IFAS | Freedom Writer | August/September 1993 | eyetoeye.html

Robertson, Porteous go 'Eye to Eye'

On July 22, CBS's "Eye to Eye with Connie Chung" reported on Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. Following an interview with Robertson in Virginia Beach, Connie Chung visited the offices of the Institute for First Amendment Studies in Great Barrington, w here she solicited opposing views from Skipp Porteous.

At the beginning of the program Chung nailed Robertson regarding the purpose of the Christian Coalition. After Chung disallowed his initial evasive response, Robertson said the Christian Coalition "does political things from a religious point of view."

"I don't think America's ever seen anything like this before," Porteous said, "where a very large and powerful religious organization has turned to politics." Robertson "wants to create a Christian America," he added. "He's using religion to gain politica l power for himself."

"Jesus is the leader!" Robertson responded. "I don't want to be a leader! I want Him to lead! I want to follow Him, period!"

Explaining the strategy of the Christian Coalition, Robertson said, "It's not the presidency that's important. They say all politics is local, and I'd like to see a positive impact on school boards, on councils, on state legislatures, on the Congress."

He explained that the Christian Coalition is a grass roots organization, and that nobody else is organizing on the grass roots level because it's too much trouble.

"Are you trying to deny people of faith to hold a position in politics?" Chung asked Porteous.

"We are trying to prevent," he responded, "a coalition of a political/religious groups from trying to take over the country."

Conversation then shifted to the militant anti-abortion organization, Operation Rescue, a group Robertson has supported. "I think that that kind of free speech is constitutionally protected," Robertson said. However, he added "I think they've made their p oint; they've been very courageous; but, kind of like, enough on this thing. I think we ought to shift tactics."

"I don't think Robertson really thinks that Operation Rescue's gone too far," Porteous quipped, "I think he's just thinking it's bad PR for him right now." He said this, of course, in light of the murder of abortion provider Dr. David Gunn, by a "pro-life " activist.

Chung then queried Robertson regarding the Christian Coalition's involvement in elections. He maintained that the Coalition does not support candidates, "it merely informs people of the issues.

"It doesn't support candidates? The Christian Coalition does not support candidates?" Chung pressed. Robertson affirmed his earlier statement.

At this point, "Eye to Eye" showed a segment of a secretly videotaped Christian Coalition Leadership School. In the school, the Coalition's national field director, Guy Rodgers, explained how to run a political campaign.

A pre-broadcast, unedited version of "Eye to Eye" displayed a document submitted by the Institute for First Amendment Studies which indicated that the Christian Coalition does support candidates. The document, an internal memorandum from the Capital Distr ict Chapter of the Christian Coalition of New York, states: "Some of our goals will be: Finding quality candidates for school board seats and then getting them elected."

"I think that if the Christian Coalition or the Religious Right," Porteous said, "had their way in America, they would find a way to effectively end the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights."

"If people really knew all they could about Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition, they would not support him the way they do. They [the Christian Coalition] do not represent mainstream Christian America," Porteous concluded.

To that, Robertson responded, "I'm only a servant. I'm only trying to do what He wants me to on this earth."

In conclusion, Connie Chung said, "A Coalition leader told us, 'We are a major political organization that needs to be taken seriously.' We do."

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.