"For most, it's a question of money. For American Continental Corporation, it is a question of morals. Widely known for its support of anti-pornography issues, American Continental Corporation is the parent company of the Crescent Hotel Group, which opened the world's finest resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, on October 1. The 605-room resort does not have porn movies in its rooms or porn magazines in the gift shops." — The CDL Reporter, November 1988
On November 16, 1989, more than 60 federal agents and plainclothes police officers conducted a predawn raid on the "squeaky clean" Crescent Hotel. The agents seized the resort and secured the office of the president of the hotel, long-time Christian activist Charles H. Keating Jr.
The feds' takeover of the porn-free Crescent Hotel was just another chapter in a scandal that will cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars. Keating has been the focus of criminal investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department, The Securities and Exchange Commission, and the House Banking Committee. The federal government has also filed a $1.1 billion suit against Keating and his associates. The suit arises from accusations of fraud and illegal loan activity by the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, another Keating company.
Additionally, it was revealed that five U.S. senators who tried to stall regulatory actions against Keating had received $1.3 million in campaign contributions from him. Keating has openly admitted that he sought to buy congressional influence.
In 1957, Charles H. Keating Jr. founded the non-profit organization Citizens for Decency through Law [CDL], a pro-censorship group. He has remained active with CDL for the past 32 years.
Earlier this year, we observed a subtle change in the CDL Reporter, the group's newsletter. Until that time, the words "Founded in 1957 by Charles H. Keating, Jr." appeared on the back of every issue. Suddenly, Keating's name was omitted. It wasn't that Keating withdrew his abundant financial support or his active involvement, but, perhaps, the group anticipated what lay ahead.
Then, in April, the government seized Keating's insolvent Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. (Keating is also chairman of the American Continental Corporation, Lincoln's parent company.) The government contends that American Continental took $95 million from Lincoln's depositors with bogus land investments. Some 23,000 uninsured customers lost their savings.
In July, CDL changed its name and became Children's Legal Foundation (CLF). In its July/August newsletter, executive director Alan Sears attempted to explain the change. In doublespeak, he said the old name was "cumbersome and does not have the distinct message it originally carried." He added that their staff has "encountered increasing confusion about our name and mission." More likely, in light of the founder's deceitful activities, the old name had become an embarrassment.
Charles H. Keating Jr. is to the savings and loan industry what Jim Bakker was to television evangelism. Both men, notable Christian crusaders, represent wealth attained through deceit and fraud.
Perhaps the Children's Legal Foundation will redeem its founder. It could come to the aid of the families who lost their Christmas club savings, and the families which put money aside for their children's education.
Citizens for Decency through Law, though, was not the first radical right organization to change its name out of embarrassment.
The Moral Majority was chided about its name probably more than any organization in history. A popular bumper sticker proclaimed, "The Moral Majority is neither."
Then came a parade of disgraced TV evangelists — our keepers of morality. The scandals got so bad that the Rev. Falwell had to change his group's name to the Liberty Federation. At the time, the Freedom Writer commented, "The Liberty Federation will do no more for liberty than the Moral Majority did for morality." Since the January 1986 name change, the Liberty Federation has also become history.
Even before the advent of the Moral Majority, another moralist, the Rev. Donald Wildmon, founded the National Federation For Decency. His purpose was to "promote the Biblical ethic of decency in American society." This "decent" fellow has recently been blasted over his use of anti-Semitic innuendo. Last year, the Rev. Wildmon announced that his group would henceforth be known as the American Family Association.
Radical religious zealots continue to be their own worst enemy. Decency and morality are more than a name. Unable to keep the standards implicit in their names, group after group has been forced to adopt new, "safe" names.
Sources: CDL Reporter, CLF Reporter, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, People Weekly, Associated Press