Ronald Reagan, the Christian Right in Congress, and Romania in the 1980s

22 Apr 2021 - 22 Jan 2021
16:00 - 17:30

We are proud to host Dr Sielke Kelner on the 22nd of April. She will be presenting her paper “Bibles into Toilet Rolls: Ronald Reagan, the Christian Right in Congress, and Romania in the 1980s”. In June 1985, the Wall Street Journal (WST) published an article titled: The Bibles as Romanian Toilet Paper. The American public was horrified to read about Romanian authorities´ decision to turn into toilet paper 20.000 Bibles donated by the World Reformed Alliance. The WST article on the Bibles´ incident generated a wave of media interest in the
religious and political context of a forgotten dictatorship with whom the White House had
enjoyed friendly relationships over the previous decades.

By relying on sources from the Ronald Reagan Presidential archive, the Helsinki Watch archive, as well as Congressional papers and Romanian sources, this paper investigates the impact that non-state actors, specifically secular and faith-based NGOs as well as individual congressmen, have on policymaking. By resorting to the Romanian case study, this paper examines the US perpetual dilemma posed by its close relations to ruthless dictators. Finally, by looking at the debates between the Congress and the State Department around the formulation of US policy towards Romania and Eastern Europe during the mid-1980s, the paper provides glimpses into the intersection of domestic and foreign priorities when security
priorities and democratic values were at stake.

Dr. Sielke Kelner is a Swiss National Science Foundation postdoctoral researcher at the Leiden University Institute for History. She earned her Ph.D. in international history from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland (2018). A former visiting fellow at the Harriman Institute (2017) and at the Elliott School of International Affairs (2018), she has worked on Romania´s role in the Arab-Israeli peace process, and US-Romanian emigration agreements during the Cold War. She is currently working on Christian NGOs’ involvement in Communist Romania.

Key words: Religion, Romania, International diplomacy. 


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