How did the Pro-Life Plank became a 1980 Republican party platform?
While on a trip to Washington in early February of 1980 I had the opportunity of having lunch at the Capitol Hill Club (the Republican Party Dinning facility) with my friend Father Don Shea. At that time he was working for the Republican National Committee as the Director of Urban Affairs. Several years earlier we had become good friends while lobbying to pass the Tuition Tax Credit Bill.
As we ate, Don asked me, "What can the Republican Party do so that all of our candidates will receive universal support of the Evangelical community?" For many years the Republican Parties presidential candidates had been elected due to the support of the vast majority of Evangelicals. There had not been the same kind of support for Republican candidates seeking lesser offices.
For several years I had been working to get evangelicals more involved in electing moral minded candidates. During this time I had become aware that evangelicals had a greater propensity to vote for candidates who voiced their support of certain moral issues. I shared this belief with Father Shea and we both agreed that this might be something worth looking into.
Upon returning to my home in California I began receiving calls from Don to discuss further this concept. Finally he asked if I could put together a small meeting of the most influential evangelical leaders in America to meet with then Republican National Committee Chairman Bill Brock.
We both felt that these leaders would convince Bill Brock on the importance of the Republican party taking a strong position on moral issues. I told him I would pick twelve men and we began planning the meeting. That meeting to this day has still had significant ramifications on American politics.
Included amoung the twelve leaders that I chose wereJerry Falwell, Charles Stanley, James Kennedy, and Tim La Haye. Three men who refused to come to the meeting were Pat Robertson(CBN), Jim Baker(PTL), and Jimmy Swaggert. We met in the Republican National Committee top floor war room. Chairman Bill Brock, Ben Cotton (Republican Party Chief Counsel) and Father Shea represented the Republican Party.
Chairman Brock began the meeting by asking, "What can the Republican Party do to receive universal support of evangelicals?". From this simple and straightforward question one would expect that these well known and respected Evangelical leaders would begin talking about moral issues that were of general concern to their congregations.
However this did not happen. One man said that the party should take a strong stand on the economy because it seriously affected the lives of all Americans. Another said that the defense of our nation should be the top priority because the well-known "Evangelical" President who was then in the White House had weakened the readiness of our armed forces. He further said, "We have less than a thousand days to rebuild the strength of our armed forces before the Russians will invade."
Several other ideas were put forward, however, not one dealt with the issue of morality in America. I sat there in disbelief, realizing that this was a God given opportunity to influence the top leadership of one of our national political parties.
I was surprised that these spiritual leaders were dealing with secular issues. Near the end of the time alloted for this meeting it became evident that no one was going to mention morality.
Father Shea then abruptly said, "Bill, let's hear what Charles has to say."
We both had organized the meeting and did not think that we would vocally participate, yet when the opportunity presented itself, I quickly said, "Bill, the Jewish people are only monolithic when it comes to Zionism while Evangelicals likewise are only monolithic when it comes to morality and decency. Most of the men at this table have different church doctrines and different church polity but they all have one thing in common, and that is the belief in the importance of morality and decency."
"If the Republican Party and it's candidates are to receive the universal support of these men and the vast majority of evangelicals it will have to take a strong position on moral issues."
There was a long pause as the Chairman waited to hear the response of the twelve. They sat there pondering what I had just said and finally Jerry Falwell said, "I believe Charles has a point." With little further discussion we adjourned to the Capitol Hill Club for dinner.
During the meal Ben Cotton, the Republican Parties Chief Counsel asked me to elaborate on what I had said. When I finished, I was surprised to again hear the same leader say, almost in rebuttal to what I had said,
What value is there in doing anything about morality if within a thousand days, the Russians take over our country?"
Thankfully this leader finally realized that what we each were saying did not preclude any action on the others point of view.
Over the next few weeks, Father Shea and I spent a good deal of time on the phone discussing all the issues that were of importance to Evangelicals. He finally called to tell me that he had sent me by special delivery a rough draft of the Republican Party's 1980 Platform. Father Shea said I would be pleasantly surprised and that I had the freedom of sharing copies of this platform with "your leaders."
I still have my original document and in it is found for the first time in history a Pro-life plank.
Beginning in 1980 this plank has remained in each National Republican Party Platform and is also found in the Republican Platform of many states. There are those "moderates" who have opposed it each presidential election year and have tried unsuccessfully to have it removed.
As the first National Field Director of the Moral Majority I had been able to minimally organize 43 states and organize 37 states to my 7th level of an 11 level organizational plan. I had encouraged each of my state Chairman to help send as many of "our kind of people" to the convention as delegates and where possible become active in the organization of the convention.
With a great deal of effort we were able to have several people named to the Platform Committee and three were named to the subcommittee on social issues. The chairman for that year's Platform Committee was Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina. I had helped put together a meeting that was held in the Long Beach California Convention Center the weekend before the Republican National Convention.
Several thousand people attended this meeting which was the counterpart to the feminist meeting held in Houston earlier that year. The purpose of our meeting was to bring Pro-Family Conservative leaders together to speak on the moral issues that we had ultimately seen the Party take a stand on.
Among the speakers were Senator Jesse Helms, Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell, Dr C.Everett Koop, Dr Mildred Jefferson and other well known people with strong moral convictions. Senator Helms spoke on Saturday afternoon and was to leave for Detroit the next morning to prepare for the Platform Committee meetings which began on Monday morning.
I went to the Senator and offered to take he and his Administrative Assistant to their lodgings at the Queen Mary Hotel. The distance was less than a mile however we sat in my automobile and talked at length about the Pro-Life Plank that evangelicals had worked hard to see incorporated into those presented by the Party leadership.
I gave Senator Helms the names of our people who were on his committee and told him I would speak to each of them before he arrived in Detroit so that they would introduce themselves to the Senator and be ready to assist him in voting this plank into the platform.
The next night (Sunday) on national television I heard the Senator say, "I will see to it that the Pro-Life Plank is voted into this Platform."
I was proud and grateful to God for everything that had transpired in the preceding seven months.