Richard Nixon’s Religious Right

Catholics, Evangelicals, and the Creation of an Antisecular Alliance


Evangelical Protestants began and ended the decade of the 1960s by campaigning for Richard Nixon. Sixty percent of evangelicals voted for Nixon in 1960, 69 percent did so in 1968, and 84 percent did in 1972. They considered him a “man of destiny to lead the nation” and a man who was “in God’s place,” as Billy Graham told Nixon on more than one occasion.1 But though evangelicals’ faith in Nixon never wavered, their reasons for supporting him changed. In 1960 they viewed Nixon as a champion of Protestantism who would save the country from the dangers posed by a Catholic candidate. By the end of the decade, they began to view him not as a sectarian symbol, but as the champion of an antisecular, ecumenical coalition that was broad enough to include Catholics. Nixon’s success in positioning himself as a transdenominational moral leader who could reach out to evangelicals without losing the Catholic vote laid the groundwork for the rise of a politically influential Religious Right and transformed the Republican Party. Though Nixon was never fully conscious of the degree of his success in creating an interdenominational religious coalition, it became one of his most enduring political legacies.


Republican Party Spiritual Struggle Religious Matter Cultural Liberalism Bible Reading 
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© Laura Jane Gifford and Daniel K. Williams 2012

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