Institute on Religion and Democracy

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IRD logo.

The Institute on Religion and Democracy is an American, Christian think tank that promotes Christian conservatism in public life. The organization comments on current events in the Christian community.

Background[edit]

The IRD was founded in 1981 by United Methodist evangelist Edmund Robb and AFL-CIO official David Jessup.[1] Michael Novak and Richard John Neuhaus joined the IRD board early on, as did Christianity Today magazine founding editor Carl F. H. Henry. Mark Tooley became IRD's president in 2009.

The early focus of IRD was to identify Marxist tendencies in mainline Protestant churches and draw attention to what it saw as attacks on religious liberty. IRD challenged churches that supported Marxist regimes such as the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua and Vietnam in the 1980s.[1] In 1985, IRD co-sponsored a conference with Ronald Reagan's administration, where speakers attacked the National Council of Churches for its efforts to develop contacts with church leaders in the Soviet Union.[2]

Since the early 1990s, the IRD has actively urged U.S. churches to affirm traditional Christian sexual ethical teachings, including opposition to same-sex marriage. IRD has also challenged mainline Protestant church agencies that support abortion rights. According to the IRD, international religious liberty is a chief concern, and their religious liberty program has especially focused on southern Sudan.

Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, IRD has emphasized the importance of traditional Christian "Just War" teachings.[3] Most recently, IRD has challenged church officials who they say uncritically accept worst case scenarios regarding human-induced climate change. The IRD focuses much of its criticism on the policies of the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Notable members of the organization's Board of Directors include journalist Fred Barnes, United Methodist theologian Dr. Thomas C. Oden, Princeton University ethicist Dr. Robert P. George, theologian Michael Novak and former papal biographer George Weigel.

Criticism[edit]

Progressive United Church of Christ minister Chuck Currie blogged that "IRD's conservative social-policy goals include increasing military spending and foreign interventions, opposing environmental protection efforts, and eliminating social welfare programs" and that the organization is non-religious in nature and a front for conservative political groups that hope to undermine Christian voices opposed to conservative public policies.[4]

In her book Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right is Hijacking Mainstream Religion,[5] United Church of Christ pastor Sheldon Culver accuses the IRD of encouraging small groups of theologically conservative Christians to divide and then take over their mainline (UCC, Episcopalian and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ) congregations and lead them out of their respective denominations and into more conservative ones. The process, called "steeplejacking", is done against the wishes of the majority of the original congregants.

Funding[edit]

The IRD is funded by gifts from both foundations and individuals. It describes itself as "an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches’ social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad."[6] IRD's board includes Roman Catholics.

According to GuideStar, the Institute on Religion and Democracy generated $1.1 million in contributions in 2009.[7] Contributions to the IRD equate to less than 1% of the budgets of all mainline churches combined.[citation needed]

Donors include the Scaife Foundations, the Bradley Foundation, the Olin Foundation and Howard and Roberta Ahmanson's Fieldstead & Company.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Goodstein, Laurie; Kirkpatrick, David D. (May 22, 2004). "Conservative Group Amplifies Voice of Protestant Orthodoxy". New York Times. Retrieved March 17, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Critics voice church-state concerns on conference". Eugene Register Guard. April 27, 1985. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Just whose side is God really on?". The Times-News. February 7, 1991. Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Institute on Religion and Democracy Continues Campaign Of Disinformation". Huffington Post. April 12, 2011. 
  5. ^ ISBN 978-0977197286
  6. ^ "IRD Mission Statement". Archived from the original on 2008-01-09. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 
  7. ^ "INSTITUTE ON RELIGION & DEMOCRACY". Retrieved March 17, 2012. 

External links[edit]