The 10 Most Dangerous Religious Right Organizations

The religious right is more powerful than ever, using its massive annual  revenue and grassroots troops to promote a right-wing ideology and undermine  church and state separation.


By Simon Brown , Simon Brown is a communications associate at  Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Originally publish in the 2 October 2012 Church & State Magazine

The movement known as the Religious Right is the  number-one threat to church-state separation in America. This collection of  organizations is well funded and well organized; it uses its massive annual  revenue and grassroots troops to undermine the wall of separation in communities  nationwide.

Americans United staff members have carefully researched this movement, and  here are the 10 Religious Right groups that pose the greatest challenges to  church-state separation. Most of these organizations are tax-exempt under  Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, but the financial data includes some  affiliated 501(c)(4) lobbying organizations operating alongside the main  organizations. The figures come from official IRS filings or other reliable  sources.

  • 1. Jerry Falwell Ministries/ ­Liberty University/Liberty Counsel

Revenue: $522,784,095

Although Jerry Falwell, a Religious Right icon and founder of the Moral  Majority, died in 2007, his empire is going strong thanks mostly to Liberty  University, a Lynchburg, Va., school now run by his son, Jerry Falwell Jr.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Falwell Jr. regularly meddles in partisan  politics – from local contests to presidential races. This year, he invited  Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney to give Liberty’s commencement  address, introducing him as “the next president of the United States.” A second  Falwell son, Jonathan, is pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, a mega-church in  Lynchburg. Liberty Counsel is a Religious Right legal outfit founded by Mat  Staver that is now based at Liberty University, where it launches lawsuits  undermining church-state separation and encourages pastors to get involved in  partisan political activity.

  • 2. Pat Robertson Empire

Revenue: $434,971,231

Known for his years of involvement in far-right politics, TV preacher Pat  Robertson has forged a vast Religious Right empire anchored by the Christian  Broadcasting Network (CBN). Robertson also runs Regent University and  a  right-wing legal group, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).  (Attorney Jay Sekulow heads ACLJ, as well as his own quasi-independent legal  outfit, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism.) CBN, which brings in the bulk  of Robertson’s revenue, broadcasts far-right religious and political invective  laced with attacks on church-state separation, a concept Robertson has called a “myth” and a “lie of the left.” His “700 Club” TV program  is a powerful forum for the promotion of right-wing ideology and favored  politicians. Robertson has been welcomed into the halls of government. The  current governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, is a Regent U. graduate.

  • 3. Focus on the Family (includes its 501(c)(4) political affiliate  CitizenLink)

Revenue: $104,463,950

Fundamentalist Christian James Dobson founded Focus on the Family to offer “biblical” solutions to family problems. Dobson, a child psychologist by  training, soon branched out into the dissemination of hardcore right-wing  politics with an international reach. Dobson has been a major player in the  halls of power in Washington, D.C., and Focus-aligned “family policy councils” pressure lawmakers and influence legislation in 36 states. In fact, the  Colorado-based organization frequently plays a key role in fighting gay rights  and restricting abortion at the state level. Jim Daly is now president of Focus;  Dobson left the organization in 2010 but remains active on the political  scene.

  • 4. Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund)

Revenue: $35,145,644

The ADF may have changed its name, but it still promotes a familiar Religious  Right agenda. The Arizona-based organization, which was founded by far-right TV  and radio preachers, attacks church-state separation, blasts gay rights, assails  reproductive freedom and seeks to saturate the public schools with its narrow  version of fundamentalism. In recent years, the ADF, headed by Ed Meese acolyte Alan Sears, has worked aggressively to overturn a federal law that bars  tax-exempt churches and other nonprofits from intervening in partisan elections.  The group says church-state separation is not in the Constitution and calls the  church-state wall “fictitious.”

  • 5. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Lobbying Expenditures: $26,662,111

The USCCB for years has lobbied in Washington, D.C., to make the hierarchy’s  ultra-conservative stands on reproductive rights, marriage, school vouchers and  other public policies the law for all to follow. This year, the USCCB escalated  its efforts in the “culture war” arena, forming the Ad Hoc Committee on  Religious Liberty. Led by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, the committee  seeks to reduce Americans’ access to birth control, block efforts to expand  marriage equality and ensure federal funding of church-affiliated social  services, even if the services fail to meet government requirements. American  Catholics often disagree with the hierarchy’s stance on social issues, but the  bishops’ clout in Washington, D.C., and the state legisla­tures is  undeniable.

  • 6. American Family Association

Revenue: $17,955,438

Founded by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, the Tupelo, Miss.-based AFA once focused  on battling “indecent” television shows. When that failed, the group branched  out to advocate for standard Religious Right issues such as opposing gay rights,  promoting religion in public schools and banning abortion. In recent years, AFA staffer Bryan Fischer has become notorious for  making inflammatory statements. Fischer has asserted that Adolf Hitler invented  church-state separation and has proposed kidnapping children being raised by  same-sex couples. The AFA, designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law  Center, frequently announces boycotts of companies that don’t give in to its  demands. The organization says it operates nearly 200 radio stations  nationwide.

  • 7. Family Research Council

Revenue: $14,840,036 (includes 501­(c)(4) affiliate FRC  Action)

This group, an offshoot of Focus on the Family, is headed by GOP operative  and ex-Louisiana legislator Tony Perkins. It is now the leading Religious Right  organization in Washington. Every year, FRC Action sponsors a “Values Voter  Summit” to promote far-right politicians and rally Religious Right forces  nationwide. The 2012 edition hosted many top Republican politicians and drew  about 2,000 attendees. The organization frequently assails public education,  political progressives, reproductive justice and the church-state wall and seeks  to form a far-right coalition with the Tea Party. FRC is also known to engage in  harsh gay bashing and has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty  Law Center.

  • 8. Concerned Women for America

Revenue: $10,352,628 (includes 501­(c)­(4) affiliate CWA  Legislative Action Committee)

Founded to counter feminism, Con­cerned Women for America (CWA) claims to be “the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.” Its mission is to “bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.” CWA was organized  by Tim and Beverly LaHaye in 1979 to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, and when  that issue faded, it moved on to other Religious Right agenda items. The group  attacks public schools for allegedly promoting “secular humanism” and supports  the teaching of creationism in science classes. It also vehemently opposes  abortion and gay rights.

  • 9. Faith & Freedom Coalition

Revenue: $5,494,640

This 501(c)(4) advocacy group was founded by former Christian Coalition  executive director Ralph Reed. He formed the organization after his run for  lieutenant governor in Georgia was derailed because of his ties to disgraced  casino lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In just three years of operation it already  boasts more than 500,000 members and claims affiliates in 30 states. Reed is  infamous for exaggerating his organizations’ clout, but his latest group is  certainly making political waves. In 2012, it hosted forums for GOP presidential  hopefuls in four states. Faith & Freedom Coalition claims to have budgeted  $10 million in 2012 to lure conservative religious voters to the polls.

  • 10. Council for National Policy

Revenue: $1,976,747

The Council for National Policy exists to do just  one thing: organize meetings of right-wing operatives, Religious Right leaders  and wealthy business interests at posh hotels around the country to share ideas,  plot strategy and vet GOP presidential candidates. Membership is by invitation  only, and the group seeks no media attention. Despite its small size and shadowy  operations, the CNP – founded by Religious Right godfather Tim LaHaye – wields a  great deal of influence, showing that even organizations with modest budgets can  have a significant impact. U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), after his now-infamous “legitimate rape” comment, showed up at the next CNP meeting to ensure ongoing  financial support as he runs for the U.S. Senate. Heritage Foundation Vice  President Becky Norton Dunlop currently serves as CNP president, with Phyllis  Schlafly and FRC’s Tony Perkins also taking leadership roles.

One response

  1. […] The religious right is more powerful than ever, using its massive annual  revenue and grassroots troops to promote a right-wing ideology and undermine  church and state separation. Source: By Simon Brown , Simon Brown is a communications associate at  Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Originally publish in the 2 October 2012… — Read on […]


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