Does Religious Right Have Too Much Power?

Religious conservatives have had a heavy hand in debates on issues from abortion to gay marriage, and even some Christians believe they are exercising too much influence on American politics.

"They want to control, from their very narrow Christian point of view, our government. And there are plenty of Christians, even, that don't agree with them," said Rev. Rita Nakashima Brock of Faith Voices for the Common Good (search).

But Christian conservatives deny that charge.

"The whole notion is absurd to say that we are trying to take over anything. What we do want to do is make our voice heard," said Rev. Dr. Jerry Sutton of the Two Rivers Baptist Church (search).

Click on the video box to the right to watch a full report by FOX News' Jonathan Serrie.

Last summer, Sutton's parish in Nashville hosted Justice Sunday II (search), a televised rally of conservatives calling for changes in the U.S. Supreme Court. Organizers have made no apologies to their critics.

"The issue is not the venue, but it's the effectiveness. And they're concerned because there are many, many Americans — while they may not identify themselves as evangelical Christians or conservative Catholics — that share the values that we represent. And it's a growing number of Americans," said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (search).

The introduction of religion into politics is nothing new, nor is it unique to conservatives. Four decades ago, religious liberals scored major political victories for civil rights. One of the fathers of that movement, Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery (search), recently said opposition to the war in Iraq and suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina may jar like-minded Christians out of complacency.

"I think we're going to begin to see the pendulum come back as the cover is pulled. I'm sorry Katrina had to do it, but I think Katrina pulled the cover off our perspective on poverty," Lowery said.

While churches are no strangers to political issues, their tax-exempt status prevents them from endorsing political candidates. Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican congressman from North Carolina, has introduced legislation to change that. Supporters of the bill argue that it's better for religion to influence government than to allow government to restrict free speech.