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Catholic Cleric Says Moral Majority ‘suggests a Kind of Moral Fascism’

March 26, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A leading Catholic cleric charged that the Moral Majority “suggests a kind of moral fascism” for its tendency to label those who disagree with them on certain specific political issues as “immoral” or even “un-Christian.”

At the same time, a prominent rabbi said that the “vast majority of evangelical Christians have remained steadfast in their support of Israel as a Jewish State and of a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.” American Jewry, he said, “would be foolish to take that for granted.”

Nevertheless, Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, told some 300 people attending a forum on “The Moral Majority: Threat or Challenge” at St. Peter’s Church Monday night, that in spite of their support to the Jewish community, fundamentalists, when “they advocate views we perceive to be a threat to democracy, to pluralisn, to social justice and to a reasoned foreign policy, we have an obligation to stand against those views.”


The Rev. Joseph O’Hare, editor of the Jesuit magazine, America, told the audience that there are “aspects of the relation of religion and politics embodied in the Moral Majority that troubles me because I believe they make for bad religion as well as bad politics.” He cited the clustering of disparate issues into one political agenda and calling it a “moral” or even a “Christian agenda.” He said “these are all questions that should be argued on their own individual merits.”

O’Hare observed that the fundamental problem with the Moral Majority is “their failure to recognize specific conditions for conducting the necessary debate on public morality in the pluralistic sense.” However, he cautioned that the dangers being suggested, caused by the “new religious right, have been considerably overdrawn.” It is “premature, I believe to credit the Moral Majority and other similar groups with the decisive political victory conservatism won last November,” O’Hare said.


Tanenbaum, who moderated the forum, said that the most significant aspect of the Moral Majority is “the gradual but growing emergence of 40 to 50 million evangelical Christians into the mainstream of American life–economic, social, cultural, religious as well as political.”

Tanenbaum attributed the tremendous growth of the Moral Majority in the last two years particularly to the “media blitz,” but more significantly to a combination of “economic wealth and literacy” throughout the Southeastern portion of America, the base of the evangelical Christian movement.

Tanenbaum noted that “popular folklore, has perceived Evangelical Christians through stereo-types of crackers, rednecks, illiterates and poor white trash.” But, Tanenbaum said, “Today the new South is urbanized, industrialized, and its citizenry is overwhelmingly middle class, white collar workers with incomes and education levels comparable to the rest of the nation’s population.”

Tanenbaum noted that there is also an “extraordinary diversity and pluralism within the evangelical community. All fundamentalists are evangelicals but not all evangelicals are fundamentalists.” He said that more than half of the evangelicals are affiliated with the mainstream Southern Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians. It is those elements that do object to the establishment of a “Christian America” and object to those who urge followers to vote for “born again Christian only,” Tanenbaum said.

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