1981 March 26

Norman Lear Warns of New Right Threat to the “Spirit of Liberty”


Norman Lear, producer of the successful television shows All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Maude, and The Jeffersons, warned on this day of the rise of the religious New Right and its threat to the “spirit of liberty.” The speech was in response to the 1980 elections, in which Ronald Reagan was elected president, a number of prominent liberal senators were defeated, and conservative Republicans captured control of the Senate. The New Right was committed to constitutional amendments that would allow prayer in schools and outlaw abortions. Lear also organized the People for the American Way in the spring of 1981 to fight the New Right, and it quickly enrolled over 250,000 members.

Maude is notable for two programs in which Maude, the central character, had a legal abortion (see November 14, 1972 and November 21, 1972). Interestingly, no controversy resulted. Both programs were broadcast before the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion. Controversy did erupt when they were re-broadcast in later years following Roe.

Learn more about the People for the American Way: http://www.pfaw.org/

Read about the Reagan threat to civil liberties: Eve Pell, Big Chill: How the Reagan Administration, Corporate America, and Religious Conservatives Are Subverting Free Speech and the Public’s Right to Know (1984)

Watch a documentary on Reagan and civil liberties, Retreat from Equality (be patient, it takes a minute or two to get started):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH_ivxQigsE

Learn more at the Norman Lear website: http://www.normanlear.com/

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