The dictionary defines "tocsin" as "a bell for sounding an alarm, the sound made by it, any alarm signal." In his ambition to warn fellow citizens about the theocratic agenda of the Radical Religious Right, activist Jerry Sloan came up with the name Project Tocsin.
Founded by Jerry Sloan and Marghe Covino in 1991, Project Tocsin monitors the political activities of the Radical Religious Right in California. Project Tocsin's specialty is following the money trail. Sloan regularly disseminates his findings through press releases and other contact with the media, and to other organizations and activists through his speaking engagements.
Jerry Sloan's background serves him well. He describes himself as "a recovering fundamentalist." Reared in fundamental Baptist churches, Sloan attended Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri along with Jerry Falwell. At that time, the two were good friends. After graduation, Sloan served in various capacities in fundamentalist Baptist churches.
"Then," he told The Freedom Writer, "I was asked to leave the church because they found out I was gay." Later, after learning that he wasn't alone, he established the Gay Alumni Association of Baptist Bible College, a move that caused the school to cancel his diploma.
When the Baptists no longer wanted him, the Rev. Sloan found a home in the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). In the 1970s he served as a minister with that denomination and founded MCC congregations in Des Moines, Iowa and Wichita, Kansas.
One of Sloan's great moments was proving that his old friend Jerry Falwell was a liar. It started on Friday the 13th of July, 1984, when Falwell appeared live on a Sacramento TV talk show. Sloan was in the studio audience.
When Falwell took questions from the audience, Sloan asked him about a statement he once made on his "Old Time Gospel Hour" about the members of the Metropolitan Community Church. According to Sloan, Falwell said that MCC church members "will one day be utterly annihilated and there'll be a celebration in heaven."
Falwell not only denied ever making the statement, but offered Sloan $5,000 if he could produce the tape proving that he did. Sloan produced the tape, and a Sacramento court awarded him $5000, plus $3982.90 for legal expenses.
When Sloan learned about the 1990 Radical Religious Right victories in San Diego county, he realized it would become a statewide movement. Disconcerted, he and his friend Marghe Covino started Project Tocsin.
"California is unique," Sloan continued, "in that we have this group of five multi-millionaires who fund Radical Right groups and politicians." He listed them as: Howard Ahmanson Jr., of Home Savings and Loan; Sen. Rob Hurtt, president of Container Supply Co.; Edward G. Atsinger, owner of 28 Christian radio stations; Roland Hinz, publisher of Dirt Bike and Motocross magazines; and Richard Riddle, a box manufacturer.
"These five guys," according to Sloan, "have banded together to support conservative Religious Right candidates." Sloan found that the five men back 25 out of 40 Republicans in the California Assembly; and 9 out of 16 Republicans in the Senate.
"Since we're located here in Sacramento," Sloan said, "we have the ability to go down to the state capitol and follow the money trail." California has strict financial reporting requirements, and Project Tocsin is probably more instrumental than any other organization in alerting the media about these wealthy men pouring money into the Religious Right.
"Common Cause has been doing quite a bit on the political contributions," Sloan said, "but they haven't carried it though to look at the non-profit stuff. We show the ties to the Radical Right organizations that promote the agenda of the Radical Religious Right."
"What we have found is that some of these guys, particularly Howard Ahmanson, provide some organizations with ten to fifteen percent of their budget."
Sloan said some of the groups to which he refers include the Claremont Institute, the Western Center for Law and Religious Freedom, the Capitol Resource Institute (an affiliate of Focus on the Family), and R.J. Rushdoony's Chalcedon, a Christian Reconstructionist organization.
Sloan feels that it is extremely important to educate the public about the agenda of the Radical Religious Right. This agenda includes, according to Sloan, destruction of public education and the idea that ultra-conservative Christians ought to be in charge of the country.
"OK, so it's a Christian country. Now what?" Sloan asks. "What does this mean? This is what evangelical Christians should ask. Whenever one religion has preferred status, then the rest are slated for elimination in one way or another."
The latest ploy of the Religious Right, according to Sloan, is to "build farm teams." This sports metaphor means to build a team of minor leaguers who will work their way up to the major leagues. "Voters need to examine the minor league candidates," Sloan says. "School boards and water control boards are the training camps for the big leagues."
Project Tocsin can be contacted at PO Box 163523, Sacramento, CA 95816. Phone: (916) 381-3115. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send $3 to receive more information and/or a unique 11x17 chart on the theocratic right in California. Project Tocsin's tax-exempt status is pending.