Jerry Falwell.... Is.... Dead. But Don't Discount The Religious Right
Jerry Falwell is dead. Some people will take this as evidence of the decline of the religious right. But, a new generation of leaders will soon come to the fore... meanwhile, troubling evidence, from many quarters, continues to surface and point towards likelihood that the movement isn't going away.
As Talk To Action co-founder Frederick Clarkson recently wrote, in Is the Religious Right Finished? Yawn. Not Hardly
Nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas -- one time flack for Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority -- ought to know better. And my guess is that he probably does. He dangles the provocative question in his headline, but never really answers it in his column.
The occasion for Thomas's eyebrow raiser, was the recent closing of televangelist D. James Kennedy's political operation, the Center for Reclaiming America, and the related Center for Christian Statesmanship. Apparently they were closed for budgetary reasons, while Kennedy's main broadcasting operations are not in doubt. But for how long, is a good question. D. James Kennedy, 76, has been in and out of the hospital in recent months. I do not think that the closing of this particular small, Washington lobby and resource agency indicates that the religious right is finished -- but it is certainly one indication that the religious right is in for a period of reorganization and retrenchment as the founding generation of religious right leaders begin to pass from the scene.
So, Jerry Falwell's death, on top of the decline of D. James Kennedy's political operation, may reinforce assumptions that the religious right is on the wane.
But, it's worth twinning the story of Falwell's death, in your mind, with the news, from Max Blumenthal, that James Dobson and a group of evangelical leaders and writers met privately with George W. Bush, last week, to discuss US policies towards Iran and Iraq
In terms of the people present - Joel Rosenberg for one - and the language and other particulars cited by Dobson about the meeting [possibility of 10 US cities wiped out at once by terrorist WMD's, and likening Iranian President Ahmajinedad to Hitler] the meeting sounded rather like a briefing, for President Bush, on Iraq and Iran by the editors of World Net Daily, and Bush, per Dobson, said he'd use force against Iran if necessary.
In other words, the religious right still presents a threat. Consider, too, the following:
Talk To Action contributor Bill Berkowitz, who also writes for Media Transparency ( and a number of other media venues as well ) writes today about the rise of the Reverend Donald Wildmon's new "Godcasting" broadcast network:
[ writes Berkowitz] It has an annual budget of close to $17 million, net assets of more than $32 million, owns and feeds programming to nearly 200 radio stations, employs about 100 at its home-base, operates the Center for Law & Policy, a high-powered conservative legal enterprise, and has developed one of the most sophisticated communications networks in all of right wing grassroots Christendom. And, after three decades of conducting boycotts, demonizing homosexuals, and railing against the entertainment industry, the Reverend Donald Wildmon's Tupelo, Mississippi-based American Family Association is as cranky as it ever was.
Meanwhile, last Saturday, I discovered that the historical revisionism of the Christian right, in the form of a lie about the separation of church manufactured by the Christian right's Uber-historical revisionist, David Barton, has been quietly inserted - an undetermined number of years ago, maybe even during the Clinton Administration, into the standard course curriculum developed by the US Department of Defense for the Junior ROTC program that's taught to up to 1/2 million US high school students each year.
Yup, that's right : historical revisionism on a massive scale, courtesy of David Barton and the DOD. My colleague Chris Rodda, who specializes in debunking the historical revisionism of the Christian right, writes about it...
Here's what I wrote yesterday about that:
Department Of Defense Textbook For National Junior ROTC Program Contains Falsified History
Over the last two months Chris Rodda and I have exposed fake history that's being taught at hundreds of US high schools and yesterday I uncovered the fact that fake history is being taught on even a far larger scale in American public schools.
In any given year, about 1/2 million American high school students are enrolled in the Junior ROTC program, and from this group will emerge many of America's future military and political leaders...
These future leaders are being taught a warped historical view fabricated by the American Christian right to weaken church state separation and justify its push to remake America, into a "Christian nation"...
Last Saturday, I discovered that falsified history, written to support the claim that America was founded as a "Christian Nation", is embedded in a Department of Defense core curriculum textbook for Unit 6 of the JROTC curriculum, in the form of a falsified interpretation of church-state separation paraphrased from writing by David Barton, who is the leading American Christian historical revisionist.
You won't find the term "Christian Nation" in the textbook in question, but the textbook contains a key historical lie on which much of the "Christian nation" historical myth rests, and that historical lie is neing taught to an entire generation of America's future leaders.
Excerpt from "Citizenship And American History" ( JROTC Core Curriculum, Unit 6, Page 72 ) :
"SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
The "separation of church and state"
phrase was taken from an exchange of private
letters between President Thomas Jefferson
and the Baptist Association of Danbury,
Connecticut, shortly after Jefferson became
President. It is not found in any governmental
The inclusion of protection for the
"free exercise of religion" in the constitution
suggested to the Danbury Baptists that the
right of religious expression was governmentgiven
and therefore the government might
someday attempt to regulate religious
expression. Jefferson shared their concern. He
believed along with the other Founders, that
the First Amendment had been enacted only
to prevent the federal establishment of a
national denomination. He assured them that
they need not fear; that the federal
government would never interfere with the
free exercise of religion.
In summary, the "separation" phrase
so frequently invoked today was rarely
mentioned by any of the Founders; and even
Jefferson's explanation of his phrase is
diametrically opposed to the manner in which
courts apply it today. "Separation of church
and state" currently means almost exactly the
opposite of what it originally meant.
small group meeting
The text notes that the passage above has been adapted from the writings of David Barton
Beyond presenting an interpretation of church-state separation that is based on historical falsification and which breaks with orthodox historical interpretations of the principle, the text also seems to suggest that the principle of church-state separation can be determined, or modified, by majority vote :
That would be a radical and perverted view, because it would imply that majorities can simply vote to overwrite fundamental principles and protections built into the Constitution of The United States, by the founders, to protect the rights of minorities within US democracy.
Here is Chris Rodda's analysis and thought, at Talk To Action, of the US taxpayer subsidized falsified history within Unit six of the Junior ROTC core curriculum produced by the United States Department of Defense:
[excerpt, from The Department of Defense -- Bringing Historical Revisionism to a High School Near You, by historian Chris Rodda ]
This sort of historical revisionism might be expected in homeschools and at Christian high schools, such as D. James Kennedy's own Westminster Academy, and the spreading of it by these means is bad enough. But now, bit by bit, this same historical revisionism is making its way into our public schools. I've already written extensively about how this is being accomplished via the National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools (NCBCPS) course. The NCBCPS, however, is not the only source of bad history in our public high schools. There is another, which, unlike the NCBCPS, is not produced by a private organization, but by the Department of Defense -- for the JROTC program....
Before even getting to the historical inaccuracy of the Barton explanation of Jefferson's letter, and disregarding the disturbing fact that anything by Barton appears in an official Department of Defense history text being used in our high schools, I think an important question needs to be asked. Why is the issue of separation between church and state in this chapter in the first place? The lessons in this chapter teach the cadets to decide on a position on an issue by majority rule, and then form a plan to promote that position. This is appropriate for the other examples that follow in the textbook, such as whether or not the voting age should be lowered to sixteen, but to foster the notion that a fundamental principle like church/state separation is subject to majority rule is incredible. To present what is described as "one perspective" on this issue when that "perspective" is based on inaccurate history is beyond incredible.