IFAS | Freedom Writer | March 1994 | update.html

Religious Right update

Jury rules against OCA appeal

In 1991, Catherine Stauffer, a photographer, tried to attend a meeting of the anti-gay organization, the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA). Although Ms. Stauffer claimed she had been invited, OCA officials forcibly removed her, causing bodily injury. She sued, and in 1992 a jury of the Multnomah County Circuit Court awarded her more than $31,000. The OCA appealed the ruling, but on December 29, 1993, an appeals court upheld the award.

ACLJ on abortion: no compromise

While Pat Robertson has seemingly taken a more moderate stance on abortion [Freedom Writer, January 1994], Law & Justice, the journal of his American Center for Law and Justice, contends that abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, is murder. The article, written by Dr. Francis Beckwith, of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, asserts that "the unborn are fully human -- which is what medical and biological evidence concludes." And, "Homicide of another," Beckwith says, "is never justified to relieve one of emotional stress."

"Some abortion-rights advocates claim that the pro-lifer lacks compassion," Beckwith argues, "since the pro-lifer's position on rape and incest forces a woman to carry her baby against her will. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the rapist who has forced this woman to carry her child, not the pro-lifer."

Although Beckwith calls abortion an "execution" of an innocent child, abortion is acceptable, he maintains, if necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. "The child's death is an unfortunate consequence," according to Beckwith. Another article in the same magazine attacks the Hindu religion and abortion. In it, Thomas P. Monaghan, senior counsel at Robertson's law center, writes, "Without Christ, there is only decadence, debauchery, and death."

Reclaiming America

On January 21-23, the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, held its "Conference on Reclaiming America." Conference organizer, the Rev. D. James Kennedy, said, "In recent months, we have sensed a real hunger among Christians to reclaim our country for Christ." Joining several noted Christian Reconstructionists, were former Vice-President Dan Quayle, Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, and Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women for America.

One speaker, Reconstructionist George Grant, said, "The Bible clearly instructs Christians to participate actively in government and conform it to His standards." "It has been said," he added, "'Politics is the business of deciding who gets what, when, and where.' Christians dare not leave such vital business to unbelievers."

Pastors and politics: the new stealth

One of the biggest problems facing the Christian Coalition is how to persuade pastors to become politically active. Many pastors fear losing the tax-exempt status of their churches if they become politically involved. However, one pastor in the Mid-West described a new strategy that seems to be catching on. He said that he sets up certain vocal members of his church to talk to the other parishioners about certain political interests and sway them. The pastor stays clear publicly. Those working under the pastor set up tables in the church foyer with literature about Christian Coalition concerns, and talk to the other members before and after services.

"We may be able to get only, say 24 people openly active," the pastor said, "but think, those 24 people can influence 800 people in the congregation." "In New York," he continued, "we worked with the Catholic churches and managed to put five pro-family supporters on the school board. This represented quite a defeat to the liberals, and in New York!" "The pastor and church staff seemingly stand clear," he said, "only preaching the message of salvation, and not seen preaching politics. This is a scheme that is working well."

ACLJ absorbs Sekulow's CASE

The Atlanta-based Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (CASE), founded by attorney Jay Sekulow, has officially merged with Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice. Sekulow had already been serving as the ACLJ's Chief Counsel in Virginia Beach. CASE is now known as ACLJ-Atlanta, and will maintain an office in that city. Both groups promote the Religious Right agenda through the courts. CASE won several U.S. Supreme Court cases, including Mergens v. Board of Education, the 1990 decision which opened public schools to missionary groups (Bible clubs).

Vista board faces voter recall

The three Christian Fundamentalists who control the Vista, California school board may face a recall vote in June. Last year, the controversial board members instituted prayer at the commencement of school board meeetings, and introduced the teaching of creationism in the school district. A group called the Coalition for Mainstream Education is circulating petititions to recall Deidre Holliday, Joyce Lee, and John Tyndall. To make the June ballot, at least 9,000 signatures must be gathered by March 11, 1994.

The Rev. Billy Falling, head of the Christian Voter's League, charged that the recall effort smacks of anti-Christian bigotry. Others disagree, saying that the three board members in question have caused deep divisions in the community, putting a religious, political agenda ahead of student interests. "It's time that mainstream voters have an opportunity to speak their minds about what's going on in the district," said Letha McWey, a spokesperson for the Coalition for Mainstream Education.

In a recent interview with The Freedom Writer, Robert Simonds, president of the National Association of Christian Educators/Citizens for Excellence in Education (NACE/CEE), said that he thinks the recall will fail. "They're really good people," he said of the three conservative Christian board members, "about the best I've seen in the country, and really moderate."

Simonds also told The Freedom Writer that since 1989, his group and others have helped 12,000 conservative Christians win school board seats across the nation. Simonds is the author of How to Elect Christians to Public Office. He also said that NACE/CEE now has more than 1,700 chapters nation-wide.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.