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First Amendment Advocate, Vol. 5, No. 1, August 2004

The Newsletter of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United


Essential Reading for Oklahoma AU Activists

By Dr. Bruce Prescott


Ruth Murray Brown, formerly professor of political science and society at Oklahoma University, wrote a book that is essential reading for Oklahoma AU activists.  In 2002 Prometheus Press published Brown’s history of the religious right under the title For a “Christian America”.  The title is apt.


The book summarizes three decades of interviews with and observations of religious right leaders — mostly Oklahomans.  As Brown tells the story, the tap root nurturing the rise of the religious right in America was planted in Oklahoma.


She traces the rise of the religious right to evangelical women in Oklahoma who were opposed to the ERA.   Oklahoma’s anti-ERA activists were the first group to lead a successful campaign to defeat its ratification in their state.  “After Oklahoma women showed the way,” Brown wrote, “women all over the country, most of them with no previous experience in politics, did what no one thought possible — stopped the Equal Rights Amendment cold.”


After this initial success, Brown traces the growth of grassroots activism by the religious right through the decades of the 1980’s and 1990’s.  While the issues changed from decade to decade and from administration to administration, the theme uniting all of their political efforts is the religious right’s unwavering support for a “Christian America.”  Christian, that is, as defined and legislated by conservative evangelicals.


Brown makes it clear that dissolving church/state separation is the central goal of the religious right.


The glaring lacuna in Brown’s research concerns Christian Reconstructionism and its theocratic agenda.  Though Dominionists are politically active in Oklahoma and very influential in right wing circles, she totally ignored them.



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