Joy Reid introduced a segment last night on the origins of the religious right's abortion activism.
"The religious right is a powerful voting block in this country, shaping elections, legislation and Supreme Court nominees. But what the religious right says about its most famous rallying cry, abortion, it often isn't true. That the Bible forbids abortion, that's a lie. That abortion is murder, it's dangerous. None of that is true. This movement in fact is so full of misinformation that its very origin is a lie. Back in the 1970s, evangelical Christians were largely apolitical and religious political activists like Paul Weyrich wanted to change that.
"Dartmouth historian Randall Balmer in his oft-cited piece wrote the hypothetical Moral Majority needed a catalyst and a standard around which to rally. The galvanizing issue was not abortion. It was an organized fight to protect Christian schools from racial integration. Religious leaders blamed President Jimmy Carter for the IRS removing tax breaks for schools that failed to integrate. But defending school integration wasn't the best look. They searched for a more palatable rallying cry, which would become abortion. Joining me is Frank Schaeffer, author of the book 'Why I'm An Atheist Who Believes In God.' "
"For people who don't know who Paul is, let me play him quick. Let's let him be heard."
"Tell us about him. Who was this guy?" Reid asked.
"Who Paul Weyrich was, was a Roman Catholic activist who tried to involve evangelicals in building a right wing coalition based on racism. He wanted to cash in on the hatred that many white evangelicals had for the U.S. government because it was questioning the tax-exempt status of all white academies that were a reaction to integration," Schaeffer explained.
"And then they turned to the abortion issue as another piece of red meat which to enrage their followers. Now, when we went out to pitch the quote, unquote 'pro-life movement' which in fact was was fake family values -- thinly veiled misogyny, keep women in their place movement, it wasn't about abortion. Weyrich and others decided they could take that energy and bring new voters to the Republican party."
He said originally, evangelicals wanted no part of this and had to be talked into it.
"Now fast-forward 40 years, and we have a situation in Texas right now, tonight, where the American Taliban -- because that's what it is. There is not an American evangelical right wing movement, there is an American Taliban, is eerily similar in so many ways to the Middle Eastern Islamist terrorist. Here's another weird one. You know a few years ago, some of the Islamists in Pakistan and other countries were murdering vaccine doctors and nurses who were coming in to try to vaccinate against polio with some mythological conspiracy theories about how this was part of a U.S. political plot.
The evangelical voter in Texas who backed Donald Trump is also the voter that is calling vaccines some government conspiracy and wanting to stop Joe Biden's program to deliver our country from the covid virus. there is a weird convergence of factors here, whether it's Handmaid's Tale and taking away women's rights, or whether it's the vaccine movement that has grown out of conspiracy theories and misinformation. Wherever you touch it, the evangelical movement is no longer the one my dad and I tried to talk into radicalism, and sadly were too successful in doing back in the '70s.
Today, and I want to say this again, there is no evangelical political movement, there is a new American Taliban and their goal is theocracy, which means to take our religious beliefs, which to them is Old Testament law, not Christianity, is to force secular Americans, non-evangelical Americans, women, people of color into that box. And this is not hyperbole, this is happening right now tonight in Texas. This is happening right now with the people dying of covid, children dying of covid, because pro-lifers have seen fit to stand against Joe Biden's vaccine as a way to own the libs and their price is to be literally bio-terrorists."
"So Dr. Balmer, when he talks about this right wing movement to fuse the anger of anti-integration with the beginnings of this thing called the anti-abortion movement, is totally correct."