After a generation of involvement on the political scene, religious conservatives say they may finally have come into their own.
With the re-election of President Bush and a galvanized grass-roots movement, evangelical Christian leaders are confidently predicting the advance of their social agenda.
"I think before there was a perception problem," said Paul Weyrich, who co-founded the now-defunct Moral Majority in 1979 and now chairs the Washington-based Free Congress Foundation. "The view was that we really didn't have the troops to make a difference."
But Bush was returned to office Tuesday on the wings of evangelicals. Three out of four white voters who described themselves as evangelicals or born-again Christians voted for Bush, according to an exit poll of more than 13,000 voters conducted for the Associated Press and the television networks. That represented about one-fifth of all voters.
"Before our strength was a question mark," said Weyrich. "Now it's an exclamation point."
Religious conservatives have a wish list of items they hope Bush and a Republican-dominated Congress will address, including legislative bans on same-sex marriage, continuing efforts to limit abortion and appointment of judges who do not meet their definition of "activist."
Overcoming past stages of political apathy, evangelicals are now energized, their leaders say — not just at the voting booth, but for future action to let the political powers know they have certain expectations.
"I think that the voters spoke with a clear voice yesterday on … the issue of marriage, which speaks more broadly to the issue of judicial activism," said Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council, in a Wednesday interview.
"I think if they do ...1
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