Defending Faith

The Politics of the Christian Conservative Legal Movement

Daniel Bennett

When, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the US Supreme Court held that bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution, Christian conservative legal organizations (CCLOs) decried the ruling. Foreseeing an “assault against Christians,” Liberty Counsel president Mat Staver declared, “We are entering a cultural civil war.” Many would argue that a cultural war was already well underway; and yet, as this timely book makes clear, the stakes, the forces engaged, and the strategies employed have undergone profound changes in recent years.

In Defending Faith, Daniel Bennett shows how the Christian legal movement (CLM) and its affiliated organizations arrived at this moment in time. He explains how CCLOs advocate for issues central to Christian conservatives, highlights the influence of religious liberty on the CLM’s broader agenda, and reveals how the Christian Right has become accustomed to the courts as a field of battle in today’s culture wars. On one level a book about how the Christian Right mobilized and organized an effective presence on an unavoidable front in battles over social policy, the courtroom, Defending Faith is also a case study of interest groups pursuing common goals while maintaining unique identities. As different as these proliferating groups might be, they are alike in increasingly construing their efforts as a defense of religious freedom against hostile forces throughout American society—and thus as benefitting society as a whole rather than limiting the rights of certain groups. The first holistic, wide-angle picture of the Christian legal movement in the United States, Bennetts work tells the story of the growth of a powerful legal community and of the development of legal advocacy as a tool of social and political engagement.

Defending Faith offers the first fine-grained study of the Christian Legal Movement. It shows how the Christian Right, once a movement that confidently spoke of a “moral majority,” now increasingly asserts the rights of an aggrieved and persecuted minority. That shift raises an important question: Is the Christian Right’s embrace of the language of minority victimhood a promising strategy, or further evidence that its destined to lose the culture wars?”

—Jon A. Shields, author of The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right

Defending Faith reviews the growing field of conservative Christian legal activism and expands upon existing research to offer an overdue update on the topic. The largest contributions of the book are the candid quotes from organization attorneys which provide insight into the motivations and strategies of and relationships between conservative Christian legal organizations.”

—Steven P. Brown, author of Trumping Religion: The New Christian Right, the Free Speech Clause, and the Courts

About the Author

Daniel Bennett is assistant professor of political science at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.