Church Meets State

This may be the religious right's biggest policy success. George W. Bush not only named two seemingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices, but he has also made more than 250 lifetime appointments to lower federal courts--more than a quarter of the federal judiciary. (Now more than half the federal judiciary has been appointed by GOP presidents.) Those judges will rule on issues such as teaching "intelligent design," whether the Pledge of Allegiance can contain the words "under God" and which abortion restrictions are constitutional. When Bush tried to name his moderate White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court last year, the right objected; Bush appointed the more solidly conservative Samuel Alito instead. Evangelicals hope that over time Alito and new Chief Justice John Roberts will provide the crucial votes to roll back Roe v. Wade . If Bush gets a third high-court appointment, those odds could increase.

Though evangelicals haven't passed the Human Life Amendment or succeeded in overturning Roe , they have had some luck tinkering at the margins. Congress passed the partial-birth-abortion ban; it was challenged in federal court, and this week the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the measure. Congress also passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which counts a violent crime against a pregnant woman as a crime against two people. Both houses of Congress also passed laws making it a crime to take a minor over state lines to get an abortion, but Democrats blocked the Senate from considering a final version. A number of states have passed similar laws, as well as restrictions requiring parental notification and waiting periods. South Dakota recently passed a law banning abortions--even in cases of rape and incest--unless needed to save the life of the mother. (A measure on the ballot this week could repeal that law.) The religious right also protested FDA approval of the abortion pill known as RU-486, but the drug remains on the market. The biggest success may have been in controlling funding: the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion, has been renewed every year.

The religious right hasn't been able to pass a constitutional amendment allowing organized school prayer. It has also had little success implementing a widespread voucher program. Several state voucher programs were declared unconstitutional, though there is a small demonstration program in Washington, D.C. Courts have allowed voluntary student-initiated prayer as well as Bible study after school, but they have also ruled that schools cannot require teaching intelligent design alongside evolution.

Sen. Jesse Helms, who headed the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gave evangelicals influence over foreign policy in the early 1990s when he tried to "privatize" U.S. foreign aid by directing funds to his favorite faith-based charities, like Samaritan's Purse. Evangelicals have pushed for greater engagement in Africa to deal with issues like famine, the civil war in Sudan and AIDS. They pushed for the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act, which allows aid to be distributed by charitable organizations, including faith-based groups. They've lobbied for tightened laws on sexual trafficking; Bush has boosted funding and beefed up anti-trafficking laws. The Christian right has also zealously supported Israel. The Mexico City policy signed by Ronald Reagan in 1984 (then repealed by Bill Clinton and reinstated by George W. Bush in 2001) prohibits federal funding of overseas nongovernmental agencies that perform or counsel about abortions. Evangelicals also aligned themselves with the neocons, supplying a political base to back up the tough-on-defense foreign-policy ideas--an alliance that became especially powerful after 9/11.

In 1996, Congress passed the federal Defense of Marriage Act and President Clinton signed it. But after Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004, states across the country rushed to pass their own DOMAs and amend their constitutions to prohibit same-sex unions. Though the right has been very successful at the state level--there are now only five states without some kind of ban on gay marriage--it failed to get even 50 votes in the Senate for the Marriage Protection Amendment. And that was in an election year. Some evangelical scholars think they could lose ground on marriage as society becomes more accepting of gay couples.

Bush's 2001 policy allowed federal spending on stem-cell "lines" already in existence but prohibited funding for any research that destroys new embryos. Several states, including California and New Jersey, have passed initiatives to encourage state-funded research. Earlier this year Congress passed a law that would have repealed Bush's policy and expanded federal funding. But Bush vetoed it and the House upheld his veto.

Evangelicals argued that the morning-after pill, Plan B, should not be approved for over-the-counter use. After a long delay, Acting FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach approved the nonprescription status, though only for women 18 and older. The right has been wildly successful in expanding the use of sex-ed programs that promote abstinence until marriage. Over the past decade, the government has spent more than $1.5 billion in state and federal money on abstinence, even though studies have not yet proved the programs' effectiveness. At least one third of the prevention money spent on Bush's African AIDS initiative must also go toward abstinence programs.

Courts have been ambivalent on this one, partly due to the shifting majorities on the Supreme Court. Last year the high court ruled that the Ten Commandments can be displayed in public if they are part of a historical display, but not as a stand-alone religious symbol. In 2003, the then Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended after he defied a court order to move a Ten Command-ments monument from the state Supreme Court building. Rulings on displaying crèches and menorahs have also been muddled. And although the religious right has lately railed against "taking the Christ out of Christmas," many schools and municipali-ties--worried about being sued--now steer clear of any religiouscelebrations or symbols.

Correction: In the graphic "A Range of Voices Under the Revival Tent," accompanying our Nov. 13 cover package, "The Politics of Jesus," we misidentified Chuck Colson. While Colson runs a program that ministers to prison inmates, he is not an ordained minister. NEWSWEEK regrets the error.