Timeline: The Religious Right and the Republican Platform

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The Republican party platform of 1912 did not contain a single reference to God.

The word faith appeared once, in the phrase “faith in government.” A century later, the 2012 Republican platform contains 10 references to God and 19 to faith — in phrases like “faith-based organizations,” and “faith communities.” What changed?

The forty-year timeline below traces the increased inclusion in the platform of the language and ideals of the Religious Right.

1972 The Republican party platform does not contain a single reference to God or religious issues.

1976: first mention of abortion
1976 Following the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, the Republican platform calls for “a position on abortion that values human life.” It also asserts that “Our great American Republic was founded on the principle: One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

1980 A year after Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority, the Republican platform contains only one reference to God, but an entire section on abortion. While affirming the party’s “support of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children” the section nonetheless recognizes that there are “differing views on this question among Americans in general—and in our own Party.”

A section on the judiciary reads, “We will work for the appointment of judges at all levels of the judiciary who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”

1984: first mention of sex and violence in the media
1984   Following James Dobson’s founding of the Family Research Council in 1983, issues like sex education and sex and violence in the media appear in the party platform for the first time. Regarding abortion, the platform calls for a “human life” amendment to the Constitution and “legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” The platform also contains the first mention of school vouchers.

1988 This was the year that right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson was a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. In addition to the now-standard calls for a human life amendment and extending Fourteenth Amendment protections to unborn children, this platform promises to eliminate funding for organizations which advocate or support abortion, and for fetal protection in scientific research. The platform also contains an entire section on pornography.

1992: first mention of same-sex marriage and gays in the military
1992 The year of Pat Buchanan’s infamous “culture wars” convention speech, the party unveils a platform with four references to God and seven references to “family values.” This is the first Republican party platform to address sexual preference, opposing the inclusion of sexual preference as a protected minority, rejecting any legislation which legally recognizes same-sex marriage and supporting the continued exclusion of homosexuals from the military.

1996 This platform goes a step further, endorsing the Defense of Marriage Act to prevent states from recognizing same-sex unions. It also builds on the school voucher concept and includes religious schools and homeschooling as parental options.

2000: new focus on “faith-based organizations”
2000 In the wake of the unpopular campaign to impeach President Bill Clinton, the Religious Right lost some ground. This platform contains only one reference to God, but welfare reform inspired a new focus aimed at faith-based programs and organizations — the phrase “faith-based” appears 10 times.

2004 This platform contains an entire section devoted to protecting marriage and expands anti-abortion language to include support for the Born Alive Infants Protection Act which considers an infant who survives an abortion a person under federal law.

2008 In 2007, the year Time Magazine declared “The Religious Right’s Era Is Over,” the Republican party platform contains two references to God and reaffirms its past positions on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and gays in the military but does not expand on them.

2012: first mention of the “war on religion”
2012 This year, there’s a resurgence of religious rhetoric and ideology. The party’s platform contains 10 references to God, 19 references to faith and the first reference to a “war on religion.” Citing what it calls the Obama administration’s “attempt to compel faith-related institutions, as well as believing individuals, to contravene their deeply held religious, moral, or ethical beliefs regarding health services, traditional marriage, or abortion,” the platform accuses “liberal elites” of trying to “drive religious beliefs — and religious believers — out of the public square.”

Following the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the platform does not object to gays in the military, but specifically opposes gay marriage in the military, and reaffirms the party’s opposition to gay marriage at all. There are 19 references to abortion, calling for (in addition to the standard opposition) bans on sex-selective abortion and foreign aid that covers abortion. In the foreign policy section of the platform, entitled “American Exceptionalism,” a short human-rights section refers only to religious rights.

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