Law and Religion in Contemporary US
Bill Long 10/8/06
The Complexities of the 1970s
I. Review of 10/1--The Confusion in the American Mainline Protestant Church in the 1960s
II. Things Get More Complex--The US Supreme Court decides Roe v. Wade, January 22, 1973.
A. The Statement/Defense of the Doctrine of Privacy to be Found in the US Constitution.
B. Division of Pregnancy into three Trimesters--First, no State Regulation; Second, possible State Regulation; Third, State Regulation and possible Prohibition.
III. Reaction to Roe v. Wade
A. Jerry Falwell and the Founding of the Moral Majority--Though Not Officially Founded until 1979, its Roots go to the Reaction against Roe v. Wade.
B. The "Theory" of the Moral Majority
1. Fundamentalist Political Activity now as a Good
2. Political Action and Stridently Vocal Approach especially to Abortion in the 1970s/1980s.
3. Philosophy behind the MM--America is in Decline and Needs a Rebirth.
IV. Religion and the Election of 1976--Jimmy Carter and the Popularization of Evangelicalism
V. The OTHER Hot Legal Issue Begins to Surface--the Nature and Definition of Affirmative Action
Focus on the Bakke case from 1978.
VI. Deeper Confusion--Now with Four Models of the Church
1. Church as The Gathering of Good Americans
2. Church Membership and the Experience of Grace
3. Church as a Social Justice Network
4. Church as a Arm of Conservative Political Causes--Especially the "Moral" Issues.
Summary of Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113 (1973), prepared by the Clerk's office of the US Supreme Court:
"3. State criminal abortion laws, like those involved here, that except from criminality only a life-saving procedure on the mother's behalf without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other interests involved violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman's qualified right to terminate her pregnancy. Though the State cannot override that right, it has legitimate interests in protecting both the pregnant woman's health and the potentiality of human life, each of which interests grows and reaches a "compelling" point at various stages of the woman's approach to term.
(a) For the stage prior to approximately the end of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman's attending physician.
(b) For the stage subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.
(c) For the stage subsequent to viability the State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother."
From the Moral Majority Website, describing its own history:
Moral Majority Timeline
1973 - Thomas Road Baptist Church Founder and Pastor Jerry Falwell begins a series of meetings and conversations with theologian Francis Schaeffer (“How Should We Then Live?”). Dr. Schaeffer routinely encourages Falwell to defy traditional evangelical reasoning by taking on a policy of confronting the culture with the Gospel. In the months to come, Falwell begins to meet with conservative leaders, including Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), to formulate how Christians can begin to influence the culture, specifically in terms of the burgeoning environment of legalized abortion (initiated with the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade).
1979 - With the country in a seeming moral downfall, in April, Falwell joins with Drs. Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Dr. Charles Stanley and Dr. D. James Kennedy to launch an organization with a mission of organizing evangelical leaders who will boldly engage the culture. The Moral Majority kicks off with a pro-life, pro-traditional family, pro-national defense and pro-Israel platform.
On Jimmy Carter and the 1976 campaign for President. From a recent interview and comment on it on BustedHalo.com.
"It seemed to be a simple enough question requiring an even simpler answer. While running for President in 1976, Jimmy Carter responded to a political supporter who—in front of some reporters—asked if he was a born again Christian. “I truthfully answered ‘Yes,’ assuming all devout Christians were born again, of the Holy Spirit” Carter writes in his new book, Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis. “This was the first time that this religious characterization had been injected into the political arena, and there was an immediate furor, with media allegations that I claimed to be receiving messages directly from heaven…making clear to me that injecting religion into politics was a mistake.”
Evangelical religion was now on the "front burner" of American culture. It is interesting that it entered the culture through a Democratic Presidential candidate, but the "label" has been used primarily by Republican people.
To show how Jimmy Carter, a self-described Evangelical, wants to distance himself from Fundamentalists--of the Moral Majority stripe, though he doesn't use that term--here is an excerpt from his interview on BlogSpot.com.
"Mr. President, you talk about the rise in fundamentalism in this country, how that rise has taken over the political landscape of our country. Could you share your reasons about why that causes you concern?"
"JC (not Jesus Christ!): Well, fundamentalism in politics is a very serious affliction on our country because it causes serious divides, animosity, even hatred between people who are supposed to be governing our country. A fundamentalist by my definition which I include in the book believes that they are absolutely aligned with God and anyone who disagrees with them is inherently wrong and therefore inferior. It’s against their principles—ever—to admit that they’ve ever made a mistake or to compromise with anyone is a violation of their principles. So there is an element of domination, of exclusion of others and of rigidity that now is permeating Washington and has caused us to even separate our own country from the alliances and the cooperation that existed after 9-11 when the whole world was with us as partners in fighting against terrorism. So these are the kind of things that shift from religion into politics but I think in the last five years or so, there’s been a greater breakdown in the separation of church and state then we’ve ever seen in the history of our country."
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long