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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.

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Liberty Counsel is a Religious Right legal group originally founded by Mat Staver and based in Orlando, Fla. It is now a part of the Falwell enterprise and operates in conjunction with the Liberty University Law School, where Staver is dean.

Family Research Council/FRC Action/FRC Action PAC

Combined Budget: $14,569,081

Location: Washington, D.C.

The Family Research Council has become the nation’s top Religious Right group in Washington, D.C. Led by former Louisiana state representative Tony Perkins, the FRC seeks to merge fundamentalist Christianity with government. It opposes individual reproductive freedom, engages in gay bashing and lately has sought to join forces with the Tea Party to create a massive, far-right phalanx.

The FRC is so extreme that this year it was designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Perkins has a checkered political past. In 1996, while managing the U.S. Senate campaign of Louisiana state legislator Woody Jenkins, he paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and notorious white supremacist David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list. In 2001, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist organization that grew out of the White Citizens Council.

Despite FRC’s unsavory reputation, the group sponsors an annual “Values Voter Summit” that draws leading GOP congressional figures and presidential hopefuls.

FRC maintains an “action” arm with a 501(c)(4) tax status that enables it to be more directly political. It also funnels money to candidates through a political action committee.

American Family Association

Budget: $21,408,342

Location: Tupelo, Miss.

Originally formed to advocate for censorship of racy TV shows, the American Family Association has branched out and now covers a range of Religious Right issues. The group was founded by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, a Methodist minister, and was originally called the National Federation for Decency. It advocated boycotts of companies that advertised on programs it considered salacious.

Wildmon has now turned day-to-day operations of the group over to his son, Tim. An AFA staffer, Bryan Fischer, has become notorious for making outrageous statements. Fischer calls church-state separation a “myth” and an invention of Adolf Hitler. He believes that the First Amendment protects only Christians and members of other faiths receive religious liberty as a courtesy. The AFA is stridently anti-gay and is the leading group promoting the Religious Right’s phony claim of a “war on Christmas.” It continues to boycott companies that refuse to buckle under to its demands.

The AFA has underwritten a series of “pastor policy briefings” in Iowa, California, Texas and other states intended to organize fundamentalist churches into a potent political machine.

The group says it owns and operates nearly 200 radio stations across the country.

Alliance Defense Fund

Budget: $30,127,514

Location: Scottsdale, Ariz.

Formed by a group of TV and radio preachers in 1993, the Alliance Defense Fund was conceived as a funding pool for organizations that worked in the courts to promote theocratic views and undermine church-state separation. After a few years, the organization began engaging in direct litigation and formed a network of sympathetic attorneys nationwide.

ADF President Alan Sears says there is no such thing as church-state separation in the Constitution and that the bricks in the church-state wall are being removed “one by one.” The organization attacks public education and opposes legal abortion and gay rights.

Outside of court, the ADF has worked to lure evangelical churches into a vast right-wing political machine. It sponsors “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” a ploy to openly defy federal tax law by encouraging pastors to endorse or oppose candidates from the pulpit. (While the ADF claims to be nonpartisan, all the project’s participating clergy in 2008 endorsed Republican John McCain or opposed Democrat Barack Obama.)

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