IFAS | Freedom Writer | December 1995 | update.html

Religious Right update

AFA boycotts Disney

Miami, Florida In recent months Radical Religious Right activists have leveled their guns at the Walt Disney Company. The reasons vary from critics not liking some of Disney's films to Disney's policy of non-discrimination.

In the latest skirmish, conservative Christians took aim at Disney's decision to extend health benefits to live-in partners of gay employees. Opposed to the action, the Florida Baptist Convention passed a resolution at its annual meeting stating that "Disney's moral leadership has been eroded."

David Caton, Florida director of the Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, announced a boycott of all Disney products and theme parks. Caton said Disney was losing its "moral compass" and becoming "a vehicle to influence American society regarding homosexuality being mainstream or normal."

Letter linked to bomb plot

Muskogee, Oklahoma A letter reproduced in the November 1995 Freedom Writer has been linked to one of the people recently arrested by the FBI for plotting to blow up abortion clinics, gay bars, and civil rights groups.

The letter, imitating White House stationery, complete with a forged presidential signature, was apparently contrived to stir up anti-government resentment. The letter was sent out over a Christian Patriots' fax network just three days before the train derailment in Arizona.

W. Ray Lampley, his wife, Cecilia Lampley, and John Dare Baird, were arrested by FBI agents on November 11 at Lampley's home in Vernon, Oklahoma, about 90 miles east of Oklahoma City. Also charged, and later arrested, was Larry Wayne Crow of New Mexico. Crow, a commercial pilot who, on occasion, worked for Bill and Hillary Clinton when they lived in Arkansas.

The complaint says that Lampley and Crow suggested at an August meeting with the Tri-States Militia in South Dakota, that five buildings be blown up. Quantities of ammonium nitrate the same substance used in Oklahoma City were found in a back room at Lampley's house. There is no known connection between these arrests and the bombing in Oklahoma City.

"We need to do four or five to create problems for the government," Crow was quoted as saying. "God won't be mad if we drop four or five buildings. He will probably reward us."

Published reports said the group planned to blow up the Houston ADL office, the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, an unspecified abortion clinic, a gay bar, and a rival group.

The letter originally delivered to Freedom Writer had Ray Lampley's name and fax number at the top. Sources told Freedom Writer that Ray Lampley wrote and sent out the letter. Lampley later acknowledged via the fax network that "my letter" caused quite a stir among Patriots.

Religious equality amendments introduced

Washington, DC For the past year Religious Right strategists have labored over the wording of their much-touted religious equality amendment. Congressman Ernest Jim Istook Jr. (R-OK) was expected to introduce the amendment in Congress, but Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, beat him to it. Then, a week later, on November 21, Istook introduced his version of the proposed constitutional amendment, causing a rift within the Religious Right.

Istook's amendment was more forthright in pushing for prayer in public schools, while the wording of Hyde's amendment emphasized religious expression. Opponents of Hyde's amendment say it is too vague. It reads: "Neither the United States nor any State shall deny benefits to or otherwise discriminate against any private person or group on account of religious expression, belief, or identity; nor shall the prohibition of laws respecting an establishment of religion be construed to require such discrimination."

The Hyde amendment would place religious groups on equal footing with secular groups that receive any sort of federal funding. It would also allow religious speech any place secular speech was allowed. This includes any sort of public school function. In effect, it would strip the First Amendment, rendering the separation of church and state meaningless.

The National Association of Evangelicals supports Hyde's bill. However, Istook's proposal has the support of the greater number of Religious Right groups because its emphasis is on school prayer. The conflict may cause a standoff, resulting in the death of both bills. To date, a similar bill has yet to be introduced in the Senate. If such a bill passed both the House and the Senate, 38 states would then have to ratify it within seven years for it to become part of the U.S. Constitution.

"This conflict just proves what we've been saying all along," said Joe Conn, of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "It's not that easy to improve upon Madison and Jefferson."

"We hate you, but..."

Colorado Springs, Colorado In April, Focus on the Family released a video called "Hollywood vs. Religion," featuring conservative film critic Michael Medved. The purpose of the film is "to stem the tide of Hollywood's anti-religious bias." Complimentary copies were sent out to churches and Religious Right groups across the country.

This year, Focus on the Family joined other Radical Religious Right groups in attacking the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). The groups are lobbying Congress to defund PBS, thus crippling public television. Now, Focus on the Family and the Chatham Hill Foundation, funders of "Hollywood vs. Religion," want PBS to air their biased film.

In the beginning of November, Focus on the Family mailed first-class postcards to every recipient of the video, announcing a November 12, 1995 satellite feed of the film to all PBS affiliates across the country. "Contact your local PBS affiliate(s)," the postcard read, "and kindly tell them that as a PBS supporter or viewer, you would like them to tape the November 12th satellite feed of 'Hollywood vs. Religion' and telecast it on their station.'" The card also asked pastors to inform their congregations and to request their participation in the effort.

Membership overstated?

Chesapeake, Virginia The Christian Coalition boasts 1.7 million members. Early in the new year the group will probably claim a full 2 million members. Every Christian Coalition member supposedly receives the bi-monthly Christian American magazine. Christian Coalition officials are either stretching the truth, or a lot of members are being gypped.

According to U.S. Postal Form 3526, filed October 1, 1995, at Chesapeake, Virginia, the net press run for the September 1995 issue of Christian American is as follows: "Net press run: 353,937. Total paid and/or requested circulation: 310,296. Total free distribution: 43,141. Copies not distributed as of Oct. 1, 1995: 500. Total circulation: 353,437."

Additional figures report the average circulation per issue for the past year. The average paid and/or requested circulation before this past October was 352,222. So, the latest figures indicate an approximate 42,000 drop in circulation. Free distribution also dropped, from 66,079 to 43,141.

Religious tests in South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina Governor David Beasley plans to appeal a ruling overturning a state requirement that candidates for state office believe in a Supreme Being. Circuit Judge Thomas Hughston said such tests are unconstitutional. Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution states, "No religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

In the landmark Torcaso v. Watkins case, Roy Torcaso sued the state of Maryland because he would not declare his belief in God, and was therefore barred from holding the office of notary public. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Torcaso, saying the law was unconstitutional, and based on Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, concluded that the religious test oath is abhorrent to the American tradition.

Christian Coalition support?

Shreveport, Louisiana In a recent controversy over which candidate the Christian Coalition supports for Caddo Parish Commissioner, Coalition leaders claimed the group does not endorse candidates. However, it appears as though the Christian Coalition did indeed lend its support to one candidate.

Candidate Forrest Davis told his supporters that he had the endorsement of the Christian Coalition. Then, H. Allen Thomason, vice-chairman of the Christian Coalition of Caddo Parish wrote to Davis explaining: "As a 501(c)(4) organization, the Coalition limits its operations to efforts to inform voters at the at the [sic] grass roots regarding public policy issues but does not in any manner endorse candidates." Thomason said the purpose of the letter was to "insure that there are no misunderstandings of the Coalition's activities."

A week later, the Rev. Billy McCormack and Dan Perkins sent a letter to 1,700 district voters saying that they personally support another candidate for commissioner, Mike Asher. McCormack is one of the Christian Coalition's four national directors, and Perkins is chairman of the Christian Coalition of Caddo Parish. As individuals, both men have the right to endorse whomever they wish. The men said the cost of printing and mailing the letter was about $400, and was paid for by private contributions.

However, Freedom Writer obtained a copy of the official Christian Coalition envelope McCormack and Perkins used to send out their endorsement of Asher. Use of the envelope alone implies official sanction by the Coalition. Additionally, the letter was mailed by special bulk rate using the postage meter registered to the Christian Coalition.

Spooky stuff

Los Altos, California New controversies over social issues endlessly arise as conservative Christians become more politically active. Now, fundamentalist Christian parents are contesting the celebration of Halloween in public schools. It's not only a religion, they say, but it's the Devil's religion. And they argue that since religious holidays aren't supposed to be observed in public schools for that crosses the line of separation between church and state Halloween celebrations should be banned.

The latest skirmish took place in Los Altos, California when Christian parents succeeded in persuading the school board to restrict Halloween celebrations to after-school hours. To help persuade the board, the parents showed them films like "The Pagan Invasion" and anti-Halloween Christian books.

All hell broke loose when other parents, teachers, and principals learned of the move. Angry parents reduced the next school board meeting to a shouting match. Nevertheless, the board reversed itself and reinstated Halloween activities during school hours.

Observers noted that the fundamentalist Christian parents erred by trying to convince the school board that Halloween is evil and that's why Christians don't celebrate it. Instead, wrote Roy Maynard in the conservative World magazine, "The wiser argument using the board's own goals of religious neutrality to protect the 'conscience' and self-esteem of students was drowned out by the angry response of a secular community to the spiritual reasoning."

He adds that another mistake was to allow the issue to be over-simplified as "a ban on Halloween," rather than simply moving Halloween activities to after school hours. One course would have been to speak about the "loss of instructional time" to non-academic activities.

Having learned some valuable lessons through this skirmish, one can bet that, though they lost the battle, the fundamentalists will continue the war.

Say what?

Great Barrington, Massachusetts In monitoring the activities of the Radical Religious Right, the Institute for First Amendment Studies receives literature and fund-raising letters from many groups. Quite often, fundraisers even phone us seeking contributions.

Recently, a woman representing Concerned Women for America called. "Would you be willing to send Beverly LaHaye $50 to help her fight the militant homosexuals?" she queried.

"I'm sorry, but we happen to support gay rights," we responded.

"Well then, could you send $15?"

Closer look at welfare reform

Washington, DC Provisions in the Senate's welfare reform bill allow "faith-based" organizations to receive government support while keeping intact their religious underpinnings. According to the National & International Religion Report, the provisions were inserted into the Welfare Reform Bill by Sen. John Ashcroft (R-MO). The provisions would allow religious organizations to participate in drug and alcohol counseling, job training, and housing, while keeping "precisely that part of the program that makes them so effective."

In other words, acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, prayer, evangelism, and other religious practices would be supported by tax-payer money, as long as the sponsored programs performed their intended purpose. Critics say that while religion may indeed help some people in these situations, the government has no business using taxpayer money to promote anyone's religion.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.