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Moral Majority

Jerry Falwell, whose founding of the Moral Majority was a key step in the formation of the New Christian Right

The Moral Majority was a prominent American political organization associated with the Christian right and Republican Party. It was founded in 1979 by Baptist minister Jerry Falwell and associates, and dissolved in the late 1980s. It played a key role in the mobilization of conservative Christians as a political force and particularly in Republican presidential victories throughout the 1980s.

Contents

  • History 1
    • Before establishment 1.1
    • Establishment and organizational activity 1.2
    • Dissolution 1.3
  • Organizational goals and composition 2
  • Organizational structure 3
  • Political involvement 4
    • Presidential elections 4.1
      • 1980 4.1.1
      • 1984 4.1.2
      • 1988 4.1.3
  • Challenges to the Moral Majority 5
  • Moral Majority Coalition 6
  • Notable people within the movement 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

History

Before establishment

The origins of the Moral Majority can be traced to 1976, when Baptist minister Jerry Falwell embarked on a series of “I Love America” rallies across the country to raise awareness of social issues important to him.[1] These rallies were an extension of Falwell’s decision to go against the traditional Baptist principle of separating religion and politics, a change of heart Falwell says he had when he perceived what he described as the decay of the nation’s morality.[2] Through hosting these rallies, Falwell was able to gauge national support for a formal organization and also raise his profile as a leader. Having already been a part of a well-established network of ministers and ministries, within a few years Falwell was favorably positioned to launch the Moral Majority.

The Moral Majority was formally initiated as a result of a struggle for control of an American conservative Christian advocacy group known as Christian Voice during 1978. Robert Grant, Christian Voice's acting President, said in a news conference that the Religious Right was a "sham... controlled by three Catholics and a Jew." Following this, Paul Weyrich, Terry Dolan, Richard Viguerie (the Catholics) and Howard Phillips (the Jew) left Christian Voice.

During a 1979 meeting, they urged televangelist Jerry Falwell to found Moral Majority (a phrase coined by Weyrich[3]). This was the period when the New Christian Right arose.[4][5]

Establishment and organizational activity

Falwell and Weyrich founded the Moral Majority in June 1979.[6] The Moral Majority was predominately a Southern-oriented organization of the Christian Right, although its state chapters and political activity extended beyond the South.[1] The number of state chapters grew quickly, with organizations in eighteen states by 1980.[7][8] The variety of resources available to the Moral Majority at its founding facilitated this rapid expansion, and included Falwell's mailing list from his program, "Old Time Gospel Hour". In addition, the Moral Majority took control of the "Old Time Gospel Hour's" publication, Journal Champion, which had been distributed to the show's donors.[9] Through the 1980s, Falwell was the organization's best known spokesperson. By 1982, Moral Majority surpassed Christian Voice in size and influence.

The Moral Majority's headquarters were in Baptist Bible Fellowship. Falwell insisted the Moral Majority leadership also include Catholics and Jews, although not all members of the leadership approved of this inclusion.[10]

The Moral Majority was an organization made up of conservative Christian Washington State's was the largest. The Moral Majority was incorporated into the Liberty Federation in 1985, remaining a distinct entity but falling under the Liberty Federation's larger jurisdiction. By 1987, Falwell retired as the formal head of the Moral Majority, although he maintained an active and visible role within the organization.

Dissolution

By the end of

  • Moral Majority Coalition

External links

  1. ^ a b Liebman, Robert and Robert Wuthnow (1983) The New Christian Right, p. 58. New York: Aldine Publishing Company. ISBN 0-202-30307-1
  2. ^ a b Allitt, Patrick (2003). Religion in America Since 1945: A History, p. 152. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12154-7
  3. ^ Lernoux, Penny. "A Reverence for Fundamentalism," The Nation, vol. 248, Issue #0015, 17 April 1989
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Liebman, Robert and Robert Wuthnow (1983) The New Christian Right, pp. 31–32. New York: Aldine Publishing Company. ISBN 0-202-30307-1
  8. ^
  9. ^ Liebman, Robert and Robert Wuthnow (1983) The New Christian Right, p. 61. New York: Aldine Publishing Company. ISBN 0-202-30307-1
  10. ^ a b Allitt, Patrick (2003). Religion in America Since 1945: A History, p. 153. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12154-7
  11. ^ Wilcox, Clyde (1996). Onward Christian Soldiers?, p. 96. Boulder: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-2696-6
  12. ^ Wilcox, Clyde (1996). Onward Christian Soldiers?, p. 38. Boulder: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-2696-6
  13. ^ Wilcox, Clyde (1992). God's Warriors, p. 14. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-4263-8
  14. ^ Allitt, Patrick (2003). Religion in America Since 1945: A History, p. 198. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12154-7
  15. ^ Robert Wuthnow (1988). The Restructuring of American Religion, p. 205. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-07759-2
  16. ^ Liebman, Robert and Robert Wuthnow (1983) The New Christian Right, pp. 55-57. New York: Aldine Publishing Company. ISBN 0-202-30307-1
  17. ^
  18. ^ Falwell: An Autobiography, The Inside Story, Liberty House Publishers, Lynchburg, 1997 Pg. 395
  19. ^ Liebman, Robert and Robert Wuthnow (1983) The New Christian Right, p. 54. New York: Aldine Publishing Company. ISBN 0-202-30307-1
  20. ^ Liebman, Robert and Robert Wuthnow (1983) The New Christian Right, p. 70. New York: Aldine Publishing Company. ISBN 0-202-30307-1
  21. ^ Liebman, Robert and Robert Wuthnow (1983) The New Christian Right, p. 71. New York: Aldine Publishing Company. ISBN 0-202-30307-1
  22. ^ Wilcox, Clyde (1996). Onward Christian Soldiers?, p. 86. Boulder: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-2696-6
  23. ^ Liebman, Robert and Robert Wuthnow (1983) The New Christian Right, p. 34. New York: Aldine Publishing Company. ISBN 0-202-30307-1
  24. ^ Rozell, Mark J. and Clyde Wilcox (2003). “Virginia: Birthplace of the Christian Right,” The Christian Right in American Politics, ed. John C. Green, et al., p. 43. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. ISBN 0-87840-393-0
  25. ^ Liebman, Robert and Robert Wuthnow (1983) The New Christian Right, p. 37. New York: Aldine Publishing Company. ISBN 0-202-30307-1
  26. ^ Liebman, Robert and Robert Wuthnow (1983) The New Christian Right, p. 36. New York: Aldine Publishing Company. ISBN 0-202-30307-1
  27. ^
  28. ^ Wilcox, Clyde (1992). God's Warriors, p. 117. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-4263-8
  29. ^ Wilcox, Clyde (1992). God's Warriors, p. 96. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-4263-8
  30. ^ Wilcox, Clyde (1992). God's Warriors, pp. 115-117. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-4263-8
  31. ^ Liebman, Robert and Robert Wuthnow (1983) The New Christian Right, p. 60. New York: Aldine Publishing Company. ISBN 0-202-30307-1
  32. ^ Wald, Kenneth (1997). Religion and Politics in the United States, p. 137. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press. ISBN 1-56802-157-7
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ Wilcox, Clyde (1992). God's Warriors, p. xv. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-4263-8
  36. ^ Utter, G., True, J.: Conservative Christians and Political Participation – A Reference Handbook.. ABC Clio, Santa Barbara, California, 2004. p. 68. ISBN 1-85109-513-6
  37. ^ Vinson, C. Danielle and James L. Guth (2003). “Advance and Retreat in the Palmetto State: Assessing the Christian Right in South Carolina,” The Christian Right in American Politics, ed. John C. Green, et al., p. 23. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. ISBN 0-87840-393-0
  38. ^ Williams, Peter W. (1988). America’s Religions, p. 482. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-252-02663-2
  39. ^ Moral Majority Timeline
  40. ^ "Moral Majority founder Falwell dies", MSNBC, 15 May 2007

References

See also

Notable people within the movement

In November 2004, Falwell revived the Moral Majority name for a new organization, the Moral Majority Coalition. The intent of the organization is to continue the "evangelical revolution" to help conservative politicians get elected. Referring to the Coalition as a "21st century resurrection of the Moral Majority," Falwell, a father of the modern "religious right" political movement, committed to leading the organization for four years.[39] He died on May 15, 2007.[40]

Moral Majority Coalition

[38] During its existence the Moral Majority experienced friction with other evangelical leaders and organizations as well as liberal leaders and organizations. For example,

By the late 1980s the views of the Moral Majority were challenged widely and the organization started to crumble. With its waning support, critics started to call the organization "neither moral nor a majority". By 1988 there were serious cash flow problems and Falwell dismantled the organization in 1989.[36]

Challenges to the Moral Majority

1988 was the last presidential election for which the Moral Majority was an active organization. With Reagan having reached his two-term limit, the Republican nomination was open to a variety of primary contenders. The evangelical minister and televangelist Rev. Pat Robertson sought the Republican nomination and would have been, at first glance, a natural choice for the Moral Majority's support. Although Robertson's political platforms were extremely similar to the ones the Moral Majority supported, Falwell gave his organization's endorsement to contender fundamentalist tradition was at odds with Robertson's charismatic tradition.[35]

1988

The Moral Majority maintained their support for Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign and, alongside other Christian Right organizations, influenced the Republican platform for the election, shaping the party's campaign stances on school prayer and abortion.[33] The nation's political climate, however, had changed since Reagan's first campaign. Although Reagan won reelection, the role of the Moral Majority in the victory had changed since 1980. A study of voters in the 1984 election showed that more anti-Moral Majority voters voted for Walter Mondale than pro-Moral Majority voters voted for Reagan, suggesting the Moral Majority may have actually had a negative effect on Reagan's campaign.[34]

1984

Reagan sought the input from the Moral Majority leadership during his campaign and appointed the Rev. Robert Billings, the Moral Majority's first executive director, to be a religious advisor to the campaign.[31] Later, Reagan appointed Billings to a position the Department of Education. This appointment was particularly significant for the Moral Majority, which had lobbied on education policy issues, especially those regarding private schools.[32]

[30] According to [26] The Moral Majority was a relatively early supporter of Reagan, with Falwell announcing the organization's endorsement of Reagan before the Republican convention.

1980

The 1976 election of Jimmy Carter as President of the United States marked a milestone for evangelical Christians. For the first time, a self-professed evangelical Christian had been elected to the nation’s highest office, bringing the national awareness of evangelical Christianity to a new level. Despite commonality in religious identification, however, evangelical Christians in general and eventually the newly formed Moral Majority in particular would come to be disappointed with Carter’s policies. Carter did not share the Moral Majority’s political imperative to unify personal and political positions and would instead support the positions of his own party, the Democratic Party. In particular, Carter did not actively oppose his party’s general pro-choice platform on abortion, nor did Carter work to bridge the church-state divide, both factors in the Moral Majority’s decision to support Ronald Reagan’s candidacy in 1980.[2]

Presidential elections

Nationally, the Moral Majority encouraged electoral participation among its members and used registration drives to register church-goers to vote, with the logic that Moral Majority members would be likely to vote for Moral Majority-endorsed candidates, thus strengthening the organization’s electoral efficacy and strengthening its endorsements. Leaders within the Moral Majority asked ministers give their congregants political direction, reminding congregants when to vote, who to vote for, and why the Moral Majority held particular positions on issues.[25] The Moral Majority, however, is probably best known for its involvement in presidential elections, specifically those of Ronald Reagan.

[24] Before long, the Moral Majority became heavily invested in presidential elections and national politics; although at the state level branches of the Moral Majority continued to pursue specific issues at lower levels of government. As far as elections, state Moral Majority chapters tended to deliberately focus their efforts towards particular candidates. For example, state chapters participated in campaigns to oust liberal members of Congress during the 1980 election. Also, in 1981, the Moral Majority mobilized delegates to the Virginia Republican state nominating convention in order to support Guy Farley, an evangelical candidate for lieutenant governor.[23].school prayer’ proposed legislation on Jesse Helms The Moral Majority’s initial political actions were aimed at supporting [22] The Moral Majority engaged in political activity in a variety of ways, including national media campaigns and

Political involvement

The state chapters of the Moral Majority were financially independent from the national organization and relied on local resources to conduct their activities. Consequently, the national organization encouraged local chapters to cooperate with their policies but had little control over local chapters’ activities.[20] Political activity of the Moral Majority divided accordingly, with the national Moral Majority office usually focused on addressing multiple issues through Congress while local branches tended to work on a single issue within their respective states.[21]

  • Moral Majority Inc. – the organization’s lobbying division, which addressed issues on local, state, and national levels.
  • Moral Majority Foundation – the organization’s educational component, through which the Moral Majority educated ministers and lay people on political issues and conducted voter registration drives.
  • Moral Majority Legal Defense Fund – the organization’s legal instrument, used primarily to challenge the American Civil Liberties Union and secular humanist issues in court.
  • Moral Majority Political Action Committee – the organization’s mechanism for supporting the candidacy of people whose political platforms reflected Moral Majority values.

The Moral Majority comprised four distinct organizations:[19]

Organizational structure

The Moral Majority had adherents in the two major United States political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. They exercised far more influence within the former.

Some issues for which the Moral Majority campaigned included:[17]

  • The Moral Majority was founded with strong financial backing already in place.
  • Its leaders frequently communicated with its constituents, enabling consistent messages to resonate throughout all levels of hierarchy.
  • Its leaders generally had previous organizational and management experience.
  • The general public was amenable to the issues the Moral Majority emphasized.

The Moral Majority sought to mobilize conservative Americans to become politically active on issues they thought were important. A variety of tactics were used to garner support. These tactics included direct-mail campaigns, telephone hot lines, rallies, and religious television broadcasts.[15] Although the Moral Majority operated for only a decade, it rapidly became a visible political force and was relatively effective in its mobilization goals. According to Robert Liebman and Robert Wuthnow, common explanations for this success include:[16]

Organizational goals and composition

[14], Falwell declared, "Our goal has been achieved…The religious right is solidly in place and … religious conservatives in America are now in for the duration."Las Vegas Falwell offered an optimistic public opinion about the Moral Majority's dissolution. Announcing the disbandment of the Moral Majority in 1989 in [13]

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