The Christian Right in American Politics: Marching to the Millennium

By John C. Green; Mark J. Rozell et al. | Go to book overview

FOUR

“A Necessary Annoyance”? The
Christian Right and the Development
of Republican Party Politics in Florida

Kenneth D. Wald and Richard K. Scher

As THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE ASSEMBLED FOR ITS ANNUAL SESsion in January 2002, senators were treated to free pies from a local bakery. The sweetness of the pies was offset somewhat by the stern warning that accompanied them: “If you have never trusted the eternity of your soul to Jesus Christ,” senators were told, “your vote is now with Satan and you stand condemned.” On the house side, a representative sent his colleagues reprints of a patriotic painting in which the artist likened the red of Old Glory's stripes to “the cleansing blood of Christ for this newborn Christian country.” These incidents occasioned a public rebuke by the American Jewish Congress, angered by efforts to transform an ostensibly secular public agency into “a bully pulpit for a majority religion” (Wasson 2002).

These events during the legislature's opening week nicely symbolize the development of the Christian Right in Florida over the past two decades. In the 1970s, Christian activists were more likely to picket the state legislature than to lobby it or work it from the inside. By the 1990s, the movement had gained a substantial presence in the halls of government. Today, Christian Right activists and fellow travelers hold senate and house seats, some rising to high positions of leadership in both the legislature and the executive branch. Using their positions to place conservative Christian priorities on the public agenda, these elites “work as insiders on outsider issues.” In Santoro and McGuire's (1997, 504) characterization, the Christian Right has spawned a cadre of “social movement

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