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Running Against Sodom and Osama

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Onalee McGraw

McGraw is best remembered as the author of the 1976 Heritage Foundation pamphlet, Secular Humanism and the Schools: The Issue Whose Time Has Come. In the tract, McGraw, “argued that humanistic education does not focus on ‘the traditional and generally accepted virtues’ stressed by the ‘Judeo–Christian principles taught by most families at home,’ but on theories of ‘moral relativism and situation ethics’ that are ‘based on predominantly materialistic values found only in man’s nature itself’ and ‘without regard for the Judeo–Christian moral order, which is based on the existence and fatherhood of a personal God.”~76

This argument began to spread through the recruitment pool of what would become the Christian Right. Some find the roots of the Culture War in Kanawha County, West Virginia, where in 1974 a group of parents objected to new textbooks that explored ideas such as the feminist movement, homosexuality, and racial justice. According to Margaret Quigley, “the identification of sexual licentiousness and ┤primitive┤ music with subversion and people of color is an essential part of the secular humanist conspiracy theory, and one that has been remarkably consistent over time~77.” Other analysts agree.78

Much of the type of demonizing rhetoric resurfacing today within the Christian Right was dismissed as marginal in the 1960s and early 1970s, even by Republicans, some of whom sought to distance themselves from ultra-conservative groups such as the John Birch Society (JBS) and Christian Anti-Communism Crusade (CACC), with their penchant for overblown rhetoric and conspiracy theories.~79

The John Birch Society, founded in 1959, pioneered the post-McCarthy period attack on liberalism.~80 For example, a 1974 JBS Pamphlet on the Kanawha County textbook battle ridiculed liberals for “considering it passÚ to have strong religious and patriotic convictions.”81

As Michelle Goldberg points out in her book Kingdom Coming, the Republican Party with pressure from the Christian Right has been busy “mainstreaming… Bircher ideology.” In some cases, Christian Right leaders first picked up their conspiracist ideas about liberal subversion from attending meetings and reading books and other literature produced by the JBS, CACC, and similar groups. In many ways the 2006 Values Voter Summit could easily have been transported back thirty years to 1976 as a national rally held by the John Birch Society.~ 82

The demonizing rhetoric seen as so shocking today replays what was said back in the late 1970s, when some of the same participants in the Values Voter Summit, including Connie Marshner and Paul Weyrich, created the new Christian Right and helped construct the New Right coalition that came to power when it elected Ronald Reagan President.

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