Peeling The Onion

The news has been full of the arrest of a self-proclaimed White Nationalist who had amassed a gigantic arsenal and intended to kill numerous lawmakers and journalists in his effort to create a “white nation.”

Since Trump’s election, we’ve seen an increase in such racist incidents.

Pundits often refer to racism as America’s first sin. That may be an understatement. I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that persistent racism explains much that is otherwise inexplicable in American political life.

It’s sort of like peeling an onion–but once you discard the outer trappings of a policy argument, you discover that the core, the “seed” is something quite different and less palatable. We’ve seen this in the research connecting Trump voters to “racial resentment,” and noted religion scholar Randall Balmer has recently reminded us of the racial roots of the anti-Choice movement.

Writing in Politico Magazine, Ballmer says

One of the most durable myths in recent history is that the religious right, the coalition of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, emerged as a political movement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. The tale goes something like this: Evangelicals, who had been politically quiescent for decades, were so morally outraged by Roe that they resolved to organize in order to overturn it.

This myth of origins is oft repeated by the movement’s leaders. In his 2005 book, Jerry Falwell, the firebrand fundamentalist preacher, recounts his distress upon reading about the ruling in the Jan. 23, 1973, edition of the Lynchburg News: “I sat there staring at the Roe v. Wadestory,” Falwell writes, “growing more and more fearful of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s act and wondering why so few voices had been raised against it.” Evangelicals, he decided, needed to organize.

Ballmer reminds readers that it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, goaded by Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion as “a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term.” Being against abortion was “more palatable” than what was actually motivating the Religious Right, which was protection of the segregated schools they had established following the decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Both before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject, which they considered a “Catholic issue.” In 1968, for instance, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.

Ballmer goes on to quote a number of Religious Right figures who expressed similar sentiments. He also documents the real impetus for its new political activism.

In May 1969, a group of African-American parents in Mississippi sued the Treasury Department, arguing that whites-only K-12 private academies should not receive tax-exempt status. The schools had been founded after Brown and  in the first year of desegregation, the number of white students enrolled in public schools in their county dropped from 771 to 28; the following year, that number fell to zero. They won a preliminary injunction.

President Richard Nixon ordered the Internal Revenue Service to enact a new policy denying tax exemptions to all segregated schools in the United States. Under the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which forbade racial segregation and discrimination, discriminatory schools were not—by definition—“charitable” educational organizations, and therefore they had no claims to tax-exempt status; similarly, donations to such organizations would no longer qualify as tax-deductible contributions.

Ballmer traces the history of the civil rights law and the anger of those running the segregation academies, including, famously, Bob Jones University.

Falwell and Weyrich, having tapped into the ire of evangelical leaders, were also savvy enough to recognize that organizing grassroots evangelicals to defend racial discrimination would be a challenge. It had worked to rally the leaders, but they needed a different issue if they wanted to mobilize evangelical voters on a large scale.

The catalyst for the Religious Right’s political activism was not, as often claimed, opposition to abortion.

Although abortion had emerged as a rallying cry by 1980, the real roots of the religious right lie not the defense of a fetus but in the defense of racial segregation.

And the catalyst for Trump was the seething resentment of a black President felt by far too many Americans.

We are far, far from atoning for America’s original sin.


  1. Interesting info this morning about the real origin of the anti-choice movement.

    It sure seems easy for evangelical leaders to fool their flocks. Their members don’t want to have to think for themselves – they just want someone to tell them what to think and what to believe and they will hand over their money.

    Regarding the Civil Rights Act and the IRS, are there any provisions within the Civil Rights Act that could be used to stop the tax exempt status of religious schools that are now receiving public tax dollars via vouchers and to also stop the voucher program? I keep hoping that there is a way to sue Indiana and stop this legalized robbery of we, the taxpayers.

  2. There is a great evil loose upon the land. It swirls around us in a vapor of lies that lace the pronouncements of people we were taught in childhood to believe.

    How now does one believe the words of the Bible or the Pope or the local minister? How does one believe the words of the Senate Majority Leader or the President or members of the Supreme Court? We have all given up on news outlets that lean away from our own take on the world selecting only the facts that we want to hear. We close out the part of the world that rebels against our beliefs and distance ourselves from those with whom we disagree.

    At a time in history, our history, when we desperately need to unite in order to survive our man made future of self-destruction we stupidly, ignorantly separate into tribes.

  3. Well done connecting those dots, Sheila.

    I’m pretty sure you will also find the same cast of characters behind “school reform” which isn’t really about improving schools as it is about resegregating them again. The racists, working with the religious right and others, have been doing what we call a “workaround” with much success.

    I’ve asked continuously for data from the school systems and Ball State listing Delaware County kids by zip code. They all claim the data isn’t available. How is that possible?

    Like with all things in Indiana, if there is no data collection or it’s not available to the public, there is an excellent reason for it.

    Mike Pence spent $500,000 to Big Data for crunching numbers about the causes of our high infant mortality rates. One pediatrician already published an article in a medical journal linking our high numbers to the level of mercury in the ground and air from our four super coal-burning plants. When she went to the statehouse to address a public meeting, they turned off her microphone.

    Ball State’s Mike Hicks likes to shame anyone who points out that white parents in Muncie are taking their kids to pearly white county schools because those schools perform better on the “tests.”

    When county schools are 40%, who could predict the county schools would perform “better” on their “tests”?

    Yes, our original sin continues because the “white people” are dying off and what remains are shades of brown.

  4. Are there statistics maintained to know the percentage of Black Catholics in relation to white Catholics? Probably a lesson to be learned in those numbers. The Catholic religion has been first and foremost in the control of all facets of the lives of women and control over all Catholic’s permitted sex lives in general. Catholics segregated themselves from the “evil” general population when I was growing up; I witnessed in 2016 the blooming of “Trump for President” yard signs in my Catholic neighbor’s yards. In yards which had never posted political signs in the 14 years I have lived here.

    Catholics have, as a rule, segregated themselves to educate and provide religious control in their schools; currently benefiting financially by depleting the public education tax funds in the form of vouchers. Information from a person who works in a Catholic church and school; the amount of tuition per student for the 2019-2020 school year is $6,000 for Catholic students and $7,500 for non-Catholics using vouchers which pays a good portion of the tuition.

    After probably centuries of sexual activity of Catholic priests and the current “outing” of the massive numbers of molested children; I applaud Pope Francis for his current actions regarding this issue. But; at the same time I MUST question; why should the Pope NEED to tell priests to stop molesting children and the higher ups in the Diocese to stop covering up this criminal activity? Abortion is not the issue in this instance; it is the criminal activities of their anointed, holier-than-thou leaders.

    Race and religion appear to me to go hand-in-hand as our primary “sin”; it is especially confusing when there is a racial divide within a religious denomination. This is the case not only with Catholics; I am picturing the scene from “All In The Family” when Archie Bunker questioned Sammy Davis, Jr., regarding his conversion to the Jewish religion. Anti-Semitism is at an all time high in this country but seems to be carried out covertly…is this due to Trump’s family connection via Ivanka’s conversion to the Jewish religion when she married Jared Kushner?

    “The catalyst for the Religious Right’s political activism was not, as often claimed, opposition to abortion.”

    Another layer of that onion to be peeled away.

  5. This sentence, “When county schools are 40%, who could predict the county schools would perform “better” on their “tests”?” somehow got shrunk:

    It was written, “When county schools are less than 5% minority while the city schools are 40%, would perform “better” on their “tests”?

  6. ” In 1972, a Gallup poll found that 68 percent of Republicans believed abortion to be a private matter between a woman and her doctor.” Sue Halpren NY Review 11/8/18

    She reviews “Reversing Row” a documentary that explores the origins and relationship of the Republican Party to pro-choice. (Prime and Netflix)

  7. Abortion is an easy sell to white male dominated evangelicals, as it gives them another way to keep women in their place. It’s a good time to revisit the ERA. If women were included under the 14th Amendment, why did we need the 19th Amendment?

    From the 1960s onward, the first thing out of the mouth of any racist has been, “I’m not racist. I have a black friend.” Perhaps we should require anyone who says that to produce that black friend to testify both to the friendship and the lack of racism.

  8. Dear Peggy, thanks.. your view,i have a black friend, is just how you said it. living in Newark,N.J. 50/60s and growing up in a er,dark neighborhood as a white kid,you,learned to walk a quiet line,and sometimes it didnt work the other way around. Dr,King was still alive,and movement was real. Open eyes ,take first step,and listen…..when roe was passed,i was second year in the navy, the southern boys really didnt say much,until the preacher sent the message,then all hell broke loose.. seems the very fact,tollerance in religion,is a myth.they were heckled into a frenzy of words,that bible has become a right for anyone to,call it like THEY see it. be damn with theology. i belive the bible has words to such, also to save life? where do,the words about minding your damn buisnesss come about in those pages? we live in a world beyond a bible. human nature has glorified its own needs,and be damn with others. we will never see this change,its exploited in every word,media,and hype from the mouth of people. civilized society is not in definition here,its called moral law, and its being bastardized by the so called faihful..KMA…

  9. I think the “layer” of the onion which brought us to today’s abortion impasse was when Falwell and his ilk threw in their lot with Catholic views on abortion, and as Sheila’s history shows, was not for any real objection to abortion but rather as an outlet for the exercise of power in matters racial via schools and other consumers of tax money (see redlining in housing etc.).

    Intertwined racial and abortion issues, as usual, are motivated by unstated prejudices in favor of propaganda supposedly grounded in moral values. Those of us with an iota of critical thinking see the sordid underbelly of such views that make their way into legislation and force the taxpayer to subsidize religion and racial discrimination via paid off legislators and courts that contort facts and law to stay within constitutional bounds.

    To do: Elect post-Stone Age legislators and executives.

  10. Thanks for the education on evangelicals and their root cause for existence, racism. It conjured up a couple of thoughts:

    Lest we forget that it was Christopher Columbus who introduced slavery into the New World. The racism that we have today came with the first slaves in the 16th century. AND we have a national holiday celebrating the original racist and slaver. AND the lodge belonging to the Catholic Church is named The Knights of Columbus. Many states, including Ohio and South Carolina, have their state capitols named after Columbus, or have towns/cities named after him.

    Betsy DeVos is working her narrow ass off trying to instill segregation and religion in public schools. She is clearly one of the fetid arms of the Trump presidency trying to fulfill his hateful and racist agenda.

    Bringing this news to the front of the room does more than peel the onion. It roasts it, chars it and renders it garbage. Why is it that religion always seems to come to the rescue of sanity and doing the right thing by fellow humans? It seems that religions around the world have more to do with the pathological tribalism we’re all seeing today than anything else.

    It will be the ultimate irony that the final religious war will cause humans to be extinct. After all, isn’t martyrdom more important than life? Martyrdom doesn’t work, of course, when there isn’t any life to recognize it.

  11. A government that can force a woman to keep a pregnancy can also force her to end one. How long will it be before these racist pricks decide to shift tactics and leave Roe v Wade in place but push for mandated “one child” policies for non-white women? (My bet is it has already crossed Stephen Miller’s morally bankrupt little racist mind- morally, it’s not that far removed an idea from his evil family separation policy).

  12. Excellent argument, Sheila. All the above anything to do with sex … racism in all it’s cloaks and daggers … 21st Century ‘Canterbury Tales’ in the shadows beseiging high profile religious enclaves beyond the narthex … the evil cloaked in sheep’s fashion of false authority obsessed with preying on vulnerable children and women , free of internal intervention or vigilant Institutional prevention …. AND THEN add to all this … self righteous indignation when you have your own house to clean … the audacity to corrupt and divide our nation’s politics? To whom do we really point fingers for collusion and treason?

  13. The Confederacy lost the Civil War in a military sense, but won the cultural war, when their treason was transformed and accepted into the “Noble Cause”. How fighting for slavery could be a “Noble Cause” required a lot of historical denial. Think Gone with the Wind, which validated the “Happy Slaves” theme.

    Authoritarian Religions demand bind obedience. I do recall when I was attending a Catholic School in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s the nuns and priests were very pro-civil rights. I later learned that this pro-civil rights stance caused a lot of problems among some of the flock and left the Catholic Church.

    At it’s heart racism and women as second class citizens go hand and glove, a hierarchy of dominance must be established.

  14. Well, thank you, Betty.

    Monotonous, I too attended Catholic schools during the 1950s and 60s. Looking back on that time it seems to me that Catholics liked the “idea” of integration and equal rights…. they just didn’t want it in their schools. They still don’t.

  15. Enslaving others, especially as the spoils of conquest, is as old as human history. Keeping people enslaved, and by law their children, was a racial and economic decision, and is still practiced in some cultures around the world as a means of increasing wealth and consolidating power.

    If a political power conquers, it becomes, by extension, superior by force. The assumption that force is intrinsically the only measure to consider when conferring superior status negates any number of other factors that insure not only surviving but thriving. The power of superior force puts those it considers inferior in a constant fight to regain lost freedoms. The lost potential and benefit of free exercise is stunning to consider. Where would we be as a species if the lives lost to conquest and enslavement were lived out to their potential, not only for themselves but for the rest of humanity?

    Religion has become the historical power to enforce slavery, physically as well as politically. When we visited a California mission several years ago, the restored buildings were clear evidence that “conversion” was not a act of charity but a means of forcing enslaved people to enhance wealth and power by force.

    Not much has changed for the domestic and sex slaves of today. When you must surrender your passport to authority in order to work, you are enslaved. When you surrender your choices to a “superior” authority, you are enslaved. No thought required, any objections forcefully put down.

    P.S. What reactions do you all have to Clarence Thomas’s call to revisit NYT vs. Sullivan? He doesn’t speak often, but when he does it is often stunning in its willful ignorance.

  16. JD; Trump’s support of the “elected” president with the “most votes” in Venezuela is simply to gain control of their oil. He doesn’t support Americans, including Republican, evangelical Americans who are hungry and in need. People are dying at the borders trying to get the aid Trump has sent; how long before he may decide to “nuke ’em” in Venezuela, getting his often expressed wish to nuke somebody, anybody, anywhere. After all, to quote Trump, “We have nukes; why don’t we use them?” He will also get his wish of taking “the spoils of conquest”, his usual business tactic, as well as killing off one group of Hispanics while appearing to be saving another group of Hispanics. His mind rotates in circles like that revolving door on the White House. Eeny-meeny-miney-moe; who will be the next to go?

    Your first paragraph hit on most of Trump’s aims as sits on his throne, drinking Cokes as he watches Fox & Friends and Tweets this country’s fate and claiming all other media is “fake news”. Translate that to “Off with their heads!”; the Queen of Hearts solution to whatever displeased her in that rabbit hole.

    I’m beginning to sound like Trump with my rants; please consider the source of my displeasure with our current situation.

  17. Here is some interesting news about bible thumping from the Guardian: >>

    The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), one of the largest Christian organizations in the world, is grappling with allegations that more than 250 of its leaders sexually abused more than 700 congregants over the last two decades.

    A months-long investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News, published this month, asserted that dozens of churches within the SBC knowingly hired sex offenders, silenced victims, neglected to fire sexually abusive leaders and declined to report cases to secular authorities, or even document them within their own organization.

    In 1984, the SBC adopted the Resolution on Ordination and the Role of Women in Ministry. It says: “The scriptures teach that women are not in public worship to assume a role of authority over men lest confusion reign in the local church.”

    How do churches like the Catholic Church and the SBC keep any woman as members??? I do not understand how women in these churches accept second class citizenship?? I suppose the brainwashing begins on day one. At least from what I have observed of these two churches the women are assigned the mundane chores of “housekeeping” while the men make all the decisions.

  18. sometimes im seeing the charter school issue,as in racism,really a view of,superior kids,getting the white bread without the crust? as i focus on the talks in other areas, kids who accel in learning,are sought to,this charter stuff. kinda like superior humans i.e. hitlers superior ideals,though race is a factor, if a kid of color has the same learning capacity,and was able to afford private,then alls well and good. but, if the public school is left to,shoulder the rest,then its targeted as not efficient in education,making boiling points on funding,when, we all know and see, tax cuts as a primary issue, in education. as we watch the teachers,taking it to,the streets, i can really feel like someone has spoken out,but whos listening?moms at home with no child care?the rebublicans can use this as a tactic,and roll over the issues,because,no one is listening. in north dakota, people feel they shouldnt have to pay taxes,and especially,the ones who do not have kids at home.but,education,is the reason why, they buy something,and its handled by,someone who is educated. but they care less.every issue here,we under stand,and have a idea how,to get above this,problem, as im talking to people who live the same life i do, they dont have a clue,because,they dont have a outlet,they can trust. this is the voter,this is why we must mentor someone,to get to,the poles,and vote for change…friday in houston,i,was talking to a,local,driver,32,black, no record of law stuff,married,couple,of kids,he and wife,both registered to,vote,got a poling place assigned,to find out,they were not,on the list.
    but they did allow a hummer with a trump banner to park close to the poling place..mentor? yes,i asked him to,write local state and federal congressperson, get a reply,with,what have you done about this? and get it on paper… i believe he was a denied person of color who was denied the right to vote…mentoring will be the real winner i believe. take aside a person,have a lively chat,ask questions,and give real advise. im writing down sites that are in their questions,and helping,and it doesnt cast me a dime. but,the rewards,are, a voting base that is informed…


    Teresa: “How now does one believe the words of the Bible or the Pope or the local minister? How does one believe the words of the Senate Majority Leader or the President or members of the Supreme Court?”

    It has always been foolish to believe. To believe…period…in anything. I use the word foolish, because believing is not bad; it just does not work. Belief is always a trap.

    Skepticism is the only hope. Skepticism properly passed on like any other survival trait, has the ability to eliminate the great majority of fools, a sort of Sunday drive toward the extinction of Homo fidelis.
    Skepticism is the go-to tool of Existential Philosophy; without it, one can never be responsible for one’s self; without Skepticism, one may always blame the belief that betrayed.

    Skepticism enables one to proceed on the basis of best probable outcome, not on belief.

    The great positive in the modern Era of Lies is the resulting understanding of and stampede toward the virtues of Skepticism.

  20. Another great read. Now I need some guidance. I do not see how I can post to Facebook or send to a friend. Am I missing something?

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