IFAS | Freedom Writer | April 1994 | update.html

Religious Right update

Terry targets Taxpayers Party

Binghamton, NY Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, a longtime Republican, is leading a drive to convince the Religious Right to abandon the Republican Party and join forces with the Taxpayers Party. Terry thinks the Republican Party has failed to support family values and to clearly oppose abortion. While many moderate Republicans would welcome the withdrawal of the Religious Right, observers say it's not going to happen. Groups such as the Christian Coalition have made such deep inroads, a pullout now would be counterproductive. Currently the Religious Right wields more power within the Republican Party than it would have if it joined forces with the Taxpayers Party.

Tucci resigns from Operation Rescue

Dallas, TX The Rev. Keith Tucci, head of Operation Rescue National (ORN), the group founded by Randall Terry, resigned in February, turning the reigns over to Dallas minister, the Rev. Philip "Flip" Benham. At the end of February, ORN moved its organization from Melbourne, Florida to Dallas.

A former bartender at his parents saloon in Kissimmee, Florida, Benham is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. Benham, who lists his occupation as "missionary," says, "I am a missionary to the pre-born." He is well-known in Dallas for his picketing activities. Besides clinics and hospitals, he pickets the private homes of doctors, and the places of employment of doctor's wives. As a result of Benham's constant stalking and harassment, Dr. Norman Tompkins obtained a restraining order against Benham. The order limited picketing of the doctor's home to 20 minutes, twice a week, and forbade Sunday morning picketing at the Highland Park United Methodist Church, where Dr. Tompkins attends Christian services with his wife. Benham is still allowed to picket the Boy Scouts of America headquarters where Mrs. Tompkins works.

Tucci told The Freedom Writer that he is joining Life Coalition International. While this international anti-abortion group is based in Belize, Central America, Tucci intends to remain in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, Michael Griffin, the accused assasin of Dr. David Gunn is on trial in Florida. Griffin's lawyers are claiming that the volatile literature of Religious Right anti-abortionists caused him to shoot the doctor. Although this doesn't exonerate him, the lawyers may have a point. Operation Rescue's motto is, "If you believe abortion is murder, then ACT like it's murder."

Founding Fathers: pious and plastered

Fallbrook, CA In his book The Political Mission of the Church, the Rev. Billy Falling, founder of the Christian Voter's League, claims that the Founding Fathers were pious, godly men. "If we will only read their words," Falling wrote, "we can understand that there was no confusion in the minds of the Founding Fathers concerning the hand of God in the establishment of America."

Pious? Not exactly. History tells us that on September 15, 1787, two days before the Founding Fathers signed the Constitution, they reveled in the creation of the new document. According to the National Constitution Center, the group's bar tab indicated that the Founding Fathers were still recovering from hangovers when they signed our founding document.

According the bill, the 55 people at the party drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of port, 8 bottles of cider, 12 bottles of beer, and 7 large bowls of spiked punch.

Of the 55 who attended the Constitutional Convention, only 39 actually signed the Constitution. Twelve of the men left early, and four refused to sign.

Coalition's Rodgers steps down

Virginia Beach, VA Guy Rodgers, national field director for Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, left his position on January 31, 1994, to form Guy Rodgers & Associates, a political consulting firm. Rodgers will continue to serve as a consultant for the Christian Coalition, and as an instructor in the group's leadership schools. Replacing Rodgers is D.J. Gribbin, who acted as a lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Also joining the Christian Coalition's national office is Charles Cunningham, who oversaw the national legislative and political activities of the National Rifle Association. Cunningham becomes the Christian Coalition's director of voter education.

"Gribbin and Cunningham," according to Coalition executive director Ralph Reed, "are two of the best grassroots political operatives in the nation today."

Gribbin will work to expand the Coalition's grassroots network. The Christian Coalition currently claims one million activists in all 50 states. Cunningham will oversee the distribution of more than 30 million voter guides in 1994.

One of Robertson's other enterprises, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) has expanded the daily "700 Club" to ninety minutes, up from its one-hour format. The first thirty minutes focus on the day's news from a Pat Robertson perspective. The "700 Club" is most often seen on Robertson's Family Channel. In some areas the "700 Club" can be seen twice daily, because cable networks and channels other than the Family Channel carry the program. For the record, in 1961, the Rev. Pat Robertson started the country's first religious TV station, WYAH-TV, in Portsmouth, Virginia, and called it the Christian Broadcasting Network. Two years later, CBN held its first telethon. With a monthly budget of $7,000, Robertson asked his viewers to pray that God "speak to the hearts" of 700 believers who would donate $10 a month. Robertson named the successful fund raiser the "700 Club."

Pagans in prison

A Texas inmate is soliciting support for the religious freedoms of pagans and Wiccans behind bars. According to Ruby Mathews, who works with Veterans for Religious Freedom and the Prometheus Society, prison officials are cracking down on pagan religious materials and practices. Native Americans have also been denied the right to live in accordance with their beliefs. Contact Mathews, # 373159, 1500 State School Road HT, Gatesville, TX 76598.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.