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The term "Religious Right" pops up every election cycle, but leaders often identified with the political movement say that while their constituencies remain strong, the catchphrase deserves a proper burial.

After Election Day, the BBC declared that times are uncertain for the Religious Right. In September 2008, Newsweek declared a Religious-Right Revival after Sarah Palin was nominated vice president. Even after the election, the term "Religious Right" or "Christian Right" appeared in recent obituaries as journalists searched for words to describe Paul Weyrich, cofounder of the Moral Majority, and the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, founder of Catholic journal First Things.

However, several politically conservative evangelicals said in interviews that they do not want to be identified with the "Religious Right," "Christian Right," "Moral Majority," or other phrases still thrown around in journalism and academia.

"There is an ongoing battle for the vocabulary of our debate," said Gary Bauer, president of American Values. "It amazes me how often in public discourse really pejorative phrases are used, like the 'American Taliban,' 'fundamentalists,' 'Christian fascists,' and 'extreme Religious Right.' "

Jerry Falwell, cofounder of the Moral Majority, self-applied the Religious Right label until it started taking a more negative connotation, according to John Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

"Terminology is fraught with peril," Green said. "People associated it with a hard-edge politics and intolerance. Very few people to whom that term now would apply would use that term."

Academics believe the phrase originated with the media in the late 1970s after politically conservative groups like the Moral Majority ...

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February 2009

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