In a thinly veiled attempt to create the impression of inclusivity toward Jews, two orthodox rabbis were invited to address the Christian Coalition's fifth annual Road to Victory conference. They were Yechiel Eckstein of Chicago and Daniel Lapin of Seattle, Washington.
Eckstein is founder and president of the 18-year-old Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Eckstein's message was conciliatory and relatively benign with comments like: "I am convinced that if Christians were better Christians and Jews were better Jews, we'd have a better nation."
Lapin, on the other hand, wanted the attendees to believe that Jews support the political agenda of the Christian Coalition. If a Jew speaks out against that political agenda, according to Lapin, he is speaking as a liberal, and not as a Jew. Lapin hosts a political talk-show in Seattle, is a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, and runs the non-profit organization Toward Tradition, founded to counter liberal Judaism.
Lapin, originally from South Africa, received a warm reception. He devoted his opening remarks to attacking those who have raised questions about Pat Robertson's alleged anti-Semitism. "This is the year that Pat Robertson has had to defend himself against the charge of anti-Semitism. Some anti-Semite. ... Yes, he must be an anti-Semite, he must be. When I recently had the pleasure of speaking at Regent University for the opening of the law school ... Pat Robertson's staff had prepared arrangements for me to observe the Jewish Sabbath on Friday night. Some anti-Semite ... I wish that for the last 2,000 years Jews would have been inflicted with nothing but the anti-Semitism of people like you."
"Now, I'll tell you what I'm dedicating myself to in the year to come. Very simply it is this, my friends: it is to do my utmost to teach America that it is utterly permissible to condemn secular liberalism, that doctrine that has brought us nothing but a cataract of calamities, it is permissible to condemn secular liberalism, without being accused of being an anti-Semite. Yes, I know there are Jews that are eager to expand the realm of abortion rights. Let them speak as liberals, not as Jews. There are Jews that are eager to bestow the same sanctity upon homosexual marriage, as is bestowed upon the marriage between a man and his wife. Let them speak as liberals, not as Jews. There are those Jews who are interested in promoting higher taxation and large government as the solution to our country's problems. Let them speak as liberals, but not as Jews. That is the work I have set for myself in the year ahead. That is the small contribution I can make on the road to victory."
The single issue of Robertson's alleged anti-Semitism appeared to be the overriding theme of the Jewish-Christian unity speakers at this year's Road to Victory. Instead of putting it in the past, the speakers constantly reminded the attendees of Robertson's alleged anti-Semitism.
At the conference opening Ralph Reed stated: "We [the Christian Coalition] are the best friends that Jews and the State of Israel ever had and we will never retreat from our love of the Jewish people."
Marshall Wittmann, former legislative affairs director for the Christian Coalition, now a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, spoke of the two-year period that he worked with the Christian Coalition. He said the question he was asked most frequently during his tenure with the Christian Coalition was, "What is a nice Jewish boy like you doing in a place like this?" Wittmann answered, "I'm here because you are family. Because you and Ralph and Pat are part of an immoral [sic] environmental movement to clean up the culture for my two kids, and that is what Jews and Christians have in common. We must cleanse the culture."
Wittmann continued, "You know, perhaps the most difficult time when I was at the Coalition is when Pat Robertson was called an anti-Semite. And there is nothing worse that one can be called than an anti-Semite, particularly when it's false. Let me tell you, and I just want to briefly remark upon this because I want to get on to the other speakers, but much has been written about Pat Robertson and anti-Semitism, but I had a unique experience — about a year ago, after the Anti-Defamation League issued its scandalous report on religious conservatives. Very quietly, and very privately, a small visit was arranged for Pat, myself, and Ralph to the Holocaust Museum here in Washington. I invite all of you to go there. It is about what can happen in a culture when faith is forgotten and paganism controls. And I went with Pat through that museum and I saw Pat's response to the exhibits, and I saw the look in Pat's eyes at the end and the tears that had welled up in his eyes. I only wish at that time I could take the pundits who have scurrilously attacked Pat Robertson and show them a picture of that man. Pat Robertson is a friend of the Jews and he's a friend of the family."
Just about every candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States was invited - except the Jewish candidate Arlen Specter. Specter protested that the Christian Coalition excluded him from the convention because of his support for abortion rights. He said of the Christian Coalition: "They are not the right and not the far right - they are off the board. But they are dominating the scene." The Simon Wiesenthal Center sent a letter to Ralph Reed expressing concern that Specter might have been excluded because he is Jewish.
Road to Victory brings to mind a similar conference held ten years ago, sponsored by Reverend Tim LaHaye's American Coalition for Traditional Values titled "How To Christianize America" in which Michael Carrington, an aid to California State Senator H.L. Richardson, stated: "Always talk in terms of our Judeo-Christian heritage. We can get more narrow later, but not yet." "Later" may be here. With its rapid rise, inclusivity is out and exclusivity is in at the Christian Coalition's Road to Victory.