The Anatomy of Power:
Texas and the Religious Right in 2006
This report from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund is the first in a planned series of annual projects that will examine the influence of the religious right in Texas. The Anatomy of Power: Texas and the Religious Right in 2006 explores the growing power of far-right Christian conservatives in the state’s electoral politics. It should spark a serious discussion among Texans concerned about extremists who use religion to divide us and partisan politics to belittle the faith of anyone who dares to disagree with them.
Broadly speaking, the religious right is a political movement that seeks to structure law and society around a narrowly construed conservative interpretation of Christian biblical principles. It is not a monolithic organization with one leader. Rather, the religious right includes a network of individuals, groups and wealthy donors who share a decidedly conservative biblical worldview.
A report such as this is likely to be portrayed by leaders on the religious right as further evidence of a “war on Christianity” and “people of faith” in America today. Indeed, this charge has become the stock in trade for cynical far-right leaders who are adept at using religion to further divide Americans in the raging culture wars. Yet it is hard to reconcile this “language of persecution” with the reality in America today.
The vast majority of Americans proclaim a belief in God and attend church freely and regularly. Religious organizations own and operate radio, television and cable stations across the country, freely promoting religious messages to large audiences. Bible and prayer clubs meet in countless public schools. Decorations and public displays celebrating religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter can be found on almost any street in communities across the country. The truth is that faith and religious freedom are flourishing in America.
The Texas Freedom Network has long supported religious freedom and the constitutional protections that guarantee that freedom. This report, however, examines how the religious right has created a powerful political force that threatens the liberties and values of mainstream Texans of all faiths. The religious right is hostile to the principle of church-state separation, public education, privacy protections, the civil liberties of gay men and lesbians, and even promising medical research, such as stem cell research. This report’s exploration of the anatomy of the religious right’s power in Texas includes examinations of the movement’s takeover of the state Republican Party, the support of wealthy individuals, the role of pressure groups and the importance of influential leaders in the movement.
Among the report’s findings:
- The religious right has tightened its grip on the Republican Party of Texas and now completely controls the party leadership. In fact, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between the movement and the party in leadership, political goals and tactics. (Chapter 1)
- Having spent $10 million since 1997 to help the Texas GOP take control of state government, wealthy San Antonio businessman James Leininger is now working to purge from office those Republicans who fail to support fully the religious right’s public policy agenda. In fact, with Leininger’s financial support, the religious right is on the verge of finally winning a majority of seats on the State Board of Education. (Chapter 2)
- The new model in the religious right’s political strategy relies on recruiting conservative evangelical pastors who will use their positions as church leaders to advance the movement’s policy agenda. In fact, the state’s newest far-right pressure group, the Texas Restoration Project, has been recruiting thousands of pastors to support (successfully) a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and to back conservative candidates for office, including Gov. Rick Perry. (Chapter 3)
- David Barton, vice chair of the state GOP and president of the Christian advocacy group WallBuilders, has become a key part of efforts to recruit conservative evangelicals into the Republican Party. Using questionable research, Barton appeals to Christian conservatives with the dubious argument that the separation of church and state is a myth created by activist judges. (Chapter 4)
The State of the Religious Right: 2006 also includes an appendix with a wealth of information on the religious right:
- A Watch List identifies individuals who will likely play important roles in the religious right’s efforts in 2006
- A compilation of quotes gives readers a sampling of the outrageous claims made by far-right leaders in 2005
- A review of the Texas Republican Party platform from 2004 provides a preview of what to expect in the 2006 platform of a party dominated by conservative Christian activists.
Separate listings of political action committees and pressure groups associated with the religious right offer financial data, identify leaders and provide other background information.
- A “Who’s Who” listing identifies speakers at Texas Restoration Project events in 2005
- A sampling of Web sites notes sources of propaganda and news from a far-right perspective in Texas
Full report (pdf)