It started a long time ago.
- In May of 1960 the birth control pill was approved for clinical use, signaling the very beginning of the Sexual Revolution.
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal for employers to give unequal wages for equal work based upon the sex of the employee.
- In 1967, the US Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.
- By the mid 1960’s, “Free Love” became the ‘in’ thing for hippies and college students. Religious tolerance was extended toward everyone – allowing people to explore religions that were not mainstream.
- The 1966 Divorce Reform Law created “No Fault” separation leading to divorce – the first of future “No Fault” divorce laws.
- Police raided the Stonewall Inn, a legal Gay bar located in Greenwich Village section of New York City, in June of 1969 – touching off 3 days of riots and igniting the very beginning of organized Gay Rights groups.
- President Lyndon B. Johnson created the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography in 1968. The Commission’s findings, published in 1970, found “no evidence that pornography caused crime or delinquency among adults and youths.” The commission still supported the laws that prohibited the sale of pornographic materials to children, but it recommended eliminating all legal restrictions on the use of pornographic materials by consenting adults.
- Colleges started co-ed housing for male and female students in the early 1970’s.
- The US Supreme Court made it’s ruling in favor of legal abortions in Roe v. Wade in 1973.
- The Miller Test for pornography was developed during Miller v. California in 1973 – it effectively made prosecutions for obscenity difficult or impossible.
The beginning of the conservative backlash
For the first time in American history people started to really discover what an individual right actually meant. We knew what it meant to fight for the right to live, and the 1960’s finally brought a tenuous hold on true liberty to all Americans. Now it was time to explore the pursuit of happiness, and America did it with a vengeance, challenging stereotypes and traditional mores.
Problems were encountered during this time of discovery – group marriages and communal living turned out to be hard to maintain, religious tolerance bred cults, reckless promiscuity spread sexually transmitted disease, and permissiveness became a camouflage for predators who exploited others.
Exploration carries risk, even when we explore ourselves.
Religious conservatives looked on the era of the 1960s and early 1970s in alarm. Things were changing too quickly in America for their comfort, and many started gathering to oppose this change. Over the years, many of these disparate groups have gained followers and power, eventually leading to influence in contemporary politics. These groups all sought to inject religion, ‘morality’ and other traditionally conservative values into the American political system – but they often worked at cross-purposes, which lead to ineffectiveness.
The Discovery Institute tried to overcome some of this using a plan called the “Wedge Strategy” in order to organize its followers and sympathizers into a more effective body that could afford to work toward a long-term goal: to bring Creationism into mainstream education.
But the Discovery Institute was founded by three men, lead by Bruce Chapman, and was still at heart an organization unwilling to compromise with other groups in order to meet its goals. Like many religious organizations, compromise is seen as weak, or ungodly.
In 2003, 15 to 20 of the most powerful, most influential of the religious conservative groups joined forces to form an alliance, called the “Arlington Group.” The exact makeup of the Arlington Group, and how many organizations it comprises is unclear – although they do not deny their existence, they also do not volunteer much in the way of other information. It is estimated that in 2005 the secretive Arlington Group comprises 60 of the most powerful religious conservative organizations in the United States.
Although there were plenty of evangelical groups that crusaded against the ‘immorality’ of the 1960’s and 1970’s, Donald Wildmon created the first religious group to effectively influence sponsors of radio and television shows that depicted “sex, violence or profanity”. Although his group, the National Federation for Decency (NFD), was small – the threat of sponsor boycotts was enough to get sponsors to pull advertisement from shows that Wildmon didn’t like. Many of the shows that were taken off the air due to a lack of sponsorship had some of the highest viewer ratings.
The NFD was never very large; still it organized its people in a very effective way. But the televangelist scandals of the late 80’s put a crimp into donations to all religious groups. In 1988 the National Federation for Decency suffered economic setback and was closed.
This didn’t slow Wildmon down very much – he re-created his organization with the opening of the American Family Association (AFA).
An in depth look at Donald Wildmon can be found in the report, “’The Rev. Donald E. Wildmons Crusade for Censorship, 1977-1992 (link)
Other court cases were being lined up in Massachusetts, New Jersey and California – and it looked as if they would favor same-sex marriage.
These cases, along with same-sex marriage gains in Canada in the late 1990s and early 2000’s, became a goad for religious conservatives who all, separately, started frantic efforts to thwart this trend.
In 2002 Donald Wildmon again entered the picture when he sent an email to the religious leaders of several right-wing groups, inviting them to meet in order to explore ways that the disparate groups could “sing from the same sheet of music.”
One of the invitees, Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, owned a condominium as part of an apartment complex in Arlington Virginia, and suggested that as a meeting place – conveniently located near Washington, D.C.
Representatives from several “Pro Family” organizations met to discuss the possibility of an alliance with the primary goal of countering the trend toward same-sex marriage.
Meetings at the Arlington Group are not open so meeting topics are not disclosed. Neither is exact membership, although the members themselves are free to admit membership. Members admit that there is little formal structure to the group. There is a Chairman and at least two people are employed as full time staff. The Chairman, who possibly is Donald Wildmon himself, sets the meeting agenda, but the agenda is subject to the whim of the group members who may bring up any topic for consideration. Group members are asked to hold these subjects secret.
Becoming a member of the Arlington Group is strictly by invitation only.
The Arlington Group spent a great deal of effort for President Bush’s reelection, with the understanding that Bush would work for a constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage.
They were also almost solely responsible for ensuring that marriage became a ballot issue in eleven states during the 2004 elections. They secured the resources to do a major push for traditional marriage during the Ohio vote. They were gratified to achieve eleven victories.
By January 2005 President Bush made the serious mistake of annoying the Arlington Group. Bush made no mention of a marriage amendment during his inaugural address. Marriage was not one of the 10 issues listed in the 10-point legislative agenda unveiled by Republican leaders in Congress in January. Group members said that Karl Rove had met in private to assure them that a marriage amendment was on Bush’s agenda, but President Bush said publicly in January that the amendment was not being pursued for now.
The group reacted by threatening to withhold much-needed support for overhauling America’s Social Security reform – a top Bush domestic initiative.
Civil unions and domestic partnerships are also targeted by the Arlington Group. They have made it very clear that anything less than a rigidly defined marriage is unacceptable. As Michael P. Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association and member of the Arlington Group said, “I don’t care if you call it civil unions, I don’t care if you call it domestic partnership, I don’t care if you call it cantaloupe soup, if you are legally spouses at the end of the day, I am not willing to do that.”
The Arlington Group does not publish a membership list, but there is correspondence signed by group members. This correspondence is in the form of political demands to the President, and to other politicians, and the content is then turned into a press release as another form of political pressure. The full membership has not, as yet, been disclosed in these letters, but from them it is known that these people are members of the Arlington Group:
American Assoc. of Christian Counselors – – Tim Clinton, President
American Family Association – – Donald Wildmon, President
American Family Association Michigan – – Gary Glenn, President
American Values – – Gary Bauer, President
Bott Radio Network – – Richard Bott, Vice President
Citizens for Community Values – – Phil Burress, President
Concerned Women for America – – Sandy Rios, President
Coral Ridge Ministries – – James Kennedy, President
Covenant Marriage Movement – – Phil Waugh, Executive Director
Faith 2 Action – – Janet Folger, President
Family Research Council – – Tony Perkins, President
Focus on the Family – – James Dobson, Chairman
Free Congress Foundation – – Paul Weyrich, President
Free Market Foundation – – Kelly Shackelford, President
Home School Legal Defense Association – – Michael P. Farris
Nat’l Coalition for the Prot. of Children/Families – – Jack Samad, President
Southern Baptist Conv. Ethics and Rel. Liberty Com. – – Richard Land, President
Traditional Values Coalition – – Lou Sheldon, President
The Arlington Group’s narrow-minded agenda sees the world in simplistic, black or white terms.
There is a prevailing belief that Homosexuality is based on a personal, and therefore sinful, choice that can be ‘cured’, such as promoted by Focus on the Family leader James Dobson in the “Love Won Out” conference series.
This rigid refusal to acknowledge that homosexuality might have a biological component is leading to a likewise rigid definition of marriage that will exclude 150 to 200 thousand Americans who are Intersexual, where a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.
This rigid definition of marriage will also likely exclude up to 3 million Americans who are gender atypical. But the religious far right has never been very good with humane concepts such as compromise, compassion, and the ability to see more shades than just black or white.
This black and white attitude is sure to be an integral part of future Arlington Group issues, such as Abortion, Intelligent Design, and Censorship.