In the USA, 1979 was a troubled year. Inflation hit 13.3% – the highest rate in 33 years – thanks to strained relations with the OPEC nations. Oil prices were rising as well.
Odd/Even gas sale days were instituted for motorists in California and many other states. In the East and Mid West, truckers rioted over fuel rationing.
Right-wing Christians in the USA responded to what they saw as a direct correlation between the nation’s troubles and the ‘decline of American morals’ (i.e. increased tolerance of drug use, gay rights and abortion rights) by becoming increasingly politicised.
Televangelist Jerry Falwell and conservative political activist Paul Weyrich formed the Moral Majority in June 1979, operating from headquarters in Lynchburg, Virginia – the same city where Falwell was the presiding minister of the ’s largest independent Baptist church in America.
With more than 70 million Americans claiming to be “born again”, the Christian Right (or Moral Majority, as they ostentatiously called themselves) were now a political faction to be reckoned with. A fact that would not escape the notice of the Republican Party during the next presidential election.
The Moral Majority was a relatively early supporter of Reagan, with Falwell announcing the organisation’s endorsement of Reagan before the Republican convention. After Reagan’s victory, Falwell announced Reagan’s success was directly due to the Moral Majority and others registering and encouraging church-goers to vote who had never before been politically active.
By the end of Reagan’s administration, Christian Right organisations were in a phase of decline. After Reagan’s two terms in office, donations were decreasing – possibly because after eight years of Christian Right-supported leadership the nation did not appear to be in the same state of moral peril – and the Moral Majority’s financial base seriously eroded when it became part of the Liberty Federation.
Falwell, though, put a positive spin on the dissolution when he announced the disbandment of the Moral Majority in 1989 in Las Vegas. He declared, “Our goal has been achieved. The religious right is solidly in place and . . . religious conservatives in America are now in for the duration”.