IFAS | Freedom Writer | March/April 1992 | watch.html

Religious Right watch

By Skipp Porteous

In my book, Jesus Doesn't Live Here Anymore, I wrote about the efforts of Christian Right leaders to exhort students to start Bible clubs in public schools. Stephen Strang, editor of Charisma & Christian Life magazine editorialized, "We encourage Christian young people all over America to be bold when school begins this fall and to meet with their friends before and after school not only to take advantage of this freedom that has been upheld by the Supreme Court, but to pray for a revival to sweep high schools all over this nation." Here is a brief update on school missionaries and other Religious Right activity:

According to the National & International Religion Report, as many as 10,000 Bible clubs may now be operative in America's public schools. Most of the clubs were organized by student activists since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1990 approval of the Equal Access Act.

In addition, the report said Christian students in many parts of the country are helping to organize assemblies and prayer and missions conferences in their schools. Resistance to this missionary activity has been strongest in the Northeast.

In a recent interview, television evangelist and former Moral Majority head, Rev. Jerry Falwell, told Christianity Today that the religious right "is in place now...[and will be voting on] issues locally, state-wide, and nationally forever." Falwell added, "Hundreds of other organizations, like Concerned Women for America and the Rutherford Institute, and many smaller but very effective organizations, had spun off from the Moral Majority all over the country."

In January, President George Bush addressed the annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters in Washington. He commended the group for their support of the war against Iraq. "I want to thank you for helping America, as Christ ordained, to be a light unto the world," he said.

The president also called for prayer in public schools. "In Sunday school," he said, "children learn that God is everywhere, but in public school, they find that he's absent from class."

In March, Bush addressed the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) at their 50th anniversary meeting in Chicago. Most evangelicals are Republican, and President Bush needs them to win this year's re-election bid. In 1984, 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Reagan; in 1988, Bush received 82 percent of the white evangelical vote, his largest single voting bloc. During the convention, the NAE launched its Christian Citizenship Campaign, a national effort to register 1 million new voters.

California continues to lead the nation in Christian political activism. Bay Area journalist Marcy Rein reports that "the movement has swept hundreds of supporters into office and nearly taken over the state Republican Party." She adds that the movement is "gaining political savvy, it is adding to its base of faith by mixing money with morality, mastering grass roots campaigning, and establishing a network of political training projects." She reports that there is at least one Christian "campaign school" in California every month, "teaching everything from raising money to setting up precinct organizations and getting out the vote."

Last year, in La Mesa, California, Rev. Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition helped seat two new school board members. They were Donald Smith, who heads the Christian Coalition in San Diego County, and Cheryl Jones, the local director of the radical anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue.

Recently, Janet McQuaid, the principal of the Avondale Elementary School in San Diego County, learned that almost a quarter of the children never had breakfast before starting school in the morning. The principal enjoined the school board to participate in a federal program to provide breakfast for needy children.

Smith and Jones, the two Christian Right board members, fought the program vigorously. They felt that the breakfast program was one more example of government interference in family life.

"I'm sorry," Smith said, "that some children come to school hungry, but we shouldn't take away a parent's responsibility." He added that churches and the community should fill these needs, not the schools. Smith admitted that neither he nor his church were involved in feeding poor children.

Ultimately, the board voted 3-2 in favor of the breakfast program.

Finally, President Frederick Chiluba, newly elected head of the African nation of Zambia, has declared his nation officially Christian. A Pentecostal, Chiluba said, "Zambia is a Christian country with a tolerance of other religions." Shortly after his inauguration, he said, "I, on behalf of the people of Zambia, hereby declare that Zambia is a Christian country."

In defense of his declaration, he added, "This does not mean that we deny other religions freedom of worship." Later, according to published reports, he told a gathering of Christians, "We shall only have to say as Joshua said, 'Choose today whom you are going to serve; as for my family and me, we shall serve the Lord."

About 65 percent of Zambia's 8.5 million people are Christian. Other religions include Muslims and animists.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.