IFAS | Freedom Writer | October 1994 | update.html

Religious Right update

Billy McCormack's church destroyed

Shreveport, Louisiana — In early August, two anti-gay activists brought their crusade to the local Christian Coalition chapter and four area churches. The two, Bill Horn, producer of the video “The Gay Agenda,” and Peter LaBarbera, editor of the anti-gay newsletter Lambda Report, spoke on “the gay agenda.” LaBarbera was one of the speakers at the secretive May 1994 anti-gay rights conference in Colorado.

One of the churches receiving the men, University Baptist, is headed by the Rev. Billy McCormack. McCormack, a close friend of Pat Robertson, is one of the Christian Coalition's four national directors. The morning after the anti-gay meeting, McCormack's church was destroyed by fire.

Authorities launched an arson investigation, and some speculated that the fire was set in retaliation to the anti-anti-gay rights meeting the day before. Ultimately, investigators ruled out arson, noting the fire started during a rain storm, speculating that the church may have been struck by lightning. One investigator commented, “It was an act of God.”

Minister endorses murder

Shreveport, Louisiana —A Texas minister and anti-abortion leader endorsed the slaying of doctors who perform abortions, in an interview with The Shreveport Times [8/21/94]. W.N. Otwell, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, in Nacogdoches, Texas, said, “I didn't do it [the recent murders of two Florida abortionists], but I'm not against those that do.”

Otwell also heads an organization called God's Special Forces, a division of God Said Ministries. About 40 members of his group — many of whom were dressed in camouflage Army clothing and berets — recently demonstrated in front of the Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport. The protestors carried signs saying, “Abortion is murder,” “There will be no murderers of babies in heaven,” and “We have warned you of God's judgement to come!”

Phone company supports right

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — Some Christian fundamentalists are boycotting AT&T because the company supports gay rights. As an alternative, the fundamentalists are switching to LifeLife, the first long-distance service “built on biblical values and centered around Jesus Christ.”

“You would call us a fundamentalist Christian right-wing organization — and we like it,” said Carl Thompson, vice-president of AmeriVision Communications, which created LifeLine. LifeLine leased long-distance services from Williams Telecommunications, the nation's fourth largest long-distance carrier, behind AT&T, MCI and Sprint.

Ten percent of LifeLine's long-distance billings are donated to organizations such as Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition and the Rev. Don Wildmon's American Family Association. So far, the Christian Coalition in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and eight other states have signed up customers for LifeLine. Rick Schenker, the Christian Coalition's director in Pennsylvania, recently mailed solicitations to the state's nearly 50,000 members.

“If you could give to the Pennsylvania Christian Coalition,” Schenker said, “an additional amount each month and save money by doing so, could you pass up the opportunity?”

LifeLine is giving about a million dollars a year to conservative Christian groups. In the next five years they hope to increase donations to $84 million a year. LifeLine has about 80,000 customers and is growing by more than 1,000 per week.

Religious Right assails the ADL

Virginia Beach, Virginia — In response to the Anti-Defamation League's new book, The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism in America, two leading rightist organizations responded with their own special reports. The Christian Coalition issued “A Campaign of Falsehoods: The Anti-Defamation League's Defamation of Religious Conservatives.” The Heritage Foundation's report was similarly called “The Anti-Defamation League's Campaign of Defamation.”

While the Christian Coalition pointed out that Pat Robertson denounced David Duke on the "700 Club" — an error which was corrected in the ADL's second printing — its own report was baseless and replete with errors. For instance, it says “The First Amendment specifically reads: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or infringing the free exercise thereof.'” The word should be “prohibiting,” not “infringing.”

“Had the Christian Coalition or its leadership been contacted for clarification,” the Coalition's rebuttal notes, “many of the errors in the report would have been corrected.” To cover itself, the Christian Coalition regularly uses this ploy after the fact. Mike Russell, communications director of the Christian Coaltion, promised to send the Institute for First Amendment Studies a copy of its report. The Institute used other sources, as it never arrived.

Wanted: Bill (Slick Willie) Clinton

Before Dr. David Gunn was assassinated last year in Florida, anti-abortion activists published wanted posters with his picture. Critics charged that this sort of activity precipitated his murder. Now the hard right has launched a similar offensive against President Clinton. Some observers think that wanted posters such as the one above pose a threat to the President's life because it may incite the movement's unstable elements to carry out an attack on the President.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.