Nov 04, 1998

American voters have soundly rejected the Religious Right's drive to dominate yesterday's elections, according to a survey of key races by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"The Christian Coalition and other Religious Right groups poured millions of dollars into the election, but they have embarrassingly little to show for it from last night," said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn. "Simply put, narrow moralizing by the Coalition doesn't resonate with moderate voters."

Lynn noted that the Christian Coalition sought $2.7 million from donors for a last-minute pre-election blitz of voter guides and get-out-the-vote calls for conservative Christians. Despite the effort, polling data released this morning by The Washington Post showed that "white Christian conservative" voters represented just 13 percent of the electorate down from 15 percent in 1996.

Christian Coalition Chairman Pat Robertson also released polling data indicating that conservative Christians did not vote as a bloc. "The Christians went out to vote," he said on his nationally televised "700 Club" program, "but they didn't necessarily vote Republican."

Robertson's polling data indicated that 54 percent of "conservative Christian voters" cast ballots for Republicans, while 31 percent voted for Democrats. That's a marked shift from 1994 when 67 percent of conservative Christian voters supported the GOP and only 24 percent pulled the Democratic lever.

"The embrace of the Religious Right was a kiss of death for candidates in many competitive races," said Lynn. Lynn cited Alabama Gov. Fob James as a prime example. Religious Right leaders from Jerry Falwell to Phyllis Schlafly endorsed James, but the incumbent Republican lost.

"Fob is the personification of the Religious Right agenda," said Lynn. "He made school prayer and the Ten Commandments the chief planks in his platform. Yet even conservative Alabama voters refused to say amen."

Lynn noted that key Religious Right gubernatorial allies David Beasley in South Carolina and Jim Lightfoot in Iowa were also defeated. On the other hand, GOP candidates that rejected core Religious Right issues like school prayer (Jeb Bush in Florida) or limits on reproductive choice (Tom Ridge in Pennsylvania) were easy winners with substantial Democratic crossovers.

In Religious Right firebrand James Dobson's back yard, Colorado voters rejected tax breaks for religious schools, the key plank in the Religious Right's education platform. They also rejected a "partial birth abortion" ban, a wedge issue the Religious Right has given top priority in Congress and state legislatures.

To gauge the impact of the Religious Right, Americans United selected competitive races for governor, U.S. House and U.S. Senate where one candidate was identified with the Religious Right or drew heavy support from Religious Right groups. Read the full report.

Lynn pointed to the following major Religious Right defeats in congressional races:

North Carolina, incumbent Sen. Lauch Faircloth lost even though the Christian Coalition claimed massive voter guide distribution and considers the state its best organized.

South Carolina, Rep Bob Inglis lost his bid for a Senate seat in a state where the Christian Coalition dominates GOP politics.

Wisconsin, Rep. Mark Neumann (Christian Coalition 100 percent ranking) lost his bid for a Senate seat.

Washington State, Rep. Linda Smith, considered a "prophet for our nation" by the Religious Right, failed to win a Senate seat.

Kentucky, Religious Right rising star Gex "Jay" Williams lost his bid for a House seat despite campaign advice from former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed.

Kansas, incumbent Rep. Vince Snowbarger lost despite the Religious Right's near total domination of the Republican Party there.

New Mexico, incumbent Rep. Bill Redmond, an evangelical minister, lost despite broad Religious Right ties.