In the mid-1990s, following Bill Clinton's second electoral ride to the White House, the vibrancy of Religious Right organizations appeared to be on the wane. Outside the sanctuary of the fundamentalist church, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson had become public caricatures of intolerance and zealotry. Pundits in the media and the liberal church deemed the movement torn, shattered, and perhaps dead.
How then, less than a decade later, has the Religious Right become a powerful sector of the Republican Party, holding veto power over most any GOP maneuver?
"The Religious Right has been institutionalized within the Republican Party," confirms Kenneth Wald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida at Gainesville. "Just look at the leaders of the GOP."
Note the top seven ranking Republicans in the U.S. Senate: Bill Frist, Tennessee; Mitch McConnell, Kentucky; Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania; Bob Bennet, Utah; Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Texas; Jon Kyle, Arizona; and George Allen, Virginia. Other than party affiliation, what do these senators all have in common? Each has earned a 100 percent rating on the Christian Coalition's scorecard, voting in accordance with that organization's positions on key legislation.
A similar pattern exists among the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives. Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, who in part controls whether an issue will be even debated on the House floor, also receives a 100 percent on the Christian Coalition scorecard.