" I have never seen a man who has disclosed so much about his religion in the course of his presidency. " These are the words of Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and Faith about George W. Bush. Since he met Bill Graham (the most popular Evangelical leader in the USA) and escaped alcohol addiction, the President of the United States seems more inspired by God than anything else in ruling the country. Is that a threat to democracy in a State where the First Amendment to the Constitution, voted in 1791, implies the separation of church and state and the private right to practice any religion ?
Turning point in the 80sī
Barry Lynn regrets that the separation between Church and State has been threatened by the ability of the Christian Right to assert itself as a political force in the USA during the past two decades. . According to him, the Christian Right, a movement mostly composed of conservative fundamentalist Evangelicals, decided to influence politics in the 80's, during the Reagan Presidency. Since then they began to be active in the GOP, convincing people at grassroots level to defend Christian values within the Republican Party. "Christian fundamentalists decided that they could organize, that they could control local city elections, county elections and then move on to the national scene. It was a highly orchestrated effort to control all branches of government and frankly some of the leaders of this so called religious righters said: we want to control everything from the school boards to the white house. ", explains Barry Lynn.
Robert Jewett, doctor of theology, professor at Heidelberg's University and author of several religion-related books, shares Barry Lynn's views regarding the recent implication of conservative Christian groups delving into politics. "In 1978/79, a movement across the United States called the Moral Majority began which brought into politics for the first time some 50 000 congregations [religious assemblies]. Prior to 1980, these religious organisations had always told to their members not to vote because the political system was corrupted. From the 80sī they thought the time had come for them to take charge. They took over the Republican party and changed it into an Apocalyptic Party ! ", relates Robert Jewett. During the 1980 presidential elections, the Moral Majority was credited with giving Ronald Reagan 2/3 of the white evangelical vote over Jimmy Carter. The Moral Majority was dissolved in 1989, but lives on within the Christian Right movement.
Christian values voters
In the United States, Conservative Christians represent about 20% of the electorate. The GOPīs candidate at the 2004 elections, George W. Bush, was ensured their votes as the Republican Party was advocating Christian conservative values during the campaign. Eventually, 40% of the voters in favour of George W. Bush at the 2004 election belonged to Evangelical groups.
Yet, what really represents a threat to the democracy lies in the fact that Christian Right is keener to read the Bible rather than the Constitution to guide the laws of the United States. "It [Christian Right] represents mainly fundamentalists, that is, people who, among other things, literally believe in the bible. For them the bible is literally the word of God, every word is true, and the laws of the country really ought to reflect the bible's principles and biblical laws", warns Barry Lynn. Indeed, the so called Christian Right adopts extremely conservative stances on many social issues. Among others, it stands against State recognition and acceptance of homosexuality, against abortion and reproductive choice, against the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution in the schools, and against anything likely to dismiss orthodox Christian values.
Barry Lynn worries about the increasing power of the Christian Right in the USA. "The goal of conservative Christians is literally the takeover of the government of the United States: to have its members in the White House, to have the majority in the Supreme Court. They want to restrict what Americans can see, what they can listen to on the radio, what books they can read ! "
Eventually, Evangelical groups want to convert the USA to radical Christianity and once that's done, convert the rest of the world with highly funded missions. Another problem is the distribution of state money to these Christian organisations, at the expense of consistent public policies dedicated to all citizens whatever their religion. "Basically governments should not be giving money to a religion, they should not be funding the religious ministries, or the religious schools, or any denomination or any group of religion in this country. The vitality of religion in America comes from its voluntary nature. if I want to support religion, and I do, then I give money out of my own pocket, I do not expect the federal government or the state governments to give money for the important ministries or missions that I support personally... ", argues Barry Lynn.