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Acton Institute defends the legacy of Phyliss Schlafly, the anti-feminist who rallied Christian leaders to support Trump

May 4, 2020

The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty has defended all sorts of conservative positions, both religious and political.

It’s founder, Rev. Robert Sirico, is a pompous man who spends a great deal of his time in the company of the capitalist class. Sirico was the priest that Erik Prince asked to preside over his second marriage.

I’m never surprised anymore about who or what the Acton Institute acts as an apologist for. However, in a recent Acton Institute column, I was somewhat surprised by the fact that they were complaining about a show that is currently running on the online streaming service Hulu.

The show that the Acton Institute took issue with is the show Mrs. America, a show about the battle between pro-ERA activists and the conservative icon, Phyliss Schlafly. The article, which appeared on the Acton Institute’s website was entitled, ‘Mrs. America’: How Hollywood rewrites history.  The article was written by Caroline Roberts. Roberts produces Acton’s weekly podcast called, Acton Line.

The article by Roberts takes issue with how Phyliss Schlafly is portrayed, but also with what she stood for and the women who worked with her. Personally, I’m not terribly invested in the Hulu show, although I did watch a few episodes. What I am more interested in, is the fact that the Acton Institute writer was defending a woman who was not only an anti-feminist, but someone who was a racist, anti-abortionist who hated the LGBT community.

Phyliss Schlafly was deeply committed to the Republican Party and became a party delegate in 1956, until just before she died. Schlafly was part of the ultra-right part of the GOP, the same crowd that pushed to get Barry Goldwater on the ticket in the 1960s. Schlafly actually believed that the Republican Party was controlled by an elaborate conspiracy of bankers and financiers who were assisting a global communist conquest.

In the 1990s, Schlafly founded the Republican National Coalition for Life (NCL) in 1990 for the purpose of electing a majority of pro-life delegates in as many states as possible.

However, Phyliss Schlafly’s most notable contribution was her commitment to ending the Equal Rights Amendment. Schlafly detested feminism and embraced what she believed to be was a biblical belief that men are the head of the household and that women should obey their husbands.

Arch-conservative beer manufacturer, Joseph Coors, funded Schlafly during her anti-ERA work. Schlafly once said, “The ERA mentality is the source of today’s social evils – hostility toward women, preborn babies, men, family church, state and God.” In fact, Schlafly believed that feminists were really just lesbians who had a much larger agenda. According to Chip Berlet, in his book, Eyes Right: Challenging the Right Wing Backlash:

“Schlafly made heavy use of the accusation of lesbianism in her early 1980s attacks on Equal Rights Amendment organizers. She argued that the ERA would promote gay rights, leading, for example, to the legitimization of same sex marriage, the protection of gay and lesbian rights in the military, the protection of persons with AIDS, and the voiding of sodomy laws.”

The organization that Schlafly founded, the Eagle Forum, not only organized against the ERA, but against any kind of rights for the LGBTQ community, against women’s reproductive rights, and she was opposed to immigration reform. In fact, Schlafly was most clearly a racist, as has been well documented on the site Right Wing Watch. In one article, published in May of 2016, Schlafly was calling on Christian leaders to stop push for immigration reform and to rally behind then presidential candidate Donald Trump. 

Phyliss Schlafly did not live to see Donald Trump elected, but the last book she published was entitled, The Conservative Case for Donald Trump. In many ways, one could argue that Phyliss Schlafly was as much to blame as anybody else for Donald Trump’s ascendency to the White House.

So, the Acton Institute writer has decided that the Hulu show about Phyliss Schlafly is not an honest depiction and then spends an entire article acting as an apologist for the woman who fought tooth and nail to prevent gender equity, a woman who hated the LGBTQ community, who didn’t believe that women had reproductive rights and told Christian leaders to get behind Donald Trump. I don’t think any hollywood depiction of Phyliss Schlafly would do justice to the hateful and harmful work that “Mrs. America” engaged in for more than 60 years.

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