Magazine article Church & State

The Religious Right Top Ten: Right-Wing Religious Forces Have Money, Influence and Power-And They're Seeking More

Magazine article Church & State

The Religious Right Top Ten: Right-Wing Religious Forces Have Money, Influence and Power-And They're Seeking More

Article excerpt

For the past two years, numerous media pundits have been all abuzz over the so-called "death" of the Religious Right. There is one problem, however: Someone forgot to tell the Religious Right.

A recent Americans United study of the finances and influence of the Religious Right shows a movement that is very much alive and kicking. Indeed, the study shows that the nation's leading Religious Right organizations took in more than half a billion dollars over a recent 12-month period. Several of the organizations showed dramatic increases in their budgets; only a few showed a drop.

Financial information was ]lot the only factor we took into account when compiling this list. We also attempted to determine the influence organizations have on the larger political scene. A group can have a modest budget and still cast a long shadow.

For budgetary data, Church & State relied on Internal Revenue Service Form 990, a document that most 501 (c)(3) and 501 (c)(4) tax-exempt groups are required to file. In most cases, the figures come from a period spanning the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007.

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1. Christian Broadcasting Network

Founder and Chairman: The Rev. Pat Robertson

2006 Revenue: $246,986,289

Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

Web site: www.cbn.org

Overview: Television preacher M.G. "Pat" Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in 1961, primarily as an instrument of Pentecostal preaching and evangelism. Over the years, the ministry took on a political cast and became a vehicle for the propagation of Robertson's far-right views.

Some today deride Robertson's influence among conservative Christians, but no other Religious Right leader has the media and academic platform he has. During the presidential primary season, Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani made personal appearances at Robertson's Regent University and courted his support.

President George W. Bush has also labored to keep Robertson happy. Some accounts say at least 150 Regent graduates were placed in the Bush administration, among them Monica Goodling, who sparked a scandal by applying a "pro-God" political litmus test to non-political appointments at the Justice Department. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft is now a professor on the Regent campus, and a Robertson charity, Operation Blessing, has received $1.5 million in tax money under the Bush "faith-based" initiative.

CBN's major project is production of the "700 Club," Robertson's daily talk/news program. The show, estimated to have about 800,000 viewers daily, is Robertson's primary vehicle for spreading his political views, which include vociferous opposition to church-state separation, legal abortion and gay rights. Like the Fox News Channel, CBN gives right-wing members of Congress and authors friendly interviews and publicity.

Robertson frequently uses the program to espouse extreme views. Over the years he has compared gay people to Nazis, blamed the federal courts and civil liberties groups for the 9/11 attacks and asserted that God punishes communities that displease him with hurricanes, tornados and possibly even meteors. One of his most famous observations is that Episcopalians, Methodists and Presbyterians reflect "the spirit of the Antichrist."

Now 78, Robertson has been increasingly shifting day-to-day responsibilities to his son, Gordon, who often appears alongside him on the "700 Club." It has been reported that CBN has an endowment of at least $2 billion, meaning the ministry should be able to continue long after Robertson has retired.

Robertson Quote: "America wasn't built on Hinduism. America wasn't built on Islam. America wasn't built on Buddhism. America and our democratic institutions were built on the Christian faith. There is no question about it." ("700 Club," July 30, 2007)

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