Last December when Skipp Porteous of The Freedom Writer debated the Rev. Jerry Falwell on WBZ-TV in Boston, Falwell proclaimed that Moral Majority had no connection whatsoever with the right-wing Rutherford Institute.
The Rutherford Institute is the fundamentalists' response to the American Civil Liberties Union. The Rutherford Institute advocates that Christians should be "running for office," "attending and eventually taking control [emphasis ours] of party conventions," the "need for Christian rebels," leaving "nothing untouched by the Bible," preparing Christians to "be the warriors we should be," and "a second American Revolution."
On October 28, 1985, Falwell mailed a fundraising letter from his Moral Majority headquarters on behalf of the Rutherford Institute. The letter pleaded for $10,000 to help the Rutherford Institute defend a Florida girl who was engaged in missionary work in her public school.
The girl, Rebecca Higgins, 11, of North Port, Florida, presented a book report on her favorite book, the Bible. After her oral book report she passed out New Testaments to her classmates and teacher. Later, another teacher, following the school principal's instructions, confiscated the Bibles. Now her family is suing the school.
What Falwell's letter didn't mention was that the girl's oral "book report" was in fact, a sermon. The following is part of the text of her sermon: "The main emphasis [of the Bible] is on Jesus Christ, who is the only way to heaven. The Bible tells people how to become saved, to know God personally, and to live right."
In short, this well-meaning youngster preached a sermon to her class and teacher, attempting to convert them to her family's religious beliefs. The use of "book reports" on the Bible is a ploy advocated by neo-fundamentalists to enhance their public school missionary work.
Had she been exposed to a book report on the Book of Mormon and presented with a copy passed out by one of her classmates, her fundamentalist parents would have reacted differently. All Christian fundamentalists consider Mormonism to be a false cult inspired by Satan.
Falwell's bias is evident in these words from his fundraising letter, "And now, as ridiculous as it seems, her family is forced to go to court to protect her right to read the Bible, to be a Christian."
What we find sad about this case is that this child is being used as a pawn in the fundamentalist's attempt to pursue missionary activity in our public schools. Falwell's letter, no doubt, will raise much more than the $10,000 goal. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of well-meaning Americans have been duped again.
This article first appeared in the November 1985 issue of The Freedom Writer.