While covering the Christian Coalition‘s national conference last fall, photographer Larry Fink’s camera malfunctioned and–unbeknownst to him– double exposed his film. Are the resulting shots a divine manifestation of the religious right’s duplicity? The Christian right is indisputably ascendant: According to People for the American Way, more than 60 percent of the nearly 600 local, state, and national candidates aligned with the religious right triumphed in last November’s elections. Many won by shrewdly downplaying their mission to create a Christian state, instead targeting mainstream voters frustrated by rising crime rates, the health care crisis, and the failings of public education. The Coalition’s holy crusaders, a million strong, now expect to be amply rewarded by a grateful Republican leadership, as their real social agenda emerges: Newt Gingrich is already pushing for school prayer and welfare reform that punishes unmarried mothers. Jubilant Christian activists, who dominate GOP organizations in a dozen states and wield substantial influence in almost 20 others, plan to be firmly in control of the GOP political machine by the year 2000–maybe earlier. Shall we pray?
The Christian Coalition’s national conference drew more than 3,000 activists to the Washington Hilton. At the podium is 17-year-old Gianna Jessen, who survived despite her mother’s late-term abortion. Largely because of the religious right’s get-out-the-vote effort, 44 of the new members elected to the House of Representatives are opposed to abortion.
Star attractions included former Vice President Dan Quayle (shown signing copies of his book “Standing Firm”), former Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, and former drug czar and best-selling author William Bennett.
Coalition Legislative Affairs Director Marshall Wittmann (seated). Wittmann and Reed orchestrated the Coalition’s distribution of some 33 million pieces of campaign literature, most of it through churches, and galvanized the grassroots. Coalition exit polls showed that religious conservatives accounted for one-third of all votes cast.