"It is the goal of a number of us to try to Christianize the state of California," radical religious right organizer Jay Grimstead told the Freedom Writer last summer. "We think it's going to be pretty easy, actually. It's just organization," he continued. "And the facts are that we have enough Christians to totally, politically, by vote overpower any other groups of minorities — if we would just do it. We have the majority vote. We are the largest minority."
Now, according Barbara Chiodo, past president of the California Republican Assembly (CRA), the radical religious right "has managed to take over every county central [Republican] committee north of Sacramento. Its adherents also control half of Sacramento County's and Riverside County's central committees. They completely control: San Diego County, Fresno County, Santa Cruz County, Monterey County, and most of the Gold Country and San Joaquin Valley County central committees." Furthermore, she said, "the religious right coalition elected seven out of ten California Republican Party officers it endorsed."
"Now that the religious right leaders control the California Republican Party," Chiodo summarized, "they plan by-law changes that would de-charter any Republican volunteer organization that does not openly support the 'pro-life' agenda." They also plan to defeat the agenda of moderate Republican Pete Wilson, governor of Ca lifornia.
Chiodo, a Roman Catholic, says that three times at a Republican convention in Fresno in 1988, she was approached and asked, "Are you born-again?" "Never in politics was I ever asked what religion I was. It was sort of like if you're not a born-again, you're anti-Christ." She first noticed the born-agains starting to take over the California Republican Party during televangelist Pat Robertson's 1988 presidential campaign.
"Everyone kept saying, 'Don't be silly, it's not going anywhere,'" Chiodo says. "Then I watched them come in and take over the CRA [California Republican Assembly] and the state Republican Party. I think it's a very dangerous movement. The people who are saying 'Don't worry, it's a fringe group,' don't realize" that.
Raised to believe that abortion was wrong, it nevertheless upset Chiodo when she started hearing politicians calling pro-choice people "baby killers." Also, the religious right's hatred of homosexuals frightened her.
What is happening in California should be of great concern to the rest of us. As the Freedom Writer has reported on numerous occasions, the radical religious right is using California to set the stage for the rest of the country.
Religious right leaders in San Diego gloated last November, when 60 out of 90 of their "pro-life" candidates won a wide range of seats. According to Christian activist and political consultant Steve Baldwin, "There was a massive Christian phone bank effort." "When the smoke cleared," he said, "60 of them won, with hardly any campaigning aside from organizing the Christian vote."
"The abortion issue has galvanized a lot of us in terms of a lot of Christians getting up off the couch and getting involved," said Baldwin. "Pornography seems to be out of control. Child molestation is out of control. A lot of Christians feel that we're losing control of a country that was based on a Judeo-Christian heritage, and they're moving into the Republican Party." Baldwin is a state-wide field coordinator for ultra-conservative Rep. William Dannemeyer, and is working in Dannemeyer's campaign to u nseat incumbent Sen. John Seymour.
Baldwin says that church-based voter registration drives have increased, and this is because "people started thinking — maybe politics is dirty because Christians aren't involved." "A lot of pastors," he says, "at the end of their sermons say, 'If you're not registered, go out in the foyer and register to vote.' A couple of years ago that wouldn't have happened."
"The Bible commands us to bet he salt and the light of the world. If you're not registered to vote, how can you be a good citizen."
Regarding the religious right's political involvement, Baldwin says, "you're seeing the tip of the iceberg. It will continue to grow."
In an effort to counter the religious right's takeover of San Diego County, Republican Marjorie Van Nuis has created the Mainstream Voter Project, to identify the position and background of candidates. She says the radicals ran "a stealth campaign." "They made no public appearances, they didn't issue any statements. They didn't attend candidate forums, and they won — they won overwhelmingly."
"They seek to take over school boards like they took over the central committees," Van Nuis said. "They can wreak havoc in our schools, on hospital boards and on planning groups. They're on a mission, and they're going to disenfranchise thousands and thousands of Republicans."
As we reported previously in the Freedom Writer (March/April 1991), the National Association of Christian Educators/Citizens for Excellence in Education (NACE/CEE) helped religious right candidates win about 30 school board seats in San Diego C ounty in the last election. (Nationwide, with local groups utilizing Robert Simonds book, How to Elect Christians to Public Office, 450 born-again candidates won seats on school boards last year.)
Bob Simonds believes, "Evangelicals are now America's only hope." He says that in his county alone (Orange County), there are 776 evangelical churches, with "over 300,000 conservative Christian votes for our agenda." That agenda, Simonds says, is "the Christian agenda."
Simonds recently told the Sacramento Bee, "When you put Christians on school boards and they say 'Oh, you're trying to impose religion on the schools,' my next question is, 'Are you against the majority having control?' If they say yes, then they s hould move to another country — because that's our system."
That's not our system. The U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights was adopted to protect minorities against the will of the majority.
Sources: Articles by Amy Chance of the Sacramento Bee's Capitol Bureau; "Fact Sheet Concerning the Evangelical Religious Right's Takeover of the California Republican Party" by Barbara Chiodo; How to Elect Christians to Public Office by Robert Simonds; and interviews with Jay Grimstead and Kathi Simonds.