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HOW THE EVANGELICAL MOVEMENT HAS ALTERED THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RELIGION AND GOVERNMENT IN THE UNITED STATES1
SHANE FARTHING 2006
The terms “evangelical” and “evangelicalism” are derived from the Greek euangelion, which Christians generally translate as “good news.”
INTRODUCTION The modern evangelical Christian movement is, by design, a major force in altering the shape of American society.2 Guided by a fundamental belief that in order to be good a society must be godly, the evangelical movement has been actively attempting to make American society more godly via mass political mobilization since the early 1970s. Through a multitude of strategies—both political and legal—evangelicals have consistently pushed for a society based on an objective conception of certain theological and moral values and the rejection of a liberal worldview in which what is right is determined by human processes rather than the word of God. To achieve this social influence, the evangelical movement initially organized as a traditional interest group attempting to effect its change through majoritarian politics. Eventually, however, evangelicals realized that in order to achieve their goals they would need more than political influence. They would need to bring about a fundamental reinterpretation of the relationship between government and religion. To do this, the evangelical movement incorporated challenges to longstanding constitutional precedent into its strategic arsenal. Supported by theological beliefs, and armed with this holistic strategy of influencing each branch of the government and parlaying successes in one arena to advantages in another, the movement has defied the conventional wisdom of political theorists by maintaining its strength over time and finding substantial success in its campaign to change the relationship between religion and government in American society. This paper is an attempt to examine how the evangelical Christian interest group
For a discussion of the propriety of defining evangelicalism in terms of a “movement” or “coalition,” see JON R. STONE, ON THE BOUNDARIES OF AMERICAN EVANGELICALISM: THE POSTWAR EVANGELICAL COALITION, 7-8 (1997).
has successfully mobilized and amassed sufficient political influence to affect the law both via political means—setting the agendas of elected officials regarding both legislation and appointments—and via direct challenges to the Court’s interpretations of the Constitution. Defining Evangelicals Evangelical Christian denominations in the United States are a heterogeneous group, differing in nearly every conceivable attribute from size to affluence to scriptural interpretation. It is possible, however, to find common ground among the members of the evangelical movement. First and foremost, evangelicals are united in the ontological belief that that there is an objective right and an objective wrong in the world.3 They believe that God supports certain actions and endeavors and punishes others. Along with this ontological belief, evangelicals are united in the epistemological belief that God has made these objective states of right and wrong knowable to mankind through the Bible. Finally, as a corollary to the existence of a knowable, objective right and wrong, evangelicals are united in the belief that they have a scripturally-based moral duty to spread the belief in and knowledge of God’s views of right and wrong.4 This includes a duty to make American society conform to the objective “right society” as described in the Bible.
See, e.g. David M. Smolin, Religion, Education, and the Theoretically Liberal State: Contrasting Evangelical and Secularist Perspectives, 44 J. Cath. Legal Stud. 99, 100 (2005) (“…evangelicals believe that the Christian fiath represents universal truth and the way of salvation applicable in every culture.”); JAMES DAVISON HUNTER, EVANGELICALISM: THE COMING GENERATION, 158 (1987) (“Ultimate truth is defined by a particular religious conception of God, of mankind, of salvation, and the like…. Evangelicalism is an orthodoxy. Orthodoxy implicitly and explicitly claims to embody ultimate and final truth. In this case, truth does not unfold but has already been revealed.”); BRAD STETSON & JOSEPH G. CONTI, THE TRUTH ABOUT TOLERANCE: PLURALISM, DIVERSITY, AND THE CULTURE WARS, 87-95. 4 This scriptural duty is found throughout the Bible, but is stated most clearly in Matthew 28: 18-20, often reffered to as The Great Commission: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the natios, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you….’”
The theological differences that arise among evangelicals tend to come not at the ontological or epistemological level, but at the scriptural, or textual level. As every law student realizes, a shared text does not necessarily lead to shared interpretative methods or results. Thus, one evangelical sect may believe that the Bible condones a certain practice while another believes the opposite.5 Yet all are united in the belief that the answer to how society should be organized is to be found in the Bible. It is this core belief—the ontological position—that defines the evangelical movement and differentiates it from other interest group mobilizations within a pluralistic political framework.6 Liberalism and Interest Group Pluralism Traditional interest groups, as described by political scientists, are dependent upon a liberal conception of the good society, not an objective theological conception. In liberalism, there is no known objective truth. Rather, there is a process of competition among interest groups to achieve influence among political decision-makers.7 There is no God providing guidance or visions of a substantive ideal to which society should aspire. Rather, there is rivalry among competing visions, and whichever vision accrues the most influence will achieve its desired outcome. This outcome will be deemed right and proper not based on its substance, but because it is the winner of the procedural
Though not universal, there are certain core textual beliefs held by the majority of evangelicals. These include the sovereignty of God over human life, the depravity of humankind, the deity of Jesus Christ, the need for atonement, salvation by grace, and the requirement of faith. DONALD G. BLOESCH, ESSENTIALS OF EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY, VOLUME ONE: GOD, AUTHORITY, AND SALVATION, (Harper & Row, Pubs. 1978). 6 Of course, other groups may have similarly rigid ontological positions. In fact, many orthodox religious groups (e.g. orthodox jews) do share a similar ontological belief in absolute, divinely sanctioned right and wrong. Of these ontologically rigid groups, however, only evangelical Christianity has thus far attracted sufficient numbers in the United States to exert large-scale political force. 7 For an overview of liberal, interest group pluralism as a political system, see FRANK R. BAUMGARTNER & BRYAN D. JONES, AGENDAS AND INSTABILITY IN AMERICAN POLITICS (1993).
competition.8 In such a system, the proper role of government is to remain largely outside the fray and simply ensure a level playing field on which no particular interest is favored. When the religion clauses of the Constitution are read through the lens of this political ideology, a separationist approach results. The metaphorical “wall of separation” tends to provide for governmental neutrality, both between religion and irreligion and among particular religious sects. Here, what is right is determined by procedure, and government must be completely neutral and disentangled from the competing interests, or risk tainting the outcome-determinative process. The Ideological Conflict: Evangelical Objectivism & Interest Group Political Liberalism At their cores, the liberal and evangelical viewpoints are simply incompatible. Where liberals implicitly see mankind as fundamentally good and capable of devising solutions for societal problems, evangelicals see humans as flawed sinners in need of redemption by God’s grace. Where liberals label an outcome “right” when it is supported by a functioning political process, evangelicals determine what is right only by reference to the Biblical account of God’s word. Yet, for most of the twentieth century this conflict was not played out in the political sphere, as evangelicals were largely disengaged from politics, and liberalism was so embraced by experts that its merits went unquestioned.
Of course, there are some substantive concerns such as fairness and equity in a liberal system. These substantive values are not ultimate goals, however. They are merely necessary prerequisites to an operable procedure. John Rawls has famously explained the conception of liberal procedural justice by an analogy to gambling. He writes: “…pure procedural justice obtains when there is no independent criterion for the right result: instead there is a correct or fair procedure such that the outcome is likewise correct or fair, whatver it is, provided that the procedure has been properly followed…. If a number of persons engage in a series of fair bets, the distribution of cash after the last bet is fair, or at least not unfair, whatever this distribution is.” JOHN RAWLS, A THEORY OF JUSTICE 75 (Revised ed. 1999) (1971). In some sense, there are substantive values operable in the rules of the game (e.g. the value of each bettor’s money is equal; no player may prevent others from betting freely, etc.), but the eventual distribution of funds is not determined by these substantive rules. This is in contrast with an objective method of decisionmaking in which one bettor would be deemed the a priori “proper” recipient of the funds.
This changed in the 1970s, however. During the 1970s political scientists began to see flaws in the previously lauded “liberal state.” Theodore Lowi began to write of “the end of liberalism”9 and Jeremy Rifkin stated that “American liberalism, the political philosophy of this nation for the past half-century, is in crisis.”10 These authors argued that, in effect, the process-dependent nature of liberalism would be its undoing, as bureaucracy, complacency, and a sense of “permissiveness” in the absence of objective certainty would prevent long-term public support of a liberal state. They seemed to suggest that liberalism in application would simply lack the appeal of liberal theory, and political support would wane in favor of alternative options. It was during this period of questioning the possibility of a society based on liberalism that the evangelical movement arose. Given the tension between the substantive evangelical ontological position and the procedural liberal position, conflict was inevitable. From the beginning, the evangelical movement has been driven by a fundamental opposition to liberalism. While it has, at times, appeared like any other liberal interest group in a pluralistic society, it has never accepted that liberalism could provide an appropriate means of determining outcomes in a proper society. From its inception and throughout its various circumstances, the underlying theme of the evangelical movement has been its opposition to ideological liberalism as an acceptable means of defining what is right either individually or socially. In the legal arena, this ideological conflict can most easily be seen by reference to the Supreme Court’s Lemon test. To evangelicals, the liberal viewpoint is exemplified in this Establishment Clause test. Simply stated, the Lemon test requires that a given law
See generally LOWI, THEODORE, THE END OF LIBERALISM: THE SECOND REPUBLIC OF THE UNITED STATES (1979). 10 JEREMY RIFKIN & TED HOWARD, THE EMERGING ORDER: GOD IN THE AGE OF SCARCITY, 3 (1979).
(1) have a secular purpose, (2) neither advance or inhibit religion as a primary effect, and (3) not foster excessive entanglement between government and religion.11 To many evangelicals this test appears to be an overlaying of liberal political theory onto the text of the Constitution. In essence, the Lemon test seems designed to require just the sort of space for competition among rival interests demanded by liberal theory. The government must ensure that its activities are entirely neutral, plus it must avoid “excessive entanglement” even if that entanglement can be shown to benefit no particular group.12 Because this case was decided a few years before the evangelical movement had seriously mobilized, and because it did not directly impact their lives immediately, there was little evangelical outcry in 1971 when Lemon v. Kurtzman was decided. Later, as the evangelical movement grew and the importance of the Lemon test was evident beyond the particular facts of that case, evangelical leaders became quite vocal in their criticism of the test.
Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612 (1971). The traditional textbook metaphor likening the government to the umpire in a baseball game can clearly be seen in the Lemon test. That is, the umpire’s job is to enforce neutral rules, calling balls and strikes equally for both teams. To favor one side is wrong, as is to devise different strike zones for the opposing teams, even if the outcome of the game would not be affected by the disparity.
PHASE I: GRASSROOTS ORGANIZATION, POLITICAL IMPACT, AND SETTING THE STAGE Initial Mobilization: Roe, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the Bicentennial While prior to the 1970s there were several minor flare-ups of evangelicalism throughout American history, their impact was largely limited to the immediate religious community. Evangelicals were simply not politically active, and they had shown no desire to become so.13 This changed in the early 1970s, however, when two major events took place that evangelicals viewed as an attack on their biblically based view of what is good and right in the eyes of God. First was the Supreme Court’s finding of a right to abortion in Roe v. Wade.14 Next was the political attempt to alter traditionally held gender roles by promoting an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. It was these decisions that pushed evangelicals over the tipping point and led to a political mobilization designed to counter the perceived threats society. Thus, the evangelical movement tends to define itself as a defensive group, persecuted by liberal decisionmakers who have taken society in a wrong direction by upsetting the familial and social structures of the Bible. From the evangelical viewpoint, society has fallen into decay and needs to be returned to the standards of a time when religion played a primary role and was organized in accordance with the will of God. Scholars have often termed evangelicalism a “restorative” religious outlook because it seeks to return to an undefined golden age. As stated by Prof. Justin Watson, [the evangelical] agenda is one of aggressively reasserting through political and legal means as well as by persuasion, the public authority of evangelical belief and morality. Evangelicals who adopt this stance are interested in the restoration
See MARK NOLL, THE RISE OF EVANGELICALISM, VOL. 1, 233 (2003). 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
of a lost past in which life was better and more godly…. The restoration impulse grows out of the fundamental religious desire to reactualize what historian of religion Mircia Eliade called “sacred time.”15 According to Prof. Watson, what evangelicals seek is not theocracy, but “a return to a supposed golden era in which it would not occur to anyone to question to propriety of public school prayer, the Ten Commandments on the wall of a government building, unabashed mixtures of evangelical piety and patriotism, or the assertion that this is a Christian nation.”16 Events of the 1970s provided the ideal atmosphere for evangelical mobilization. First and foremost, widely held evangelical beliefs were directly threatened by Roe and the Equal Rights Amendment. This led evangelicals to greater engagement in the secular social and political life than ever before. When Roe challenged the fundamental beliefs of the evangelicals—not just that abortion was wrong, but that longstanding interpretations of the biblical view of the relationship of life itself to God and society were contradicted by the Constitution—churches became ready-made mobilizing structures and the loose network of evangelical religious affiliations that disagreed on theological matters as often as they agreed began to coalesce in the face of a common threat.17 Longstanding but relatively minor differences among congregations were brushed aside in order to combat these anti-evangelical developments. Additionally, because the evangelical mobilization took place at the same time as the American bicentennial, leaders were provided ample opportunities to invoke their perceived “sacred time” by combining their views on the virtues of a godly society with ideas of patriotism
JUSTIN WATSON, THE CHRISTIAN COALITION: DREAMS OF RESTORATION, DEMANDS FOR RECOGNITION, 89 (1997). 16 Id. at 121. 17 SARA DIAMOND, NOT BY POLITICS ALONE: THE ENDURING INFLUENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT, 5 (1998).
and love of country. To evangelicals, America had lasted 200 years and become a powerful society because it was blessed by God, and America was blessed by God because it was founded based on biblical principles. While this conflation of evangelicalism with patriotism involved more rhetoric than substance, it was especially effective in providing a uniting message for the movement that played upon the positive feelings surrounding the bicentennial celebration. National Organizations As a result of the coalescence of evangelicals in response to threats from Roe and the Equal Rights Amendment, along with the overall success of their patriotic, restorative rhetoric, several evangelical groups quickly gained sufficient support to become influential on a national level. The first prominent nationwide evangelical groups of significant political influence were Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and Beverly Lahaye’s Concerned Women for America (“CWA”).18 Both were founded in 1979 in response to Roe and in opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, and both used multiple strategies to achieve their desired results. The Moral Majority was a Virginia-based group of self-described fundamentalists united by a common vision of godly morals. Though it utilized many methods to express its views to the world, including the founding of Liberty University and the filing of numerous amicus curiae briefs in the courts, the Moral Majority was predominantly a grassroots group aiming to change society through majoritarian political action. While
It must be noted that the National Association of Evangelicals (“NAE”), currently led by Ted Haggard, has been in existence since 1942 and has also been involved in many of the important Supreme Court cases interpreting the religion clauses. However, the NAE is something of an outlier, as its history and strategies do not easily fit with other modern evangelical groups and its relative strength and popularity has ebbed and flowed rather inconsistently over the timeframe discussed in this paper. Thus, despite the NAE’s recent reemergence under the direction of Haggard, because most scholarly writers have chosen not to focus on the NAE there is simply insufficient reliable source material available to include that organization in this paper.
the group and its leader were constantly in court, it would be difficult to characterize their legal battles as strategic. Rather, because the Moral Majority’s message involved vocal opposition and protest of abortion, pornography, and homosexuality, the majority of their cases involved rights to assemble and protest their chosen targets.19 The group was extremely successful in continuing to mobilize supporters, however, and Jerry Falwell, while ridiculed by many outsiders, was extremely effective in assembling a core group of politically engaged fundamentalist evangelicals who would both protest together and vote together to achieve evangelical goals. Concerned Women for America was created by Beverly LaHaye after watching an interview with Betty Friedan, the founder of the National Organization for Women. LaHaye concluded that while “Friedan claimed to speak for the women of America, . . . the feminists’ anti-God, anti-family rhetoric did not represent her beliefs, nor those of the vast majority of women.”20 Thus her organization, structured as a network of local prayer groups, was explicitly geared toward providing a voice to evangelicals who believed in the biblical role of women and were opposed to liberal feminism. For example, the CWA has always vocally opposed the right to elective abortion, and in 1980 opposed attempts to extend the ratification period for the Equal Rights Amendment.21 In short, the CWA is not an organization dedicated to the advancement of women. Rather, it is an organization
Cases involving protests near abortion clinics are a common theme among the evangelical groups. These are not reviewed in this paper, however, as they are generally decided on the basis of free expression, not free exercise. 20 “Concerned Women for America, About CWA” available at http://www.cwfa.org/history.asp. (Last accessed: 30 January 2005). 21 Id.; See also CLYDE WILCOX, ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS?: THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT IN AMERICAN POLITICS 64 (1996).
of men and women dedicated to the advancement of an evangelical conception of a biblically based society.22 Of the national evangelical groups, it was the CWA that first incorporated legal challenges into its strategic arsenal. In 1980, CWA joined with attorney Michael Farris to successfully challenge the constitutionality of extending the deadline for ratification of the ERA.23 This success in the legal arena led CWA to continue its legal strategy, and in 1983 Farris became CWA’s lead attorney based in Washington, DC. In 1984 CWA handled its first major case, representing the parents in Mozert v. Hawkins County Schools,24 though this victory was later reversed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.25 Just over a year later, CWA won its first Supreme Court Establishment Clause case in Witter v. Washington Department of Services for the Blind.26 Here, CWA successfully argued that the Establishment Clause did not prohibit a state’s provision of vocational/rehabilitative education funds to a blind student because his chosen school profession was ministry. Successes of the Reagan Era Generally, the early evangelical organizations, led by the Moral Majority, Concerned Women for America, and media-driven groups like James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcast Network, were successful in making the evangelical point of view relevant in American politics. Throughout the 1980s the
Id. This fact is made especially clear when examining the CWA’s position on Supreme Court nominees. The CWA supported the nomination of Robert Bork, yet vocally opposed the appointment of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 23 “Concerned Women for America, About CWA,” supra note 21. 24 579 F. Supp. 1051, 1052 (1984). This case involved a challenge by evangelical parents to the books used to teach students to read. Among the many objections to the readers, plaintiffs complained that the books “teach that some values are relative and vary from situation to situation.” 25 See Mozert v. Hawkins Cty. Board of Education, 827 F.2d 1058 (1988). 26 474 U.S. 481 (1986) (holding that the state’s provision of vocational assistance to a blind student studying to become a minister would not impermissible fund religious education in violation of the Establishment Clause).
evangelical objective worldview and sense of sacred time largely dovetailed with Ronald Reagan’s27 objectivist views and his mingling of patriotic and religious rhetoric. Furthermore, Reagan’s views were allied with evangelicals on the still-primary issue of abortion. Thus, the movement had somewhat natural allies among conservative Republicans. Given the evangelical movement’s ability to mobilize a large number of previously disengaged voters, the courting of evangelicals soon became a major goal of politicians running for elected office at any level. With groups like the Moral Majority and CWA issuing political scorecards and voter education guides based on the candidates’ commitment to evangelical policy ideals, no one seeking election could afford to ignore evangelicals. By the mid-1980s they had become major players in national politics.28 While, with the possible exception of Concerned Women for America, the evangelical movement had not yet devised a coherent strategy for enhancing its position through the courts, there was an understanding of the vital importance of the composition of the Court. It must be remembered that the movement, as a whole, was founded largely in response to the Court’s decision in Roe and its perceived liberalism and lack of moral foundation. Thus, evangelicals moved into higher gear when the opportunity arose to impact the appointment process. The importance of their influence in the appointment process cannot be overstated, as this is their primary means of parlaying political power
While Ronald Reagan was not an evangelical Christian, many of his advisors, including Chief of Staff Patrick Buchanan accept the evangelical worldview. 28 This immense impact is perhaps best exemplified in the 1984 passage of the Equal Access Act, discussed later in this paper, in which Congress responded to primarily evangelical religious groups’ concerns over the denial of access to meeting facilities in public schools on the same terms as non-religious groups. This legislation became extremely important later, as the perhaps the greatest legal successes have come in the “Equal Access Cases” brought under this Act. For a partial listing of the evangelical interests involved in the passage of this legislation, see S. REP. NO. 98-357, at 3-4 (1984), reprinted in 1984 U.S.C.C.A.N. 2348, 2349-2350.
into the ability to directly reinterpret the constitutional relationship between religion and government. Evangelicals were supporters of Antonin Scalia and Robert Bork, and reluctantly accepting of Anthony Kennedy after Bork’s appointment failed.29 The Post-Reagan Downturn Despite their enormous success during the Reagan era, many observers felt that the evangelical movement had peaked, and that it would largely disappear in the postReagan years.30 In many ways, this prediction seemed likely to come true. In an attempt to capitalize on his popularity as an evangelical media figure, Pat Robertson ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988 and was easily defeated. Also in 1988, CWA largely halted its representation of evangelical litigants after the reversal of its prior victory in Mozert. While still occasionally filing amicus curiae briefs in important cases, CWA has largely reverted to its former role as a legislative advocacy group. Finally, in 1989, Jerry Falwell chose to formally disband the Moral Majority. While Falwell cited the need to focus on the growth of Liberty University as his primary reason, many have speculated that the uncompromising rhetoric of the group had created such negative associations in the minds of much of the public that the name was alienating more voters than it was attracting. In short, experts in 1989 had good reason to predict the impending demise of the movement. With Robertson’s poor showing in the presidential race, the lack of major evangelical organizations’ interest in litigation, and the loss of the primary
In the most recent round of nominations, evangelicals have stepped up their efforts again, wholeheartedly endorsing the confirmation of both John Roberts and Samuel Alito, while playing a large role in forcing the withdrawal of Harriet Miers. For example, CWA rated both Roberts and Alito as “A+” nominees, while refusing to endorse Miers due to her ties to a lottery board and lack of conservative record. See “Confusion Abounds in Pro-Family Camps Following Bush's SCOTUS Nomination,” Campaign for Working Families, available at: http://www.cwfpac.com/press_releases.php?id=10040501 (last accessed 8 Jan. 2005). 30 See e.g. WILCOX, supra note 22, 42 (“At the end of the 1980s, the Christian Right seemed defeated. Most of the major organizations that had been active in that decade were disbanded or moribund, and the conservative direct-mail industry [that had previously funded evangelical organizations] was crowded and in disarray.”).
grassroots organization responsible for mobilizing voters in state and local elections, the movement seemed to be failing to achieve its goals in any branch of the government.31 Such failure had long been predicted by political scientists studying the system of interest group pluralism. Traditional political wisdom regards interest groups as fickle creatures that rarely outlast their immediate causes. Too much failure leads to members’ discouragement, while too much success leads to members’ complacency. Both of these result in a lack of grassroots ideological and monetary support that often dooms liberal interest groups. In his famous work, The Logic of Collective Action, Mancur Olson explains tendency of interest groups to fadeout in economic terms, positing that in large groups it is not rational for any single individual to contribute greatly of his or her time and money, as the eventual benefit to of such contribution will be divided over the entire group. Thus, an economically rational person will stop contributing. While large groups can generally support some such individuals as free-riders, beyond a certain number freeriders lead to the collapse of the interest group.32 Initially, this is not a major problem for highly passionate, ideologically-based groups like the evangelicals. Those who mobilized in direct response to Roe were not making rational decisions in the economic sense. That is, they were not weighing the costs of their contributions of time and money against other available alternatives. Their passion was an external factor that caused their mobilization, even against their economic, rational self-interest. Mobilization through ideological passion is not unique to evangelicals, however. Rather, it is a common feature of nearly every interest group
It must be noted, however, that the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas was a major success during this otherwise difficult period. 32 MANCUR OLSON, THE LOGIC OF COLLECTIVE ACTION: PUBLIC GOODS AND THE THEORY OF GROUPS (1971).
mobilization. When the initial passion fades—either through complacency, defeat, or simply the passage of time—interests groups fade with it. PHASE II: STRATEGIC REORGANIZATION AND PARLAYING POLITICAL SUCCESSES INTO CONSTITUTIONAL GAINS Reemergence and Strategic Reorganization The evangelical movement did not simply disappear, however. The theories posited by Olson and other political scientists were theories of liberal interest groups and, as previously stated, despite its operation within a liberal system, the evangelical movement cannot be considered a liberal interest group. Rather, the fundamental features that have enabled the evangelical movement to last through the ups and downs of the political struggle have been its own theological premises which reject liberalism. Olson suggested in The Logic of Collective Action that there were potential solutions to the tendency of interest groups to fade away. Primarily, he focused on the social factors that could be externally brought to bear on members to imbue their decisionmaking with noneconomic factors.33 Examples often given include shaming of those who fail to fully participate, or an enhanced sense of belonging for those who contribute. In the world of interest group liberalism studied by Olson, however, he concluded that these mechanisms seldom worked for very long, and economic self-interest would soon trump these social factors. Thus, interest groups were simply relegated short lifespans. What Olson did not account for, however, was an interest group like the evangelicals, in which these social strategies were infinitely more powerful. In traditional interest group liberalism, the group is seen as the highest authority, and shunning from the group is the greatest sanction available. In evangelical Christianity,
Id. at 60-63.
however, this is simply untrue. Because evangelicals believe in an objective version of God’s truth and accept a God-given responsibility to both ensure that society is molded in accordance with that truth and to spread that truth to others, something akin to Olson’s social strategies are built into evangelical theology, but in much stronger form. Thus, while individuals in the evangelical movement may, like members of any other interest group, be affected by the shaming or acceptance of other members, this is not the ultimate step. Unlike in other groups, evangelicals who fail to support the goals of group have not simply disappointed their fellow members. They have failed to fulfill obligations that they consider owed not to one another, but to God. Thus, in evangelicalism Olson’s shaming technique is not simply the threat of a loss of one’s peer group. It is a threat of ultimate moral sanction.34 This theological “ultimate sanction” has allowed the evangelical movement to continue to outlast the predictions of experts time and again. Just as the existence of local churches assisted early growth by acting as ready-made grassroots mobilizing structures, this element of theological necessity has prevented a significant drop-off of grassroots support when other groups might have reached their natural end. Some predicted that evangelicals would not last beyond the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment. Others felt that the victories of the Reagan era would lead supporters to simply assume victory, and the grassroots passion would simply fade away. Neither prediction has come true, however. While there may have been some such drop-off in support at the margins, the core of the movement remained intact. While liberal interest groups are likely to fade away, accepting defeat (at least temporarily) because another
For a discussion of the impact of religious ideas on interest group behavior, see generally Jayanth K. Krishnan & Kevin R. den Dulk, So Help Me God: A Comparative Study of Religious Interest Group Litigation, 30 GA. J. INT’L & COMP. L. 233, 246-248 (2002).
group has mobilized and better exerted its influence via the political processes, the objectively-based evangelical movement cannot accept such a process-based defeat as legitimate. So long as individual evangelicals continue to believe that they are promoting an objectively right and divinely supported cause and that they have an obligation to do so, the evangelical movement is unlikely to dissolve. Pat Robertson realized this in 1989, and rather than admitting total defeat after losing in his bid for the presidency, he acted quickly to reorganize the movement in a more strategic manner.35 While observers were predicting the end of the evangelical influence and obsolescence of Robertson as a leader, Robertson took the remaining funds from his campaign and founded the Christian Coalition. Unlike the earlier evangelical groups, the Christian Coalition was the result of strategic planning rather than a process of grassroots mobilization and ad hoc responses to unforeseen challenges. Initially, Robertson hired Ralph Reed, a charismatic young evangelical, to lead the Coalition and reclaim the members of Falwell’s disbanded Moral Majority. The Christian Coalition was more than a stand-in for the Moral Majority, however. While Falwell’s group was built around a message, the Christian Coalition was based on a plan of action. Its primary goal was not to express the virtues of traditional family values, but to elect leaders who would act to ensure them. Less than a year later, in 1990, Robertson founded the American Center for Law and Justice (“ACLJ”) to pursue direct evangelical challenges to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the relationship between religion and government required by the Constitution. More than resuming the sorts of ad hoc challenges previously brought by
WILCOX, supra note 22, at 42-45.
CWA, however, the ACLJ attempted to introduce an evangelical conception of the religion clauses that would shift the Court’s jurisprudence in a wholly new direction. The ACLJ’s New Direction Early on, the leaders of the Christian Coalition made it clear that the new evangelical strategy would involve a focused attack on Court’s Lemon test, which it continued to view as embodying a form of liberal, separationist neutrality not required by either the text or history of the Constitution. Both founder Pat Robertson and former executive director Ralph Reed have vocally attacked the test on numerous occasions. In his many writings, Robertson has generally focused his attacks on the “secular purpose” prong of the Lemon test, which he characterizes as “an invitation to mischief” that could lead to “the removal of the religious world view from the political process.”36 Perhaps the most recurring theme in Robertson’s writings on the Lemon test is its “hostility” toward religion. Reed has gone even further, however, quipping that “The ‘lemon test’ is a lemon,” and criticizing the application of the test stating: “So the Lemon test, in practice, turns out not to be a test at all, but a way for the courts (particularly the Supreme Court) to cloak contradictory outcomes in seemingly objective terms.”37 Reed has even gone so far as to propose his own alternative test, which would hold that “No law should be held unconstitutional that does not establish a state religion, prefers no denomination over another, and has an essentially secular purpose.”38 In short, Robertson would do away with the requirement of a secular purpose, and Reed would allow governmental
supra note 16, at 106. Id. at 108. 38 Id.. Clearly there is some tension between the views of the Christian Coalition leaders here, as Reed includes in his test the same secular purpose test that Robertson especially derides. In any event, this reference to the opinions of Reed and Robertson is not intended to highlight the details of their personal views. Rather, it is intended to show in broad strokes the evangelical objections to the Lemon test in the words of two prominent evangelicals.
preference for religion over irreligion so long as the preference was not effectuated by the formal establishment of a national religion. The ACLJ and attorney Jay Sekulow have attempted to turn these views into an overall legal strategy by arguing for the Christian Coalition’s revised version of the Lemon test in a variety of contexts. Essentially, the evangelical argument is that neither the text nor the history of the Constitution supports a reading of the Establishment Clause that would require either separation or “disentanglement” between religion and irreligion. When the government does require such separation, it impermissibly establishes a regime of secular humanism or ideological liberalism that disadvantages religion, and thus violates its own test. Furthermore, because expression of God’s truth is a theological requirement of evangelicalism, the application of this secular regime to exclude or quiet evangelicals in any way is a violation of their rights of both free expression and free exercise.39 Thus, the evangelical argument attacks the idea that mandatory separation is appropriate, both on the grounds that it is non-neutral and that it is contrary to a proper understanding of history. A proper understanding, according to evangelicals, would not only allow the government to be involved with religion, but would allow it to favor a particular religion.40
It must be noted that on the basis of this viewpoint, evangelicals are relatively unconcerned with drawing a distinction between Establishment Clause cases and Free Exercise cases. To them, any act that prevents the free exercise of evangelical proselytizing and attempting to influence of society is also a governmental establishment of something else, whether referred to as a “religion” of secular humanism or an ideology of liberalism, that impermissibly burdens their religion. From the evangelical perspective, there is relatively little “play in the joints” between the clauses. 40 It is difficult to determine exactly what conception of religion evangelicals would argue that the government could favor. At the farthest extreme, they might argue that the government may favor Christianity due to its prominence in American history. Evangelical groups—perhaps for strategic and political reasons—seldom make this argument, however. More often they argue that the government may favor Judeo-Christian religions or the “Abrahamic faiths.” Whether, given sufficient political power, Evangelicals would abandon this strategic alliance with Jews (and sometimes Muslims) is highly debatable.
Evangelical Success: Changing the Concept of Neutrality toward Religion The evangelical movement has not met its ultimate goal of achieving a reading of the Constitution that would allow government to directly favor purely religious actions.41 It has, however, made substantial progress toward eliminating the notion that separation, or complete disentanglement, of government and religion is neutral treatment that is required, or even tolerated, by the Constitution. The clearest examples of this progress can be seen in the equal access cases—Mergens,42 Lamb’s Chapel,43 and Good News Club44—and in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris,45 the Cleveland vouchers case. In all of these cases, the Court uses a definition of neutrality that differs markedly from the separationism of Everson and only pays lip-service to the disentanglement requirement of the Lemon test. In the equal access cases, evangelicals attempted to directly parlay one of their major political and legislative successes of the 1980s—the passage of the Equal Access Act—into a legal success by using the same theme to bolster its case for a reinterpretation of the Establishment Clause. Here, evangelical groups challenged public schools’ policies of disallowing religion-based club meetings on their premises after school hours. In Mergens, high school student Bridget Mergens asked her principal for permission to form a voluntary Christian club that would meet after school on school premises “to permit the students to read and discuss the Bible, to have fellowship, and to pray
The closest the Court has come to approving direct government funding of religion was in the case of Mitchell v. Helms, 530 U.S. 1296 (2000), in which the government attempted to provide direct aid in the form of computers and school supplies to private, religious schools in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. Ultimately, this scheme was approved by only four Justices, however. 42 Board of Educ. of Westside Cmty. Schools v. Mergens by and through Mergens , 496 U.S. 226 (1990). 43 Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School Dist., 508 U.S. 384 (1993). 44 Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98 (2001). 45 536 U.S. 639 (2002).
together.”46 Her request was denied by the principal, the superintendent, and the board of education.47 Likewise, in both Lamb’s Chapel and Good News Club, Christian organizations wanted to use public school space for religious meetings and were denied. At issue in these cases was the application of a New York law allowing schools to limit the permissible uses of their property. While the law gave the schools discretion to either allow or disallow religious meetings, both schools at issue in the cases chose to disallow such meetings.48 In the equal access cases the Court claimed to be applying Lemon, but in the end decided that to exclude only religion-based groups from meeting in a public building was not neutrality, but viewpoint discrimination.49 The Court still claims to require neutrality, but it is not neutrality by avoidance or non-interference. It is a neutrality of equal treatment. This shift in the meaning of neutrality is perhaps the evangelical movement’s greatest success to date. Due to this shift, religious groups can no longer be denied government benefits generally available to other viewpoint-based groups. If a public property opens its doors to groups espousing other viewpoints, it must allow religious groups on the same terms. It is not only public space that is open to religious groups now, however. Under certain circumstances, public funds may also be given to religious institutions. In Zelman, Cleveland, Ohio had set up a system in which tuition vouchers were made available to resident students. These vouchers could be redeemed at a variety of educational institutions, including many religious institutions.50 In a decision that marked
Mergens, 496 U.S. at 232. Id. at 232-233. 48 Lamb’s Chapel, 508 U.S. at 386; Good News Club, 533 U.S. at 102. 49 Lamb’s Chapel, 508 U.S. at 396; Good News Club, 533 U.S. at 113. 50 Zelman, 536 U.S. at 644-647.
a major shift in the relationship between government and religion, the Court held that the voucher program was constitutional, as the intervening private choice of parents whether to use their vouchers for religious schools broke the link between the government’s provision of funds and the religious school’s receipt of them.51 Thus, while the Court did not say that Cleveland could intentionally funnel money to religious schools, it did allow the city to knowingly do just that because the intervening parental choice in funding recipient made the government’s funding sufficiently indirect to pass constitutional muster. While these cases do not go far enough to meet the evangelical goal of allowing government to directly favor religion, they do go near the edge. Now, rather than requiring separation of government from religion, the Constitution is interpreted to require only equal treatment. Thus, while the government cannot favor religion over other groups, it can—and often must--include religious groups among groups to be favored. If a school or library chooses to encourage the creation of noncurricular groups in general by providing meeting space after school hours, it must provide the same form of encouragement to religious groups as to chess teams or book clubs. If a school board chooses to create a district-wide voucher program in which students or parents may decide which school they will patronize, the school board arguably must allow religious schools to participate, and may provide funding so long as parents ultimately choose the recipient. This is clearly a far cry from the strict “wall of separation” that confronted evangelicals when they first mobilized in the 1970s. Since that time evangelicals have broken down that wall and pushed forward to within a single vote of an interpretation of
Id. at 652 (… where a government aid program is neutral with respect to religion, and provides assistance directly to a broad class of citizens who, in turn, direct government aid to religious schools wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice, the program is not readily subject to challenge under the Establishment Clause.”).
the Constitution that would allow direct governmental funding of religious activity.52 Even without the all-important fifth vote in favor of direct funding, this progression from a politically disenfranchised interest to one that has secured the right to compete for government funding—albeit indirect—has been an enormous victory for the evangelical movement. Evangelical Success: A Religious View of History The second of the evangelicals’ main arguments-- that certain religions may be favored by government because of their fundamental connection with American history —has been ongoing, but has failed to reach the same level of success as their neutrality argument. In 1947, the entire Court in Everson accepted that the historical context of the Constitution was characterized by the Jeffersonian “wall of separation.”53 This conception was reaffirmed in Lemon, when the Court added a separationist element as the third prong of the test that would come to dominate Establishment Clause jurisprudence. By 1985, however, separationism was no longer unanimously supported by the Court. Justice Rehnquist, dissenting alone in Wallace v. Jaffree,54 laid out an argument against the Lemon test and in favor of an alternative reading of Constitutional history that had been ignored since the Court’s invocation of Jefferson’s metaphorical “wall of separation” in Reynolds55 and acceptance of Justice Black’s recitation of a particular version of America’s religious history in Everson.56 Rehnquist suggested that the separationist reading of the Establishment clause and the Lemon test that was constructed from this reading were based upon a “mistaken understanding of constitutional history”
See Mitchell v. Helms, supra note 42. Everson v. Bd. of Educ. of Ewing Township, 330 U.S. 1 (1947). 54 472 U.S. 38 (1985). 55 Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145, 164 (1878). 56 Everson, 330 U.S. at 8-15 (focusing on Virginia history).
resting upon nothing but a “misleading metaphor.”57 Furthermore, Rehnquist asserted that “[Madison] did not see [the First Amendment] as requiring neutrality by the government between religion and irreligion.”58 Perhaps more important to evangelicals than any of the legal arguments made in the dissent was Justice Rehnquist’s acceptance of an alternative history in which religion was favored and influential. To evangelicals, Rehnquist’s alternative history was a not only a tacit acknowledgment of their “sacred time,” but also an assertion that for Constitutional purposes, this “sacred time” history was more legitimate than the separationist history accepted in Everson and tacitly incorporated into the Lemon decision. Thus, while perhaps disappointed that they did not win the particular case at issue, the Jaffree dissent gave evangelicals something far more valuable. For the first time, a Justice on the Supreme Court had accepted a theory of the Establishment Clause rooted in an religion-favoring history, compatible with evangelical restorationist ideology, and potentially supportive of a viewpoint that used the text of the Bible rather than liberal competition to define the good society. This dissent encouraged evangelicals to think not just that the concept of neutrality should be changed so that religion could be treated as equal to other viewpoints, but that there was a legitimate basis for arguing that their religion could be somehow favored due to its historical impact on the country and the Constitution. This argument regarding the special role of religion, especially Christianity, to the history and culture of the United States is most often seen in cases involving governmental displays of religious symbols.59 Two of the most recent, and perhaps most
Id. at 92 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting). Id. at 98 (Rehnquist, J., dissenting). 59 See, e.g., Separation of Church and State Comm. v. City of Eugene of Lane Cty., Oregon , 93 F.3d 617 (9th Cir. 1996) (involving a 51-foot cross erected in a city-owned park); Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668
interesting, cases in this arena from an evangelical perspective are McCreary County, Ky. v. ACLU of Kentucky60 and Van Orden v. Perry.61 In McCreary, several counties in Kentucky had posted large copies of the Ten Commandments in their local courthouses.62 While the county explicitly argued that the Lemon test should not be used in cases of such displays,63 the Court did apply Lemon, and the displays were found to be unconstitutionally motivated by a religious purpose.64 Importantly, however, three Justices dissented, concluding that the Constitution allows the government to favor religious practice.65 Here, citing Rehnquist’s dissent in Jaffree, Justice Scalia essentially sets forth the view of the Constitution held by evangelicals. He, along with Justices Thomas and Rehnquist, accepts a view of American history in which religion played a vital role, and he rejects the separationist history of Everson while insulting both the theory and application of the Lemon test.66 In Van Orden v. Perry, decided the same day as McCreary, critics of the Lemon test finally prevailed, as the Court explicitly disavowed that test’s usefulness in determining whether the inclusion of a large stone monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments and located on the grounds of the Texas State Capital was constitutional. Instead, the Court turned to a fact-intensive examination of “the nature of the monument and . . . our Nation’s history.”67 In performing this examination of the facts, Justice Rehnquist emphasized the historical relationship between government and religion by
(1984) (involving a crèche displayed on the Ellipse adjacent to the White House); County of Allegheny v. ACLU Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, 492 U.S. 573 (1989). 60 125 S. Ct. 2722 (2005). 61 125 S. Ct. 2854 (2005). 62 McCreary, 125 S. Ct. at 2728. 63 Id. at 2734. 64 Id. at 2745. 65 Id. at 2748 (Scalia, J., dissenting). 66 Id. at 2749-51 (Scalia, J., dissenting). 67 Van Orden, 125 S. Ct. at 2861.
listing numerous examples of generally accepted government displays of religious symbols.68 Then turning to the law, Rehnquist limited past precedent finding such displays unconstitutional to the specific context of public schools.69 Thus, the Court was free to hold that on the specific facts presented in this case, the combination of the civic nature of the overall display, the legal character of Ten Commandments, and the placement of the monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capital give it a “dual significance, partaking of both religion and government, that cannot be said to violate the Establishment Clause.”70 In the final analysis, while evangelicals have made some headway with their historical argument, the results are still somewhat unclear. While a broad reading of Van Orden might suggest that Lemon is dead and that any a religious display connected with a governmental office would have a permissible “dual significance,” it is unlikely that such a reading is justified. Rather, the Court seems to suggest that the inquiry in such cases is primarily factual, such that legal constructions like the Lemon test are not dispositive.71 Thus, while the recognition of the concept of “dual significance” and the setting aside of the much-maligned Lemon test are positive developments from the evangelical perspective, there is no major doctrinal victory here. There is merely a shift to an
Id. at 2862-2863. Id. at 2863-2864 (limiting Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980), to the context of public schools even in the absence of religious purpose.) It must be noted that despite their general success as an interest group, the evangelical movement has had virtually no success in its attempts to overcome strict separationism in the public schools. Despite the Court’s general willingness to allow a greater relationship between religion and government in many contexts, the “particular concerns that arise in the context of public elementary and secondary schools” have still presented a rather insurmountable barrier. Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, 584-585 (1987). See, e.g., Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000) (student led, student initiated prayer before football games is impermissibly coercive); Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992) (school’s provision of “nonsectarian” prayer by a local clergyman unconstitutional); Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985) (moment of silence unconstitutional if purpose is to return voluntary prayer to schools). 70 Van Orden, 125 S. Ct. at 2856-2857. 71 See, e.g., Id. at 2867-2868 (Thomas, J. concurring); Id. at 2869 (Breyer, J. concurring in the judgment) (“I see no test-related substitute for the exercise of legal judgment.)
unpredictable, fact-specific mode of inquiry which may or may not lead to favorable results. CONCLUSION Evangelical Achievements As noted above, evangelicals have made much headway recently in their attempt to change the conception of the constitutional relationship between religion and government. Sparked by Rehnquist’s Jaffree dissent, they have pursued two separate arguments: that separationism is not neutrality, and that certain religions may be favored by the government due to their historical role in this country. Evangelicals have been extremely successful in altering the long-held perception that strict separation is required to meet the demands of the Constitution. Now, viewpoint neutrality among competing interest groups—including religious ones—is the norm. Additionally, evangelicals have made some progress integrating a religious reading of history into the constitution such that in many cases Christian-themed governmental displays are acceptable. While the lines drawn by the Court in this arena are somewhat unclear, it is quite clear that there is no absolute barrier to the government’s display of religious themes. Again, this is a success for evangelicals as it represents a lowering of the metaphorical “wall of separation” that confronted them at their outset. Thirty-five years ago, as experts were forecasting the end of liberalism, no one could have predicted that an unorganized, politically disinterested, and constitutionally separated collection of religious communities would rise to the level of prominence exhibited by the evangelical movement over the past two decades. Motivated by a sincere, shared belief that national leaders in all branches of government were leading the
country in a direction that conflicted with God’s word, evangelicals utilized their churches to mobilize politically to elect leaders that would be accountable to evangelical concerns. This strategy bore fruit quickly in the elected branches, and eventually, as a result of the movement’s ability to remain strong and relevant over time, it impacted the composition of the Court as well. After a period of strategic reorganization, the evangelical movement came to focus its efforts not only on political action, but also on legal challenges to the restrictive interpretations of the First Amendment that they felt barred them from receiving many of the governmental benefits given to other groups. Led by the ACLJ, evangelicals have strategically attempted to eliminate the limitations on the relationship between religion and government. As a result, the relationship between religion and government is quite different today than it was when they first mobilized in the 1970s. The wall of separation has been relegated to a rhetorical device, as the Court has approved governmental displays of religious images, prayer groups meet in public school facilities, and parents send public funds to parochial schools for religious education. The Future: Threats of Theocracy or an Ebbing Influence? Looking at the scope and speed of their mobilization and legal victories, there can be little doubt that evangelical Christians have been extremely successful in achieving their goals. In a political system largely designed to prevent a single group from dominating the agenda for an extended period of time, evangelicals have been important agenda-setters politically and legally for over twenty years. Given this surprising ability to wield continuous social, political, and legal influence, it is important to query just where the evangelical movement is headed.
Because liberalism and evangelicalism are somewhat incompatible, some observers fear that the evangelical movement, given the opportunity, would prefer to replace the current ideological system of individual choice-based liberalism with a Biblebased theocracy. Whether evangelicals will actually attempt to enact such theocracy is debatable, as most evangelicals share a theological belief in the importance of free choice of beliefs, but much more important than uncovering the subjective desires of such a diverse movement, however, is the realization that such a theocratic result is unlikely to occur. Despite their many successes, the evangelical movement has done very little to truly challenge political liberalism. In fact, while evangelicals’ objectively based beliefs conflict with the process-based methodology of liberalism, the evangelicals’ greatest victory has also been a victory for political liberalism. That is, the evangelicals’ overwhelming success in overcoming and reversing the interpretation of the Establishment Clause as requiring a “wall of separation” that strictly prevents religious individuals and organizations from participating fully in the political process along with all other concerned citizens and their representatives is as much a victory for liberalism as for evangelicals. Strict separationism is a fundamentally illiberal interpretation of the Constitution because it prevents a single, identified group from ever participating fully and fairly in the decisionmaking process. The assignment of such an initial, unchanging disadvantage conflicts with fundamental liberal requirements of equal opportunity for participation. Thus, the evangelical successes in this arena can somewhat paradoxically be viewed both as successes for an illiberal group in gaining the ability to influence the political process, and as a movement toward greater liberalism via a correction of prior,
illiberal precedent. In short, liberalism itself seems not to be threatened by the primary success of evangelicals in changing the Court’s view of separation and neutrality. Just as time has disproven the “end of liberalism” claims of the 1970s theorists like Lowi and Rifkin, it seems likely that liberalism will survive the evangelical intervention into law and politics as well. Evangelicals have made two core arguments: that separationism is not neutrality, and that American and Constitutional history justify certain preferences for Christianity or Judeo-Christian monotheism. This first argument has largely been successful, and the Court has redefined the definition of neutrality to allow much greater interaction between religion and government. As stated above, however, this success comports with a general trend toward liberalism, and should not be viewed as a move toward evangelical theocracy. The result is not a political advantage to evangelicals, but a correction of a prior disadvantage. The second evangelical argument—asserting that some version of Christianity or monotheism deserves special consideration on the basis of history—has yielded only mixed results. While there have been numerous cases involving religious displays and expressions, the resulting law has been unpredictable and fact specific. Unlike the overwhelming victories in the equal access cases dealing with neutrality, the evangelicals’ historical argument has meandered along a win-some, lose-some path creating bold headlines, but little clear law. Even those most fearful of evangelical theocracy would be hard pressed to paint the picture in this arena of a religious juggernaut piling up legal victories and remaking society based on a Christian view of heritage and history. While there are almost certainly flaws in a system that asks judges
to determine the constitutionality of crèches by evaluating their proximity to menorahs and snowmen, these flaws are not the result of evangelical domination. Overall, there seems to be little reason to predict the devolution of the liberal state into theocracy. While the evangelical interest group is decidedly illiberal, and its illiberal objectivism gives it certain advantages in persevering through the challenges of entropy and counter-mobilization that plague many interest groups, this advantage is insufficient to preordain victory. When arguing alongside the general trend toward liberalism—as with their neutrality argument--the evangelicals have won. When not aided by this general tide—as with their historical argument—their results over time have been inconsistent, as one would expect of an interest group in a cyclical political system. Viewing the relative successes and failures of the evangelical Christian movement through this lens seems to provide the greatest ability to make predictions regarding the future of the movement and its impacts on the law. Because their overwhelming successes in converting separationist neutrality into equal access-oriented viewpointneutrality have brought with them a greater degree of liberalism that comports with the individual choice-based conception of American liberalism as a whole, that success is likely withstand the test of time. This, however, is the only change brought about by the evangelical movement that has also involved a corollary advantage for the entire liberal system. The other arguments presented by evangelicals in favor of their views of history and social ideals will be required to battle for recognition in the competition among the countless viewpoints and ideologies presented by numerous groups. The objectivism that supports group cohesion by allowing for the threat of ultimate moral sanction undoubtedly provides some natural advantage to this group. In
all likelihood, despite whatever political setbacks it may suffer, the evangelical Christian interest group will not simply fade away. However, this advantage in constancy does not guarantee victory. Thus, in the end, it seems that the greatest victory for evangelicals may have already occurred when they changed the concept of neutrality to gain entry to the competitive process. Now, because of its illiberal basis—along with its accrued economic, political, and strategic capital—the evangelical interest group will likely become a perennial contender for political success in the liberal fight for political influence. It will not, however, overthrow the liberal system. While this group does hold certain advantages, it is still merely one group competing among many, and its successes will continue to be tempered by the give and take of interest group competition.
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