• I was interested to learn that the trigger for forming the Moral Majority was not Roe v. Wade, as I had thought, but segregation. Segregated schools and colleges like Bob Jones refused Federal money, but they needed their tax-exempt status. I read about this in “Blowing Smoke” by Michael Wolraich.

    The story is covered more extensively in “Thy Kingdom Come” by Randall Balmer.

    The Religious Right’s self-portrayal as mobilizing in response to the Roe decision was so pervasive among evangelicals that few questioned it. But my attendance at an unusual gathering in Washington, D.C., finally alerted me to the abortion myth. In November 1990, for reasons that I still don’t entirely understand, I was invited to attend a conference in Washington sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Religious Right organization (though I didn’t realize it at the time). I soon found myself in a conference room with a couple of dozen people, including Ralph Reed, then head of the Christian Coalition; Carl F. H. Henry, an evangelical theologian; Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family; Donald Wildmon, head of the American Family Association; Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; and Edward G. Dobson, pastor of an evangelical church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and formerly one of Jerry Falwell’s acolytes at Moral Majority. Paul M. Weyrich, a longtime conservative activist, head of what is now called the Free Congress Foundation, and one of the architects of the Religious Right in the late 1970s, was also there.

    In the course of one of the sessions, Weyrich tried to make a point to his Religious Right brethren (no women attended the conference, as I recall). Let’s remember, he said animatedly, that the Religious Right did not come together in response to the Roe decision. No, Weyrich insisted, what got us going as a political movement was the attempt on the part of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to rescind the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because of its racially discriminatory policies.

    “I was trying to get those people interested in those issues and I utterly failed,” he recalled in an interview in the early 1990s. “What changed their mind was Jimmy Carter’s intervention against the Christian schools, trying to deny them tax-exempt status on the basis of so-called de facto segregation.”

    During the meeting in Washington, D.C., Weyrich went on to characterize the leaders of the Religious Right as reluctant to take up the abortion cause even close to a decade after the Roe ruling. “I had discussions with all the leading lights of the movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s, post–Roe v. Wade,” he said, “and they were all arguing that that decision was one more reason why Christians had to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.”

    “What caused the movement to surface,” Weyrich reiterated,”was the federal government’s moves against Christian schools.” The IRS threat against segregated schools, he said, “enraged the Christian community.” That, not abortion, according to Weyrich, was what galvanized politically conservative evangelicals into the Religious Right and goaded them into action. “It was not the other things,” he said.

    This is not to dispute the points being made about sex. The sex and race obsessions of the reactionaries overlap almost completely. In the last two years, we’ve seen a huge flood of anti-woman laws in states with Republican legislatures. More than ten years ago, Jean Schroedel published “Is the Fetus a Person?”, an excellent study showing how the states with the most aggressive ‘protections’ of the fetus were the same ones that refused to support children once they were born…