IFAS | Freedom Writer | July 1994 | update.html

Religious Right update

Coalition fails on home turf

Virginia Beach -- While the Christian Coalition is impacting school board races across the country, the group didn't do so well in Pat Robertson's home town of Virginia Beach. Under the "Kids First" slate, the Christian Coalition supported 5 candidates for the Virginia Beach school board. However, all the candidates endorsed by the Virginia Beach Teachers Association won the open seats.

Last year, moderate voters in Virginia Beach formed the Coalition for the Preservation of American Values (CPAV). Representing a broad coalition of moderate voters, the group sponsors conferences on the Religious Right and produces a newsletter. Featured as speakers at CPAV's last conference were Skipp Porteous of the Institute for First Amendment Studies, Rob Boston of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and Paul Putnam of the National Education Association.

Assemblies settles out of court

Los Angeles -- Five men who were sexually molested as children by a minister have reached a $1.75 million out-of-court settlement with the Assemblies of God, Inc. The victims, now aged 27 to 30, will share the settlement. The minister, the Rev. Dalton Webber Sr., admitted his guilt during the course of the suit and stated that he had been forgiven. Webber, formerly the senior pastor at Good Shepherd Assemblies of God Worship Center in Carlsbad, California, moved to Filoan Springs, Arkansas, before the suit was filed.

Trouble in paradise?

Costa Mesa -- As various hard right groups fight over turf, the competition for recognition and funds is intense. This was evident when officials from Focus on the Family castigated several supposed allies. It happened at conventions held by two important education organizations: the American Association of School Administrators, at its San Francisco convention in February, and the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development convention held in March in Chicago.

According to Bob Simonds of Citizens for Excellence in Education (CEE), John Eldredge and Amy Stevens of Focus on the Family said that they "were not in the business of taking over school boards or supportive of religious extremists." Then they said Focus on the Family represented "universal values," and not "a hidden agenda or the dictates of other right-wing organizations such as CEE, Concerned Women for America or the Eagle Forum."

At the San Francisco convention, Simonds addressed 6,000 school superintendents. Ironically, in his talk he said, "arrogance, discrimination and name-calling against Christian/conservative parents must cease." Then, he said, he had to deal with "the elitism demonstrated by another Christian organization invited to intend Focus on the Family."

Focus on the Family, the envy of other Christian Right groups, operates on a $90 million-a-year budget. Their assault on Simonds' CEE, Beverly LaHaye's Concerned Women for America, and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, is certain to raise the ire of many of their supporters, possibly resulting in decreased funding.

More bickering

Colorado Springs -- The differences between Christian Right groups are not always as blatant as the San Francisco and Chicago incidents. In a paper called "Financial Integrity in Fund-Raising," Dr. James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, refers to his sprawling campus in Colorado Springs. "The buildings do not belong to me, nor have we founded a James Dobson University." Many perceive this statement as a jab at Oral Roberts University, founded by evangelist Oral Roberts.

In a recent letter to pastors, Sara DiVito Hardman, state director of the Christian Coalition of California, took a swipe at an unnamed Christian group. The letter introduced the Christian Coalition's "non-partisan Family Values Voter Guide." Hardman emphasized that her group's voter guides are "not to be confused with other 'family value' voter guides that are not in compliance" with IRS rules for churches. Some see this as a reference to the Traditional Values Coalition or the Christian Voters League.

Iowa update

Des Moines -- Christian Coalition activists seized control of the Republican State Central Committee at the GOP convention held in April. Moderate Burtwin Day, who lost his seat on the committee at the convention, said, "Obviously the far right now controls the central committee of the Republican Party of Iowa."

Vista correction

In the June Religious Right Update column we said that attorney David L. Llewellyn was hired by the Vista, California, school board to replace current counsel. Llewellyn was retained only to review the board's decision to use the "Sex Respect" curriculum. To date, while legal action may be forthcoming, there are no pending cases in Vista concerning "Sex Respect."

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.