Cal Thomas urges Religious Right to re-examine itsfocus

Wednesday, May 26, 1999

Cal Thomas...
Cal Thomas

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Religious Right should
distance itself from politics, journalist and
former Moral Majority spokesman Cal Thomas said

‘Frankly, I wouldn’t feel bad if all the big
national ministries that devote themselves at
least in part to politics just went out of
business,’ Thomas said at an Author Series program
about the book he co-authored, Blinded by Might:
Can the Religious Right Save America?

Thomas, the most widely syndicated columnist in
the country, spent five years as spokesman for
Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, which had
helped turn the Religious Right into a political
power. But in his new book Thomas says that the
Religious Right has been seduced by that very same
power and has lost sight of its purpose, which ‘is
to serve a kingdom not of this world.’

Reading from the book’s introduction, he said, ‘A
delicate balance exists between church and state
and … if each fulfills its proper role, the
other is positively affected. But if one assumes
the role of the other, or ignores and rejects that
role, then both suffer.’

Thomas compared the efforts of religious
conservatives today to trying to just ‘rearrange
the captain and crew of the Titanic, without
repairing the hole in the hull, somehow the word
will get down to the engine room and the ship will
still float.’

The hole in the hull of American society, he said
— adding that liberals have not adequately
dealt with it, either — is inattention to the
moral development of children. ‘That development
is not going to come from politics,’ Thomas said,
yet we continue to ask government ‘to do things
that are the fundamental privilege and obligation
of families.’

As a result, he said, we get tragedies such as the
recent school shootings in Colorado. ‘One of the
great lessons of Littleton,’ he said, ‘is [that
is] what happens when a soul is empty.’

Thomas particularly was critical of Religious
Right fund-raising efforts, while noting that
fund-raising on both the right and the left
emphasizes the negative and leads to voter
cynicism. A dispute over fund-raising letters was
one influence in his eventual decision to leave,
he said. ‘I felt very strongly and spoke up
internally about [the sometimes misleading
content] of some of the letters.’ Soon he was
being bypassed in the chain of approval for such

Symptomatic of the Religious Right’s problem of
becoming so enmeshed in the political and
forgetting the spiritual, Thomas said, is that he
finds ‘my conservative friends are saying the same
thing the liberal friends say: ‘We just need more
time and more money and more effort’ ‘ to solve
this or that problem. ‘True religion is not
competing for political power,’ he said.

He took aim at the Supreme Court, saying that ‘the
idea of [the establishment clause of the First
Amendment] was to give completely free exercise to
religion, not to restrict it, as the Supreme Court
since 1947 has been doing.’

On school prayer Thomas noted that students are
allowed a minute of silence, ‘which I guess gives
them the same rights as felons — the right to
remain silent.’ Students, he said later, would be
better off if that minute of silence in school were
exchanged for five minutes at home in prayer with
their parents.

Thomas took care to note that the book,
co-authored with Michigan clergyman Ed Dobson, was
not the work of disgruntled former employees. But
he said little to dispel the notion that the raw
material for a less-than-flattering ‘tell-all’
book had been available to them.