Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Since 1980, a central issue motivating conservative Evangelicals' political activism is abortion. The 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, which legalized abortion, proved decisive in bringing together Catholics (who had opposed abortion since the 1890s) and Evangelicals in a political coalition, which became known as the Religious Right when it successfully mobilized its voters behind presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980.
In the United States, Supreme Court decisions that outlawed organized prayer in school and restricted church-related schools also played a role in mobilizing the Religious Right. In addition, questions of sexual morality and homosexuality have been energizing factors—and above all, the notion that "elites" are pushing America into secularism.
Opponents criticise the Evangelicals, whom they say actually want a Christian America—America being a nation in which Christianity is given a privileged position. Survey data shows that "between 64 and 75 percent do not favor a 'Christian Nation' amendment", though between 60 and 75 percent also believe that Christianity and Political Liberalism are incompatible. Evangelical leaders, in turn, counter that they merely seek freedom from the imposition by national elites of an equally subjective secular worldview, and feel that it is their opponents who are violating their rights.
According to recent reports in the New York Times, some Evangelicals have sought to expand their movement's social agenda to include poverty, combating AIDS in the Third World, and protecting the environment. This is highly contentious within the Evangelical community, since more conservative Evangelicals believe that this trend is compromising important issues and prioritizing popularity and consensus too highly. Personifying this division were the Evangelical leaders James Dobson and Rick Warren, the former who warned of the dangers of a Barack Obama victory in 2008 from his point of view, in contrast with the latter who declined to endorse either major candidate on the grounds that he wanted the church to be less politically divisive and that he agreed substantially with both men.