly.  Not yet anyway.  But if her new book is any indication, she wants to be a contender. Godless: the Church of Liberalism, is a vintage screed that like many a tome before it, riffs off of the central frame of the religious right for the past generation or so.

Her main argument is that liberalism is a religion. This is, of course, an indefensible conceit. But it  does help her to be able to say that liberals are busy chasing people of faith out of the public square. Her baseless claim is a variant on the frame that "secular humanists" are in a battle against Christianity, and of course, chasing them out of "the public square." This has been The Central Frame of the religious right for a generation. Christian right groups once went so far as to argue in federal court that Alabama school books advanced the alleged religion of "secular humanism" and therefore violated the establishment clause of the constitution.  The courts found that argument silly, and found for Mobile Alabama school board on that one.

Coulter's title also blatantly echoes a refrain from the McCarthy era as rightwing preachers and pols alike railed against "godless communism."  Claiming that liberals are godless is a silly old canard and easily debunked. But fortunately for Coulter, liberals and democrats are not very good at answering the charge. (I have discussed this point, among other places, here and here, so I will not belabor it at the moment.) So let's look for a promising place to start.

For today, rather than worry about defending liberalism against this silly screed, or trotting someone out to say "liberals are Christians too!" -- let's take a look at the credibility of the author. How godly, or more fairly, (not that she deserves it) how Christian is Ann Coulter? How can you tell? This is a question that has been taken up by several writers recently, but has not gained much traction. (I think that this underscores the lackadaisical way that liberals have generally responded to stuff like this.

Media Matters for America recently raised the question this way:

In a June 8 Raw Story article, Media Matters staff member Max Blumenthal noted that, while Coulter's book "denounces liberalism as 'the opposition party to God,' " a spokesman for the church she professes to attend says that her congregation "do[esn't] really know her." Blumenthal quoted an April 17, 2005, Time magazine article, in which writer John Cloud "suggested that she has been a regular attendee of New York City's Redeemer Presbyterian Church, to which 'she brings a lot of people.' " Blumenthal then detailed his inquiry with the Manhattan church regarding Coulter's purported attendance there:

When contacted by Raw Story, however, Redeemer Presbyterian's Communications and Media Director Cregan Cooke could not confirm that Coulter had ever attended services at the church.
"The only thing I have heard is hearsay that she is an attender" of Redeemer, Cregan told Raw Story. "Our database shows that she is not a member. ... And I don't know anybody that would have seen Ann Coulter. We don't really know her."

Meanwhile, Bob Allen at Ethics Daily took the story further, reporting:
Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said while Coulter labels herself a Christian, most practicing Christians attend church regularly enough to be recognized by a staff member and talk openly about their church affiliation.

Parham said Christians should seek to follow the teachings of Jesus. "Authentic Christianity is not a weapon with which to bash political opponents," he said. "It's not the sole ownership of a political party. It's not gimmick to sell books."

Parham said "history is littered with those who misused Christianity for all kinds of selfish and harmful reasons."...  

In an interview on, Coulter is quoted as saying: "Although my Christianity is somewhat more explicit in this book, Christianity fuels everything I write. Being a Christian means that I am called upon to do battle against lies, injustice, cruelty, hypocrisy--you know, all the virtues in the church of liberalism.

Allen writes that "Contact persons for Coulter's publisher and Web site did not respond to e-mails asking about her religious affiliation before this story's deadline."  Indeed, there is no indication that I can find that Coulter has responded to any of this. If she thinks it will probably blow over -- she is probably right.
OK. What else do we know?  Well, we also know that Coulter is a Christian nationalist who justifies extreme views about war in the Middle East with these notions:  
"This is a religious war, not against Islam but for Christianity, for a Christian nation. When this nation was founded, there was nothing like it. Our founders said there is a God and we are all equal before God. The ideal of equality and tolerance is like nothing that has ever existed in the world before. That, too, is a Christian value. The concept of equality, especially when it comes to gender equality, was not invented by Gloria Steinem. It was invented by Jesus Christ. As long as people look long enough, they will always come to Christianity."

Let me just underscore, if anyone identifies themself as a Christian, I accept that. People have every right to define themselves as they will.  Who am I to say who is a Christian and who is not?  But that said, it is also fair to ask what kind of Christian is someone is -- especially someone in public life who makes a show of their Christianity; someone who says that Christianity is central to their identity, and that everything they do flows from that identity.

What I can piece together is this. Ann Coulter says she is a Christian; she says she attends Reedemer Presbyterian Church in New York City -- however the church says she is not a member and has no information that she has ever attended. She is however, a Christian nationalist, asserting the bogus notion that the U.S. was founded as a "Christian nation." (Of course, back in the good old days of preconstitutional America, you had to be a white male member in good standing of the correct sect to vote and hold public office. Ann Coulter being female and not a member of an established church, or any church for that matter would be out of luck. ) Unlike most people for whom their religioius identity is an important part of their private identity and their public persona, Coulter makes little effort to stress her Christianity except when scoring political points or make a sale.

She makes no mention of her Christianity in her bio on her personal web site.

What's more, the denomination of the church of which she claims to attend, is a tiny, far right denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, which broke away from mainstream Presbyterianism in 1973 over, among other things, ordination of women. The PCA still does not ordain women. One of the leaders of the schism was televangelist and Christian right leader, D. James Kennedy. Interestingly the question of her religious identity comes at pivotal time in the national conversation about the teaching of creationism. At at time when creationism and its stalking horse intelligent design have faced some significant set backs, D. James Kennedy's outfit is broadcasting an film this weekend, produced by Kennedy's in-house creationist think-tank, that seeks to blame Darwin and the theory of evolution for the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust. Among the "experts": in the film: Ann Coulter.

So as of today, Ann Coulter stands as a self-identified  church-going conservative Christian who attends a conservative Presbyterian church in New York; part of a denomination that does not ordain women, and iis the institutional home to such Christian right leaders as D. James Kennedy, Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, former Bush advisor Marvin Olasky; Christian Reconstructionist author Dr. George Grant, antiabortion activist Rev. Joe Foreman, and Institute on Religion and Democracy honcho Rev. James Tonkowich -- among many others. She seems as well-credentialed as any to be a leader of the religious right, and the media, liberals and Democrats are unlikely to challenge her.

So until proved otherwise -- Hail Ann Coulter! Leader of the Religious Right!

Media Matters and Bob Allen have raised the right questions, but as far as I can tell, there have been no answers and no follow-up by the media or by liberal targets of her scornful faith-baiting.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Aug 24, 2006 at 08:12:29 PM EST
The famously unmarried Coulter's sexual/social history is unclear to all. It does seem unlikely that she is a 40-something virgin, and her dress would be considered offensive by conservative Christian women and by pastors in official capacity. She doesn't fake very thoroughly, I'd say. I have no idea if anyone has bothered researching the accuracy of her official bio. Did she attend those schools and clerk for that judge?

by NancyP on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 07:38:29 PM EST

Coulter appeared in Columbus last year as part of Rod Parsley's attempt to anoint Ken Blackwell as "God's Candidate" for governor of Ohio. It appears she likes to wear the mantle of "Christian" even if she doesn't go to church.  However, her attempt to cast "liberalism" as a "Godless religion" seems absurd on its face, as our all of her denunciations of people who don't tow the conservative 'publican line.  Coulter's writings and rants are an insult to intelligent people, no matter what their political or religious views might be.

by UCCKurt on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 05:38:34 PM EST

Let me get this straight: contemporary liberalism, the philosophy of which a good portion of its lineage descends from the Social Gospel movement of Protestantism and the Catholic distributive justice movement is "godless?"

by Frank Cocozzelli on Tue Aug 29, 2006 at 07:59:05 PM EST

The intemperance of her rhetoric casts Ms. Coulter as a member of the Brown Shirts, the Sturmabteilung rather than Christianity.

I believe one of the marks of fascism is an identification of internal enemies AND the institutionalization of violence to deal with these enemies. This was the job of the Brown Shirts.

Ms. Coulter's character assassination approach is reminiscent of Julius Streicher.
When violence is done because of her vitriole, will she happily claim her culpability?

Soon people will be pointing at Christian leaders and saying: "Why do they not condemn such intemperance? Why do they not condemn this violence?"

Heil, Julia!

by montag on Fri Sep 08, 2006 at 08:14:22 AM EST

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