IFAS | Freedom Writer | April 1995 | update.html

Religious Right update

Changes at Robertson Empire

Pat Robertson recently sold his radio news services, Standard News and Zap News. Robertson launched Standard News in 1993 and acquired Zap News in the same year. The news services were owned by Broadcast Equities, Inc., a subsidiary of U.S. Media Corp., which is part of Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.

The Chicago-based Major Networks, Inc. bought Robertson's news divisions, which employed a staff of 50 at Standard News and 10 staffers at Zap News. Standard News provides hourly newscasts to about 600 radio stations, while Zap News services about 300 radio stations.

Meanwhile, Robertson's The Family Channel (TFC) is branching out into feature film-making. According to Robertson's son, Tim, TFC will produce four G or PG rated films a year. With budgets of $8 to $12 million each, TFC plans to show its films in theaters, and then release them to cable TV and video stores.

In 1990, Robertson spun-off The Family Channel from its non-profit Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). The Family Channel became a profit-making venture. TFC continues to broadcast "The 700 Club," Robertson's daily news, talk and faith healing show, over its cable network.

Christian Coalition Live by satellite

On the third Tuesday in January the Christian Coalition began holding live monthly meetings with its chapters via satellite. With a current participation of almost 200 chapters, the Coalition's goal is to have 1,000 down-linked chapters within a year.

Christian Coalition Live is hosted by Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed and Betsy Hart of the Scripps-Howard News Service. Calling itself "the nation's leading pro-family organization," the Coalition's immediate objective is to pass Newt Gingrich's Contract with America.

"We are in a critical stage in this battle," Reed told chapter leaders. "You need to activate your fax networks and phone trees immediately, and call the Capitol and urge them to vote for tax relief for families."

During the program, various toll-free phone numbers were flashed on the screen. They included call-in numbers for the program and a number for the Capitol switchboard. Fax numbers and e-mail addresses were also displayed.

An adjustment on the satellite receiving equipment is necessary to receive the second half of the broadcast. This part of the broadcast is a closed session, offering tips on strategy and tactics for local action groups.

Marshall Wittmann, the Christian Coalition's Director of Legislative Affairs, leads this session. Other guests appear as "champions of grassroots politics," and share with him their experiences in local organizing.

The March 21st down-link featured a member of the New Hampshire Christian Coalition, who waged a successful race for a seat on her local school board, winning by just three votes. The woman, Shelly Uscinski, complained about the so-called "persecution" she suffered as a Christian when running for school board.

Uscinski outlined three strategies for winning a school board race. They were: lining up a group of supporters who will remain in the background, writing letters to the editor, and calling people; knowing the issues; and, finally, sticking to just one or two issues. In her campaign, Uscinski focused on sex education and the condom controversy. Since her election, she helped convince the board to ban Planned Parenthood from their school.

One of the callers to Christian Coalition Live asked if the organization will continue to focus on economic issues, or will it pursue the abortion issue in 1996 as it did in 1994?

"We are going to continue to be one of the clarion voices in American politics on behalf of that issue," Ralph Reed intoned. "We're never going to retreat from that issue. It's been a core part of our agenda and will continue to be a core part of our agenda."

"Right now, of course," he continued, "until April 15, roughly, we're gonna be dealing with the Contract with America, which is welfare reform, term limits, tax cuts, a balanced budget amendment, and deficit reduction. We think every one of those issues affects the family, and we're gonna work on it. But you have my assurance, and the assurance of this organization, that we are gonna continue to make [abortion] a part of our agenda, and to force both political parties to address it."

The broadcast ended with Reed's "Message of the Month." It focused on the 1996 campaign and the place of Coalition members in it.

"We're in the kind of trouble we are because we face a moral crisis," Reed said. He asked rhetorically, "Where is that person who will lead us?"

"It is less important who leads us, than the kind of movement we are." Reed said it was more important to organize every neighborhood, every church, than to worry about what presidential candidate to back.

"Don't ask Pat Robertson, or Bob Dole, or Phil Gramm, or Pat Buchanan, or Jim Dobson to solve our problems for us. Let's build a network of county chapters, neighborhood coordinators, church coordinators. The answer," Reed added, "is at the grassroots; don't put all your eggs in that one basket, the presidential campaign."

"It is far more important," Reed preached, "that family values are lifted up in the courthouse and the schoolhouse, than in the White House. It is far more important who sits in the principal's office than who sits in the Oval Office."

Reed called for pulling out all stops to legislate Gingrich's Contract with America. It was at this point that Reed indicated what lay ahead in the Christian Coalition's agenda.

"Then we can move on to the other issues we care about: religious liberty, school prayer, prolife for the unborn child, working for school choice, and the other broader agenda which we favor."

"If we can't get a balanced budget amendment passed," Reed continued, "and if we can't pass tax relief for families, how are we ever going to pass some of the tougher parts of our agenda that we're for? If we will push the Contract through, it will give us momentum and political capital going into the school prayer debate, the abortion debate, and the religious liberty debate that awaits. Together, with God's help, we can turn America around."

Focus on the GOP

While claiming to be apolitical, James Dobson's Focus on the Family is trying to dictate policy to the Republican Party. The following article, entitled "Dobson to GOP: Don't Budge on Abortion," appeared in its March 10, 1995 faxed newsletter, The Pastor's Weekly Briefing:

"Focus on the Family has sent a 'stern warning' to the Republican Party that going 'squishy' on abortion is a 'prescription for political disaster.'

"In the biggest direct-mail campaign in the 18-year history of the ministry, Focus President James Dobson tells 2.1 million supporters that the GOP is turning its back on evangelical voters who helped trigger last November's Republican landslide.

"In an unprecedented move, the Colorado-Springs based ministry is also sending Dobson's impassioned, eight-page letter to 112,000 clergy, 8,000 national and local politicians, and 1,500 members of the media. The ministry has also distributed a radio program on the issue for broadcast by 1,600 stations that carry its programming and is producing another on the topic for future broadcast."

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.