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Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Richard Viguerie Does A Revisionist History of Evangelical Movement
Topic: Newsmax

Richard Viguerie writes in his Oct. 26 Newsmax column:

As one surveys today’s political scene, it is impossible not to compare the effect of Obama’s gratuitous attack on freedom of conscience at Catholic institutions — through the Obamacare abortion coverage mandate — with Jimmy Carter’s attack on evangelical Christian schools during the late 1970s.
 
When Carter’s IRS administrator issued an order stating that any religious school founded after the 1952 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court school integration ruling was presumed to be created to circumvent the ruling, and integration, the response from religious educators of all faiths was swift opposition — but it set off what amounted to an atomic bomb in the middle of the hitherto apolitical evangelical community.
 
Jimmy Carter’s unprovoked attack on evangelicals brought millions of new conservative Christian voters into the Republican Party. It helped propel Ronald Reagan to victory in two national elections, led to the near-destruction of the Democrats as a national party in the Bible Belt and made Carter a one-term president.

Viguerie is misleading here, and not just because he has gotten the year of the Brown v. Board of Education decision wrong (it was in 1954.) That tells us the rest of what he has written is bogus as well.

As it turns out, it is. Randall Balmer -- a professor of religion at Barnard College, Columbia University and contributing editor to Christianity Today -- points out that the supposed Carter administration action against "religious educators" Viguerieis, in fact, actions taken against Bob Jones University, which definitely was racist in that it banned interracial. Further, the IRS action against Bob Jones U. actually predated Carter's presidency. From Balmer's book "Thy Kingdom Come," discussing a presentation by right-wing activist Paul Weyrich:

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.

Bob Jones University was one target of a broader attempt by the federal government to enforce the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Several agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, had sought to penalize schools for failure to abide by antisegregation provisions. A court case in 1972, Green v. Connally, produced a ruling that any institution that practiced segregation was not, by definition, a charitable institution and, therefore, no longer qualified for tax-exempt standing.

The IRS sought to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University in 1975 because the school's regulations forbade interracial dating; African Americans, in fact, had been denied admission altogether until 1971, and it took another four years before unmarried African Americans were allowed to enroll. The university filed suit to retain its tax-exempt status, although that suit would not reach the Supreme Court until 1983 (at which time, the Reagan administration argued in favor of Bob Jones University).

[...]

For his part, Weyrich saw the evangelical discontent over the Bob Jones case as the opening he was looking for to start a new conservative movement using evangelicals as foot soldiers. Although both the Green decision of 1972 and the IRS action against Bob Jones University in 1975 predated Jimmy Carter's presidency, Weyrich succeeded in blaming Carter for efforts to revoke the taxexempt status of segregated Christian schools. He recruited James Dobson and Jerry Falwell to the cause, the latter of whom complained, "In some states it's easier to open a massage parlor than to open a Christian school."

Viguerie doesn't explain why he apparently thinks it's permissible for Christian schools to discriminate on the basis of race -- which is what the implication of his touting of the founding of the evangelical movement ultimately means.


Posted by Terry K. at 8:55 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 9:10 PM EDT

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