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The 12 Worst (and Most Powerful) Christian Right Groups

The Religious Right in America is lavishly funded and politically well connected. These groups raise more than three-quarters of a billion dollars annually, mostly tax-exempt.

The Religious Right in America is lavishly funded and politically well connected. While the men who lead the fundamentalist Christian political movement hold different opinions about theology, they share a deep and abiding hostility to the separation of church and state. They seek to inject religion into public schools, obtain taxpayer funding for religious schools and other ministries, roll back reproductive choice and deny civil rights to gay people. And they enjoy extraordinary influence in Washington, D.C., and in many state legislatures.

What follows is a survey of some of the nation’s leading Religious Right organizations. Collectively, these groups raise more than three-quarters of a billion dollars annually, the bulk of it tax-exempt. Budget figures are from public tax documents and are the most recent available, in most cases from 2009 and 2010.

The Pat Robertson Empire

Christian Broadcasting Network

Budget: $295,140,001

Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

Regent University

Budget: $60,093,298

Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

American Center for Law and Justice:

Budget: $13,375,429

Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism

Budget: $43,872,322

Location: Atlanta, Ga.

TV preacher Pat Robertson has for many years overseen a sprawling Religious Right empire that includes a global television network, a university and an influential right-wing legal outfit. Robertson’s flagship operation, “The 700 Club,” is a daily television program that mixes news, faith healing, Christian lifestyle features and Religious Right politics. He calls church-state separation a “myth” and a “lie of the left.” Despite his extreme views, Robertson remains well connected with the GOP power structure in Washington, and congressional leaders and presidential candidates often appear on his show. House Speaker John Boehner, for example, gave an exclusive interview in February.

Religious Right attorney Jay Sekulow runs the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a legal group founded by Robertson in 1991. Sekulow’s Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, the ACLJ under a different name, serves a similar purpose. The combined annual budget for both entities exceeds $55 million.

Regent University was originally founded to offer graduate degrees in areas Robertson most wants to dominate: government, education, law, communications, psychology and ministry. It now offers undergraduate degrees as well (many of them online) and has a satellite campus in Alexandria, Va., a Washington, D.C., suburb.

The Falwell Empire

Liberty University

Budget: $395,898,255

Location: Lynchburg, Va.

Jerry Falwell Ministries

Budget: $4,208,989

Location: Lynchburg, Va.

Liberty Counsel

Budget: $1,371,795

Location: Orlando, Fla., and Lynchburg, Va.

The late Jerry Falwell, a television evangelist and founder of the Moral Majority, was a pivotal figure in the history of the Religious Right. Falwell died in 2007 and left his religio-political empire in the hands of his two sons, Jerry Jr. and Jonathan. Falwell Jr., who serves as chancellor of Liberty University, has followed in his father’s footsteps by advancing a partisan political agenda. In December of 2007, Falwell issued an e-mail on university letterhead endorsing Mike Huckabee for president. In 2009, he used university resources to engineer the defeat of the Democratic member of the House of Delegates who represented the Lynchburg area.

In April of this year, Liberty hosted “The Awakening,” a conference that featured former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), alongside Religious Right activists.

Liberty has experienced huge growth and now has an active online learning component. Despite Falwell’s anti-government rhetoric, Liberty students receive nearly half a billion dollars in federal aid every year.

Jonathan Falwell serves as pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church and oversees the remnants of his father’s TV ministry.

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