Religious Right At A Crossroads?

10/29/2010 10:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

While marveling at the iconoclastic wit of H.L. Mencken, what many forget about the Scopes Monkey Trial is that Clarence Darrow did not sway the judge, and that, shortly thereafter, the combative strain of secularism that he and Mencken championed fell into popular disrepute. That manifold term - "secularism" - would return to American civic life in later decades; but rather than serving as an eradicative force against public and even private religiosity, this new, soft secularism would be instrumental in achieving equality and unity among diverse groups, from Roman Catholics to Jews to African-Americans and women. It was in this heady period during the 1960s and '70s that school prayer was banned and abortion legalized, and in response emerged the modern religious right that has now dominated American politics for decades.

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