Phyllis Schlafly is president of Eagle Forum, a grassroots organization she founded in 1972 to champion the traditional family, constitutional principles and national sovereignty. She is universally recognized as an architect of the modern conservative movement. Ladies’ Home Journal named her one of the 100 most important women of the 20th century. One of the original multi-media political activists, Mrs. Schlafly is a syndicated columnist, talk-radio hostess and writes a monthly newsletter. “A Choice Not an Echo,” her first book published in 1964, sold 3 million copies. Author of numerous subsequent works, her latest, co-written with George Neumayr, is “No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom” (Regnery, 2012). You can find out more about Mrs. Schlafly’s causes at: eagleforum.org.
Decker: In your new book, “No Higher Power,” you and coauthor George Neumayr write, “The policies of the Obama administration represent the greatest government-directed assault on religious freedom in American history.” How so?
Schlafly: The United States has never before suffered an attack on religious freedom such as we are witnessing today. The great men who wrote our Constitution and signed our Declaration of Independence, acknowledging that our Creator (not government) is the source of our unalienable rights, never failed to acknowledge the blessings of Almighty God on our land, asking for His intervention in times of danger and thanking Him for our successes. For more than two centuries, the First Amendment has been considered by all, and interpreted by our courts, broadly to welcome public prayer, crosses installed in public places especially to honor our veterans. Our national motto “In God We Trust” is inscribed on our money and sung in our National Anthem. We regularly pledge allegiance to “one nation under God” and observe a National Day of Prayer.
Barack Obama wants to redefine the First Amendment to guarantee a much lesser right. He wants to change “the free exercise” of religion to the diminished stature of “freedom of worship,” which means only what you do inside your church after the doors are closed. With his Obamacare mandate, he wants to deny religious liberty to the thousands of schools, colleges, hospitals and charitable agencies that were built and financed by religious denominations and serve the general public. That is not acceptable to Americans.
Decker: The march of U.S. history has been heading in a secularist direction that is openly antagonistic to religious faith and conservative morals for decades. Does an increasingly decadent America still have the character to turn this around, and, if so, how?
Schlafly: Yes, because America is still a majority Christian nation. However, the Christians will have to gird themselves for the battle, speak up, elect candidates who respect the First Amendment and are willing to do battle with the forces of secularism and lawyers who are trying to get supremacist judges to transform America into a secular nation. This is why George Neumayr and I wrote “No Higher Power” — to set forth the long list of Obama’s words and actions designed to banish religion from all public life in America.
Christians need to take warning from Europe, which has abandoned its Christian roots and turned its beautiful Christian cathedrals into mere tourist attractions. Nations that accept the notion that there is “no higher power” than government, as Europe has done, are on the road to totalitarian government and loss of freedom.
Decker: You were instrumental in stopping the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution in the 1970s. In recent years, I have heard about a growing “conservative feminism” that is less hostile to traditional religion and family life. What is conservative feminism, do you think this new iteration is legitimate, and how is it different from the radical feminist movements of the past?
Schlafly: Feminism cannot be reconciled with conservatism. Conservatives believe in individual achievement, limited government, equality of opportunity but not results, and the family as the stable basic unit of society. For 50 years, feminism has consistently taught that American women are victims of the patriarchy and second-class citizens, and that the so-called patriarchy must be overthrown. Feminists always look to government to solve their problems. The whole idea of teaching women that they are victims is self-destructive.
Feminism today is the same as the radical feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and is epitomized by the famous line of Betty Friedan (founder of the major feminist organization) that housewives live in “a comfortable concentration camp.” Feminism still teaches that the role of a homemaker is demeaning to women and that women should plan their lives in the labor force with no space for marriage, husband or children. Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that American women are the most fortunate class of people who ever lived on earth. Those two dogmas are irreconcilable, and it explains why most feminists are Obama supporters.
Decker: You — along with Pat Buchanan, Donald Trump and Rick Santorum — are one of the rare prominent voices out there insisting that rebuilding our manufacturing base is central to renewing America as an economic power. As a Detroiter, this issue really hits home, but manufacturing is not something one hears Republicans talking about very often. What needs to be done on this front?
Schlafly: That’s because we remember World War II, and the fact that our strong manufacturing base was an essential element in winning. Almost overnight, America was able to convert from manufacturing cars to building planes, and tractors to turning out tanks. A strong manufacturing base is essential to maintain our military superiority. That’s not the only reason why we need a strong manufacturing base. It’s necessary for innovation. When manufacturing plants go overseas, innovation and the skills of production go with them.
The establishment and moneyed Republicans have been co-opted by special-interest groups whose lobbyists believe that globalism is the wave of the future and that sovereignty is an anachronism.
Decker: What do you think is the most imminent threat facing America today, and how should this problem be addressed?
Schlafly: The most imminent threat facing America today is the breakdown of marriage and the traditional family combined with our 41 percent illegitimacy rate. This means that taxpayers are burdened with the cost of supporting millions of children who have not been legally connected with their own fathers to support them.
This situation has resulted in 47 percent of Americans depending in whole or in part on the taxpayers for cash and benefits distributed through 80 different programs (food, housing, cash, benefits and now even cellphones). As Ronald Reagan said, if you subsidize something, you’ll get more of it. And we do get more if it, year after year. The Congressional Budget Office just reported that these handouts in cash and government-paid benefits have reached $1 trillion.
There is no way to return to limited government, reverse our movement toward European Socialism, balance our federal budget, or stop borrowing from China unless we have stable families who have good jobs to support themselves.
Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times and coauthor of “Bowing to Beijing” (Regnery, 2011).