US fundamentalism: how the cult is managed


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

The Top 10 Power Brokers of the Religious Right
By Rob Boston, Church and State
Posted on July 7, 2006, Printed on August 25, 2006

The United States is home to dozens of Religious Right groups. Many have small 
budgets and focus on state and local issues; the most powerful organizations 
conduct nationwide operations, command multi-million-dollar bank accounts and 
attract millions of followers. They have disproportionate clout in the halls of 
Congress, the White House and the courts, and they wield enormous influence 
within the political system.

What follows is a list of the nation¹s Top Ten Religious Right groups, as 
determined by publicly available financial data and political prominence. 
Additional information describes the organizations¹ leaders, funding and 

1. Christian Broadcasting Network
Founder, CEO and Director:  The Rev. Pat Robertson
2004 Revenue: $186,482,060
Location: Virginia Beach, Va.
Web site:

Overview: The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) airs Robertson¹s ³700 Club,² 
an incendiary daily mix of Pentecostal faith-healing, lifestyle advice and 
far-right politics. He calls church-state separation a ³lie of the left² and 
thinks Christians like him should lead the world. With his withdrawal from the 
Christian Coalition in 2001, Robertson uses CBN as his primary political 
soapbox. The show, which according to Nielsen Media Research has 830,000 daily 
viewers, opens with a ³newscast² that parrots Robertson¹s views, often followed 
by commentary from the televangelist himself. Top leaders of the conservative 
movement regularly pontificate on the program, and Republican members of 
Congress appear to tout legislative goals.

Robertson, 76, has a history of controversy. His 1991 book The New World Order 
was based on a host of anti-Semitic sources, although Robertson has always been 
pro-Israel for end-times theological reasons. The same book opines that former 
presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush may have been unwitting dupes for 
Lucifer. On his TV show, Robertson once charged that Methodists, Presbyterians 
and Episcopalians represent ³the spirit of the Antichrist.² In a Sept. 13, 2001,
diatribe, he asserted that the terrorist attacks on America happened because of 
the Supreme Court¹s rulings in favor of church-state separation. In the ensuing 
controversy, Robertson shifted the blame to Jerry Falwell, who had been on the 
show with him.

Over the years, the failed presidential candidate has often dallied with brutal 
dictators. He celebrated Guatemala¹s Pentecostal strongman Efrain Rios Montt, 
lauded Frederick Chiluba of Zambia as a model for American politicians, hunted 
for gold with Liberia¹s Charles Taylor and did business with Mobutu Sese Seko of
Zaire. (He was caught using relief airplanes owned by his charity, Operation 
Blessing, to ferry diamond-mining equipment in and out of Zaire.)

Despite all of this, Robertson retains a close relationship with the Republican 
Party establishment. Operation Blessing has received $1.5 million in taxpayer 
funding through the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

CBN is Robertson¹s flagship tax-exempt operation. He also founded and runs the 
American Center for Law and Justice, a Religious Right legal group (see below); 
Operation Blessing and Regent University, a school offering degrees in law, 
business, journalism, theology and other disciplines. Added up, 
Robertson-related groups brought in $461,475,115 in tax-free donations in 2004.

Robertson Quote: ³The fact that [the courts] are trying to ignore this country¹s
religious heritage is just horrible. They are taking our religion away from us 
under the guise of separation of church and state. There was never any intention
that our government would be separate from God Almighty. Never, never, never in 
the history of this land did the founders of this country or those who came 
after them think that was the case.² (³700 Club,² July 19, 2005)

2. Focus on the Family
Founder and chairman: Dr. James C. Dobson
2005 Revenue: $137,848,520
Location: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Web site:

Overview: Although sometimes mistakenly identified as a minister, James Dobson 
is a child psychologist who founded Focus on the Family in 1977. Dobson, 70, 
rose to national prominence after the release of his first book, Dare to 
Discipline, a controversial volume that lauded corporal punishment for children 
at a time when many child-rearing experts were recommending against it. He came 
to the attention of aides to President Ronald Reagan and during the 1980s served
on various White House commissions, including a 1985-86 stint on Attorney 
General Edwin Meese¹s Commission on Pornography.

From modest origins, FOF has expanded into a huge ministry with a worldwide 
presence. Dobson¹s radio broadcasts are heard daily by an estimated five million
Americans. According to its Web site, ³Focus on the Family hasŠbecome an 
international organization with more than 74 different ministries requiring 
nearly 1,300 employees² with a ³daily broadcast heard on over 6,000 facilities 
worldwide.² FOF produces 10 magazines that are mailed to 2.3 million people and 
responds to as many as 55,000 letters per week. The ministry also produces 
various DVDs, books, pamphlets and other materials. It has political affiliates 
in 32 states that lobby and monitor state legislation.

A product of the strict Church of the Nazarene, Dobson is a hardcore 
fundamentalist who refers to church-state separation as the ³phantom² clause in 
the Constitution. He frequently lambastes gays, legal abortion and the teaching 
of evolution in public schools. FOF sponsors controversial ³Love Won Out² 
conferences run by an ³ex-gay² ministry that seeks to convert homosexuals into 
fundamentalist Christian heterosexuals.

Although he poses as an avuncular family counselor, Dob‹son and his empire 
spread Religious Right propaganda and ex‹treme rhetoric. In a 1996 radio 
address, he attacked the concept of tolerance, calling it ³kind of a watchword 
of those who reject the concepts of right and wrongŠ.It¹s kind of a 
desensitization to evil of all varieties.² Two years before that, an FOF 
magazine attacked the Girl Scouts for being agents of ³humanism and radical 

More recently, Dobson lashed out at a pro-tolerance video produced for public 
schools that featured popular cartoon characters, among them SpongeBob 
SquarePants, because the group that produced it put a ³tolerance pledge² on its 
Web site that included gays.

Dobson has promoted right-wing politics for a long time, but in 2004 he took the
step of forming a more overtly political arm, Focus on the Family Action, and 
began personally endorsing candidates for public office. According to 
information on the FOF Action Web site, the group collected just under $25 
million in 2005.

Figures such as these give Dobson major political clout. He regularly threatens 
Republicans with retaliation if they do not do his bidding and claims credit for
knocking U.S. Sen. Tom Dashle (D-S.D.) out of the Senate in 2004. Dobson also 
issues regular threats to other Democratic senators representing ³red states.² 
In June of 2004, during a visit to Colorado Springs to speak at the U.S. Air 
Force Academy, President George W. Bush took time out for a private half-hour 
meeting with Dobson.

Dobson Quote: ³Do we as Christians need to be liked so badly that we choose to 
remain silent in response to the killing of babies, the spreading of homosexual 
propaganda to our children, the distribution of condoms and immoral advice to 
our teenagers, and the undermining of marriage as an institution? Would Jesus 
have ignored these wicked activities?... No, I am convinced that he would be the
first to condemn sin in high places, and I doubt if he would have minced words 
in making the point.²(Christianity Today, June 19, 1995)

3. Coral Ridge Ministries
Founder and President: The Rev. D. James Kennedy
2005 Revenue: $39,253,882
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Web site:

Overview: D. James Kennedy, a former dance instructor who was converted to 
fundamentalist Christianity after hearing a sermon on the radio, founded Coral 
Ridge Ministries in 1974. Kennedy, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church 
(PCA), is now seen on about 600 U.S. television stations on Sunday mornings. His
³Coral Ridge Hour² mixes fundamentalism with strident attacks on public 
education, gays, evolution, legal abortion, ³secular humanism² and other 
Religious Right targets.

Kennedy, 75, has a strong presence on radio as well through ³Truths that 
Transform,² a daily half-hour commentary heard on 744 stations. In addition, he 
has authored several books that promote far-right views.

Kennedy is a big promoter of the ³Christian nation² view of American history. 
Every year, his Center for Reclaiming America for Christ, hosts a major 
Religious Right conference in Fort Lauderdale. The event attracts a mix of 
activists and politicians. In 2006, Arkansas Gov. (and 2008 presidential 
hopeful) Mike Huckabee spoke.

In 1995, Kennedy decided he wanted a presence in Washington and opened the 
Center for Christian Statesmanship. The Center hosts regular events for Capitol 
Hill staffers to instruct them in the proper ³biblical worldview² and works 
closely with far-right GOP lawmakers.

Kennedy Quote: ³This is our land. This is our world. This is our heritage, and 
with God¹s help, we shall reclaim this nation for Jesus Christ. And no power on 
earth can stop us.² (Character & Destiny: A Nation in Search of its Soul, 1997)

4. Alliance Defense Fund
President, CEO and General Counsel: Alan Sears
2004 Revenue: $17,921,146
Location: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Web site:

Overview: The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) was founded in 1993 by a coalition of 
30 Religious Right leaders, among them James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, Donald 
Wildmon and the late Marlin Maddoux and Bill Bright. The original idea was to 
create a funding pool that would subsidize the Religious Right¹s courtroom 
activity, and as its Web site proclaims, ³reclaim the legal system for Jesus 
Christ.² ADF head Alan Sears served under Reagan-era Attorney General Edwin 
Meese, leading the Meese Commission on Pornography.

While the ADF still supports lawsuits spearheaded by other groups, it has begun 
directly litigating in court as well. The org‹anization also sends intimidating 
letters to government officials and public schools, containing thinly veiled 
threats to sue unless ADF demands are met. Last year, the group launched a 
campaign to derail the alleged ³war on Christmas² and bragged that it had 800 
attorneys standing by. (In the end, only one lawsuit was filed.)

Some ADF cases are filed merely to generate publicity. In 2005, the ADF sued a 
public school in California on behalf of a teacher who claimed he had been 
ordered to stop using the Declaration of Independence in class because of its 
reference to the ³Creator.² The ADF arranged for intense media coverage of the 
case but quietly dropped the suit once it became obvious the teacher¹s claims 
were not true.

Aside from threatening public schools, the ADF also diverts a lot of money into 
opposing same-sex marriage and what it calls the ³radical homosexual agenda.² It
also opposes legal abortion and supports cases filed by employees seeking the 
right to proselytize on the job.

The ADF sponsors regular training for lawyers under its National Litigation 
Academy. In exchange for free instruction, ³each attorney pledges 450 hours of 
pro-bono time to the Body of Christ,² says the ADF Web site. More than 900 
lawyers have reportedly participated. The group also sponsors Blackstone Legal 
Fellowships where law students ³receive intensive training in Christian 
worldview principles and how they apply to the study and interpretation of law.²

Sears holds extreme views. He was the first Religious Right figure to assert 
that the cartoon character SpongeBob Square‹Pants might be gay and has 
criticized the 1959 comedy film ³Some Like It Hot² for promoting cross-dressing.

Sears Quote: ³One by one, more and more bricks that make up the artificial Œwall
of separation¹ between church and state are being removed and Christians are 
once again being allowed to exercise their constitutional right to equal access 
to public facilities and funding.² (January 2004 e-mail alert)

5. American Family Association
Founder and Chairman: The Rev. Donald Wildmon
2005 Revenue: $17,595,352
Location: Tupelo, Miss.
Web site:

Overview: Donald Wildmon, a Methodist minister, founded the American Family 
Association in 1977. Its original name was the National Federation for Decency. 
His goal, Wildmon boldly stated, was to rid the television airwaves of 
³anti-family² programming, mainly through boycotts and threats of boycotts of 
companies that advertised on shows Wildmon dislikes.

The AFA has since branched out, engaging in typical Reli‹gious Right activities 
like attacking gays and bashing evolution. It now includes a lucrative radio 
empire with 176 affiliates in 34 states, a fundamentalist Christian news service
and a legal group called the Center for Law and Policy. In 2000, Wildmon 
launched a nationwide campaign to urge states to pass laws mandating the display
of ³In God We Trust² posters in public schools.

Wildmon, 68, has flirted with anti-Semitism, suggesting that Jews control the 
entertainment industry. The AFA¹s Journal has also reprinted articles from The 
Spotlight, an anti-Semitic newspaper. In December, Wildmon said evangelicals may
stop supporting Israel if Jewish leaders don¹t stop criticizing the Religious 

Wildmon Quote: ³Anti-prayer/Anti-Christian groups ­ like the ACLU and Americans 
United for Separation of Church and State ­ have teamed up with liberal judges 
on the U.S. Supreme Court and are stripping away our religious freedom.² (Fall 
2000 fund-raising letter)

6. American Center for Law and Justice
Founder and President: The Rev. Pat Robertson
Chief Counsel: Jay Sekulow
2005 Revenue: $14,485,514
Location: Virginia Beach, Va., and Washington, D.C.
Web site:

Overview: The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) was founded by TV 
preacher Pat Robertson in 1990, originally as a joint project of Robertson¹s 
Christian Coalition and Regent University. Closely modeled on its nemesis, the 
American Civil Liberties Union ­ the organization whose name it mimics ­ the 
ACLJ was among the first Religious Right legal groups in the nation. Headed by 
Jay Sekulow, a Jewish convert to evangelical Christianity, the group seeks to 
roll back Supreme Court rulings upholding church-state separation, abortion 
rights and gay rights.

Although it claims to be non-partisan, the ACLJ works closely with far-right 
Republicans in Congress and even tried to intervene in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme
Court case that awarded the 2000 election to George W. Bush. Sekulow has a close
relationship with Bush, and several media accounts have reported that he is 
among a small group that helps select and promote Bush federal court nominees, 
including appointments to the Supreme Court.

Sekulow, 49, hosts a television show, ³ACLJ This Week,² that airs on several 
Christian cable networks. (His son Logan hosts a Christian variety program as 

In November, Legal Times reported on a series of shady financial deals involving
Sekulow. His salary at the ACLJ, for example, exceeds $600,000 per year and he 
is listed as an independent contractor so the figure does not have to appear on 
financial disclosure forms. Sekulow maintains control of a separate legal group,
Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, with annual revenues of $14 million, 
that also solicits donations. He often hires family members to help run his 
various operations, and the groups he works for have leased or purchased three 
homes for him.

Sekulow Quote: ³The fact is the phrase Œseparation of church and state¹ is not 
found in the U.S. Constitution, the framework of our freedomŠ. Too often, the 
Œseparation of church and state¹ phrase is allowed to take the place of our 
actual constitutional provisions.² (Ministry Magazine, Fall 2004)

7. Family Research Council
Founder: James C. Dobson
President and CEO: Tony Perkins
2005 Revenue: $9,958,115
Location: Washington, D.C.
Web site:

Overview: The Family Research Council (FRC) was founded by religious broadcaster
James C. Dobson in 1983 to give his views a presence in the nation¹s capital. 
For many years, the group was merely an arm of Focus on the Family. In 1992, 
Dobson severed the official ties, although he says they remain ³spiritually 

Gary Bauer, a former Reagan administration official, ran FRC for several years. 
The group¹s current president is Tony Perkins, a 43-year-old former Louisiana 
state legislator and anti-abortion activist. The FRC focuses on culture war 
issues such as abortion, gay rights and end-of-life care. Recently, it has led 
the Religious Right effort to attack the federal courts and strip judges of 
their ability to hear church-state cases, sponsoring a series of anti-court 
rallies called ³Justice Sunday.²

Headquartered in a 10-year-old building on the edge of D.C.¹s Chinatown, FRC has
become the leading Religious Right group in the nation¹s capital and enjoys a 
close relationship with the GOP leadership. In March of 2005, Senate Majority 
Leader Bill Frist and then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay spoke at an FRC 
briefing. DeLay made controversial remarks about Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman 
in a persistent vegetative state. (Americans United released a tape of the 
remarks to the media.)

Perkins Quote: ³The [Supreme] Court has become increasingly hostile to 
Christianity. It represents more of a threat to representative government than 
any other force ­ more than budget deficits, more than terrorism.² (³Confronting
the Judicial War on Faith² conference, March 7, 2005)

8. Jerry Falwell Ministries
Founder and Director: The Rev. Jerry Falwell
2005 Revenue: $8,950,480
Location: Lynchburg, Va.
Web site:

Overview: Jerry Falwell is perhaps the best-known Religious Right leader in 
America today, if only due to his long service to the cause. His Moral Majority 
is long gone, but Falwell remains on the scene and continues to attack 
church-state separation through several vehicles.

Falwell¹s empire includes his congregation, the 20,000-member Thomas Road 
Baptist Church in Lynchburg; Liberty University; ³The Old Time Gospel Hour² 
television program; the Liberty Alliance and a legal group headed by Mat Staver 
called Liberty Counsel. Although no longer in his prime, Falwell continues to be
a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel and regularly cranks out fund-raising 
mail touching on all the standard Religious Right themes.

Falwell, 72, has a long track record of intolerant and bizarre pronouncements. 
His newspaper labeled the children¹s show character Tinky Winky a stalking horse
for the gay-rights movement in 1999. He has asserted that the Antichrist is 
alive today and is Jewish. Two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,
Falwell appeared on Pat Robertson¹s ³700 Club² and opined that God had lifted 
his protection and allowed ³the enemies of America to give us probably what we 
deserve.² The comments sparked nationwide revulsion.

Despite all of this, Falwell continues to be embraced by leaders of the 
Republican Party and makes regular media appearances.

Falwell Quote: ³Separation of Church and State has long been the battle cry of 
civil libertarians wishing to purge our glorious Christian heritage from our 
nation¹s history. Of course, the term never once appears in our Constitution and
is a modern fabrication of discrimination.² (³Falwell Fax,² April 10, 1998)

9. Concerned Women for America
Founders: Tim and Beverly LaHaye
2005 Revenue: $8,484,108
Location: Washington, D.C.
Web site:

Overview: Formed in 1979 by Beverly and Tim LaHaye, Concerned Women for America 
brings ³biblical principles into all levels of public policy.² It was originally
intended to counter feminism, including opposing ratification of the Equal 
Rights Amendment. When that issue died with the failure of the amendment, CWA 
focused on opposing communism. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the group
has dealt mainly with culture war issues such as abortion, gay rights, sex 
education and alleged ³secular humanism² in public schools, pornography and 
opposition to church-state separation. The group adds a heavy dose of United 
Nations-bashing to the list. It claims 500,000 members, although the figure is 
probably exaggerated.

CWA regularly brings volunteer lobbyists to Capitol Hill under an effort called 
³Project 535.² As the group Web site puts it, ³These ladies fearlessly speak 
with the member or his staff to discuss a particular piece of pro-family 

Despite its name, men hold some leadership positions at CWA. Mike Mears is 
executive director of CWA¹s political action committee. Bob Knight heads the 
group¹s Culture & Family Institute. Wendy Wright, 43, serves as president. Now 
in semi-retirement, the LaHayes, now both 80, are less heavily involved with 
day-to-day operations.

Tim LaHaye has a long history of involvement in far-right politics. He lectured 
on behalf of the John Birch Society throughout the 1960s and Œ70s and later 
helped found the Council for National Policy. More recently, he is known to most
Americans as the coauthor of the best-selling Left Behind novels. These 
apocalyptic potboilers have made LaHaye a very wealthy man.

Tim LaHaye Quote: ³America¹s public education is purposely designed to eradicate
Jesus from the scene and replace Him with the likes of John Dewey, Sigmund 
Freud, Wilhelm Wundt, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, and many 
more.² (Mind Siege: The Battle for Truth in the New Millen‹nium, 2001)

10. Traditional Values Coalition
Founder and Chairman: The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon
2005 Revenue: $6,389,448
Location: Anaheim, Calif. and Washington, D.C.
Web site:

Overview: The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon founded the Tradi‹tional Values Coalition 
(TVC) in 1980 primarily to work on issues in California. The group later 
branched out, establishing a Washington beachhead. The D.C. office is run by 
Sheldon¹s daughter, Andrea Lafferty. The organization is a 501(c)(4) group, 
which means donations to it are not tax deductible. However, it maintains a 
fully tax deductible arm called the TVC Education and Legal Institute. (Sheldon 
also runs a small political action committee that in 2006 gave all of its money 
to Republican candidates in California.)

Sheldon, 72, claims to represent 43,000 churches, but critics dispute that 
figure. In the world of the Religious Right, the Presbyterian minister has a 
reputation as something of a money-grubbing huckster. He has been criticized for
acting as a front for gambling interests on at least two occasions. An aide to 
disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff once called Sheldon ³Lucky Louie² in
an e-mail when the two worked together on a lobbying project on behalf of the 
legalized gambling industry.

Sheldon¹s rhetoric is shrill, even by Religious Right standards, and he makes no
efforts to moderate his extreme goals. His daughter is equally florid, once 
claiming in a 1999 fund-raising letter that she had confronted a ³witch² who had
sown a ³spirit of confusion² over the Senate.

For many years, Sheldon carved out a niche for TVC by engaging in unrelenting 
gay bashing. When other Religious Right groups began moving in on this turf in 
the 1990s, Sheldon diversified, ramping up his assaults on church-state 
separation, public education and the federal judiciary.

None of this has hurt TVC¹s standing in Washington. After Bush¹s re-election in 
2004, Sheldon held a ³Christian² inaugural event that drew White House 
strategist Karl Rove, Repub‹lican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and 

Sheldon Quote: ³A dangerous Marxist/Leftist/Homo‹sex‹ual/Is‹lamic coalition has 
formed ­ and we¹d better be willing to fight it with everything in our power. 
These people are playing for keeps. Their hero, Mao Tse Tung, is estimated to 
have murdered upwards of 60 million people during his reign of terror in China. 
Do we think we can escape such persecution if we refuse to fight for what is 
right?² (³The War on Christianity,² column, TVC Web site, Dec. 13, 2005)

Lauren Smith, Americans United communications assistant, provided research for 
this article.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Escaping the Matrix website
cyberjournal website  
subscribe cyberjournal list     mailto:•••@••.•••
Posting archives      
  cyberjournal forum  
  Achieving real democracy
  for readers of ETM  
  Community Empowerment
  Blogger made easy