Synopses & Reviews
For four years, Americans have lived under an administration that holds twice-weekly bible classes in the White House and daily prayer meetings at the Department of Justice. The Christian right is no stranger to Washington's corridors of power. But an unholy combination of a born-again president, a burgeoning family-values movement, and the canny political strategies of Karl Rove has delivered to today's Christian fundamentalists an unprecedented influence over American government.
As Esther Kaplan shows in this fast-paced investigation, no condom fact sheet or obscure drug advisory panel is too small to escape the roving eyes of Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, or the many other political advisory arms of the evengelical right. While organizations that promote family planning and sex education are the targets of relentless audits, church groups receive hundreds of millions in federal dollars for programs promoting sexual abstinence, faith-based social services and marriage training, especially for the poor. Religious considerations even shape the government's foreign aid policies and its war on terror. And while much of the Christian right's influence could be quickly reversed with a change in administration, Bush's crusading makeover of the federal courts may undermine women's and gay rights and bolster a corporate agenda for decades to come.
- The ark and the park: Under pressure from Christian fundamentalists, the National Park Service has approved the display and sale of a creationist book that claims the Grand Canyon is only a few thousand years old, created by the flood that launched Noah's ark.
- Jews or gays need not apply: To sell his faith-based initiative to Christian conservatives, President Bush made discrimination legal for religious groups receiving federal funds. They can now legally refuse to hire Jews, gays, unmarried mothers or anyone who fails to meet their moral code.
- In league with the devil: The administration has collaborated with states it considers sponsors of terror, such as Libya and Iran, to forward an anti-abortion agenda at the UN. Meanwhile, doctors sent to restore social services in Iraq were vetted to make sure they were anti-abortion.
- Christian pork: Under President Bush, millions of dollars of faith-based and abstinence-only grants have gone straight into the pockets of religious conservatives, including major grants to right-wing evangelical outfits such as the Christian Coalition and Prison Fellowship Ministries. Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu organizations have yet to receive a single cent of faith-based funding.
- Watch your language: HIV prevention researchers across the country have been told by top science officials to purge words such as "gay," "anal sex," and "needle exchange" from any communications or risk losing funds.
"This well-written, fast-paced and engaging book scores points for style, though its decidedly liberal slant will most appeal to readers who already share Kaplan's view that George W. Bush's cozy relations with evangelical Christian activists represents a grave threat to the future of America. Kaplan, a journalist and former editor at The Nation, rehearses how Bush's evangelical Christian faith has dictated his decisions on international issues, such as his determination to invade Iraq, and domestic ones, including his anti-abortion stance, promotion of abstinence, silence on the AIDS epidemic and conservative court appointments. The book is best when Kaplan discusses the 'holy war' mentality that she feels is prevalent in the Bush administration, whether in Attorney General John Ashcroft's stark approach to the war on terror or Karl Rove's machinations in promoting judicial appointees who would be accepted by both corporate and religious conservatives. Kaplan writes vividly of the people involved and offers memorable human-interest stories, such as a day in the life of two Tennessee abstinence activists. But in many places, she veers away from her focus on the Bush administration to castigate the 'Religious Right' more generally. She also fails to appreciate the ideological nuances of American evangelicalism. For example, she dismisses Intelligent Design Theory as 'pseudoscience' and incorrectly claims that its proponents believe the earth is only a few thousand years old, thus conflating it with biblical creationism." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A truly shocking dossier of recent religious fundamentalist incursions into the machinery and soul of American democracy." Tony Kushner
Kaplan presents evidence to support her assertion that Christian fundamentalists have trampled science, policy, and democracy in George W. Bush's White House.
When asked which single issue most affected their vote in the last presidential election, more than one in five Americans said “moral values”—and 78 percent of these voters chose to reelect President George W. Bush. Indeed, Christian fundamentalists made up close to 40 percent of the president’s electorate in 2004, and their turnout increased by some four million voters over 2000.
As Esther Kaplan shows in her richly detailed investigation, it’s no wonder the Christian right voted for Bush in droves—their loyal support in 2000 produced fantastic results. While organizations that offer abortion counseling and services or help to prevent HIV see their funds cut, church groups receive millions in federal dollars to promote sexual abstinence and marriage (provided, of course, it is heterosexual). Bush has appointed a Christian right dream team to the federal courts, dedicated to tearing down what one such judge calls “the so-called separation of church and state. Religious zeal even shapes Bush’s foreign policy, as Christian belief in the end times spurs the administration’s support for hard-line policies in Israel.
A prescient study of the Christian right’s growing political clout, With God on Their Side is essential reading for anyone concerned about America’s direction.
About the Author
Esther Kaplan is a radio and print journalist and a community activist. She was acting senior editor at the Nation, and has written for the Village Voice, Out and the Nation. As a director for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice in the mid-1990's, she co-authored a report on Jews and the Radical Right.