IFAS | Freedom Writer | June 1995 | update.html

Religious Right update

Another Kennedy goes to Washington

Fort Lauderdale, FL - The Rev. D. James Kennedy of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and Coral Ridge Ministries, wants to open an office in the nation's capital. In a recent fundraising letter, Kennedy wrote, "God has given us a vision to make our voices heard and our presence felt more effectively than ever before - by establishing an office for our ministry in Washington, D.C."

Called the Center for Christian Statesmanship, Kennedy's new venture joins other Religious Right groups already well-established in Washington. They include the Christian Coalition, Tradition Values Coalition, Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council.

"It is also crucial we establish our Washington center immediately," Kennedy said. "We will work to achieve the goals of our Family Values Contract - opposing special privileges for homosexuals, taxpayer-funded abortions and pornography, condom distribution in the schools, and the so-called 'separation of church and state'...and supporting moral school curricula, school prayer, respect for the flag, and our Christian heritage."

One of the published purposes of Coral Ridge Ministries is "reforming the culture - protecting religious liberty and America's Christian heritage by encouraging the application of Biblical principles to all spheres of our culture and to all of life."

An end to stealth?

Chesapeake, VA - The Christian Coalition has often been accused of running "stealth" candidates for school board seats and other offices. The term originated with the Coalition's executive director, Ralph Reed, at a time when he frequently employed military terminology to describe the mission of the Christian Coalition.

Casting stealth tactics aside, the Christian Coalition began offering "school board training seminars" on May 20, 1995. The first seminar was held at the Airport Marriott in Atlanta, Georgia. The $50 seminars are for "everyone interested in running for school board."

Participants learn about education reform, parent's rights, sex education, outcome-based education, school choice, curricula, what issues to run on, and how to deal with teacher's unions. Emphasis is placed on the actual campaign for a school board seat. The course covers how to run a winning campaign, fundraising, coalition building and organizing, identifying voters, communications, and media relations.

"No political office hits closer to home than your local school board," according to the Christian Coalition. It is a widely recognized fact that the local school board is a good place to launch a political career.

Robert Simonds of Citizens for Excellence in Education estimates that more than 12,000 conservative Christians have been elected to school board seats since 1989. Over the next few years, many of these people will be working their way up within the political system.

Open to persuasion

Washington, DC - The Council for National Policy (CNP) recently released a report on senators and congressmen "most open to persuasion." The CNP is the nation's foremost group of ultra-conservative leaders.

According to the CNP, the legislators "have records over several years of frequently switching their votes back and forth between conservative and liberal positions on legislation within the categories of economic, social, or defense/foreign policy issues." The report states that "swing" senators and congressmen determine whether conservatives win or lose legislative battles. The CNP report urges its influential members to "get to know these key legislators and maintain regular communication with them."

The list of more than 200 names includes legislators from every state except New Hampshire and Wyoming. One senator, Bob Packwood of Oregon, is listed as a potential swing voter in all three categories. Currently battling charges of sexual misconduct, Packwood may not be of much help to the conservatives.

Prepared annually, the list does not include freshman legislators, as they have yet to establish a voting record. "By working with them a lot," the CNP report states, "you can move them to the right."

Protect religion?

Colorado Springs, CO - A coalition of 11 conservative and Christian groups is calling for a broad-based constitutional amendment that would protect religious expression (including prayer) in all situations where non-religious expression is permitted. Supporters include the Christian Legal Society, Christian Coalition, Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family.

A second provision would forbid discrimination against anyone because of the "religious character of the speech," and would prevent the government from banning "public or ceremonial acknowledgment of the religious heritage, beliefs or traditions" of citizens.

These provisions, if added to the Constitution, would likely override more than half a dozen Supreme Court rulings over the last 20 years that have outlawed most religious activities in public schools, as well as public funding for parochial schools.

Supporters of the developing amendment believe these court decisions have gone far beyond what the framers of the Constitution intended, and instead show a "pervasive and aggressive hostility toward genuine religious expression."

"We do not want our great religious heritages and traditions treated in an apartheid manner," said Rev. Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition.

From The Pastor's Weekly Briefing, April 28, 1995.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.