Concept

Institute on Religion and Democracy

Summary
The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) is an American Christian conservative think tank that promotes its views among mainline Protestant churches, as well as advocating for its values in the public square. Its critics claim that it has been instrumental in attacking mainline Protestant denominations in the United States including the United Methodist Church. Founded in 1981, the institute's primary focus through the 1980s was communism and their opposition to elements within mainline Protestantism that they perceived as supportive of communism. In more recent years, the IRD has turned their main purposes to the promotion of theological and political conservatism in mainline churches, particularly on issues of "traditional" sexual morality and support of Israel. The IRD was founded in 1981 by United Methodist evangelist Edmund Robb and AFL–CIO official David Jessup. Michael Novak and Richard John Neuhaus joined the IRD board early on, as did Christianity Today 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 attacks on religious liberty. IRD challenged churches that supported Marxist regimes such as the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua and Vietnam in the 1980s. In 1985, IRD co-sponsored a conference with Ronald Reagan's administration, where speakers criticised the National Council of Churches for its efforts to develop contacts with church leaders in the Soviet Union. Since the early 1990s, the IRD has actively urged American 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. International religious liberty is a chief concern for the IRD, and their religious liberty program has especially focused on southern Sudan. Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, IRD has emphasized the importance of Christian just war teachings.
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