His forehead sweating under television floodlamps during a pre-election debate, California state senator John V. Briggs declared: “We have the people, we have God, we have right, and we’re going to win it.”

As sponsor of the so-called Proposition 6 referendum, Briggs may have been right on the first three counts. But his last statement proved wrong. His bill—which would have given California school boards the power to fire teachers and other school employees who practice or advocate homosexuality—lost by one million votes.

Proposition 6 was only one of several November election referendums that attracted church interest. In many cases, individuals and groups carried the name of God and church into the campaign fray. In scattered cases, some evangelical candidates for political office were supported on the basis of their Christian identity.

Potent election issues—including abortion, homosexuality, gambling, and pornography—sometimes divided church groups. In Seattle, Washington, for example, separate church associations took opposite views on a homosexual rights bill. Each brought out financial artillery for the election battle.

In many cases, the issues made the candidate. Anti-abortionists in Iowa, for instance, were partially credited for the defeat of liberal Democratic senator Dick Clark, a United Methodist, by Republican Roger Jepson—a Lutheran who took a strong campaign stand against abortion.

Parting Over The Issues

Campaigning may have been fiercest in California, both for and against Proposition 6. Supporters and opponents of the bill each spent over $1 million.

Senator Briggs, a self-described “born-again” Christian, claimed the support of about 500 mostly fundamentalist ...

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