It is widely believed that the Religious Right traces its political origins to Roe v. Wade, suggesting that outrage over abortion led the often apolitical evangelical movement to become stalwart supporters of conservative causes and Republican candidates. In the attached video Dr. Randal Balmer of Emory University challenges this theory, tracing the evangelical movement’s shift to the political right, not to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision but to a lesser known case – Green v. Connaly.

The 1972 Green v. Connaly case didn’t attack scripture or take a stance on a contentious social issue like gay marriage or evolution, but instead challenged the tax exempt status of religious institutions that practiced racial discrimination. Green v. Connaly produced a ruling that ‘any institution that practiced segregation was not, by definition, a charitable institution and, therefore, no longer qualified for tax-exempt standing’, which led to the revocation of Bob Jones University’s tax exempt status for first refusing to admit African Americans until 1971; then only admitting blacks who were married until 1975; then finally for forbidding interracial dating, a ban they enforced until the year 2000.

While Bob Jones University obviously had racist views, Dr. Balmer thinks that conservative operatives used a fear of government intervention rather than racial animus to galvanize the evangelical movement and create a reliable voting bloc for decades to come.