"I had a case in rural upstate New York in which my client was a Republican police officer," Diana Adams tells me. She's a lawyer who specializes in family law. "It was a child-custody case. [My client] was living with his girlfriend before he and his wife had finalized their divorce, which had been delayed for years because neither of them could afford to pay the filing fee. They had been separated for years, but the very first thing that the judge said to me was that sodomy and extramarital sex were crimes in New York State and crimes in the Bible, and I should read the Bible to my client, and I might need to read it myself. Immediately I tried to get the case removed from that judge, [but] the only other judge in the county was his brother, and the only court-appointed child attorney, who interviews the child and says what's best for them, was his best friend of 50 years. They had the case dismissed, so I couldn't bring it up on appeal. So basically this dad was losing custody because he was living with his girlfriend before his divorce had come through, and they thought that just wasn't Christian."
Because too many people seem confused on the matter, it pays to say this plainly: We are not supposed to be living in a theocracy. The Constitution is clear on that matter. Only 20 percent of the country goes to church on a regular basis. But you wouldn't know it by looking at the federal government, where 92 percent of U.S. House and Senate members identify as Christian. Our president openly campaigned on giving Christians preferential treatment. Our vice president's entire political career has been bankrolled in part by a family, the Princes, who are working toward a Christian-right takeover of the U.S. government. Our secretary of Education is literally a member of that family and has said she wants to use public education to "advance God's kingdom." Adams's client was far from an anomaly: we're all being screwed over by our government in the name of Jesus.
Politicians weren't always so subservient to right-wing-Christian agendas. For most of the twentieth century, the evangelical church considered politics too earthy and mundane to sully themselves with. That was until 1976, when the IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, citing the Christian school's policy against interracial dating.
With the backing of evangelical leaders, the school refused to rescind its racist rule and instead filed a suit to retain its tax-exempt status. Even before the case reached the Supreme Court (where the university lost), the suit galvanized religious leaders, who saw the IRS ruling, and the Civil Rights Act from which it drew its authority, as "government interference" in their segregated white fiefdoms. They wanted to put politicians and bureaucrats on notice.
But they knew that organizing ordinary rank-and-file evangelicals to explicitly defend racism would be a harder sell. So they cast about for other issues to organize around and decided, for reasons we can only guess at, to go after abortion and the sexual freedoms it represents.
It took a while to take hold. Evangelicals were unaccustomed to thinking of themselves as political actors, and they didn't much care about abortion, either. (That was Catholics. In fact, the Baptist Press praised Roe v. Wade when the court handed it down, saying, "Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.") But the leadership persisted, and as evangelicals began to stir, Republican politicians paid attention. A deal was struck: Evangelicals would help elect Republicans, and Republicans would become the party that opposed abortion and sexual freedom in general, while of course defending the Church's right to be as racist as they want to be. The Religious Right was born.