Freedom Writer |
January/February 1996 |
To date, our activist guide has generally focused on activists who are
group-affiliated. This month's activist guide consists of tips for the
Many people ask us how they can help defend the separation between
church and state. There are many ways to be an armchair activist. For
example, readers from around the United States provide the Institute
for First Amendment Studies (IFAS) with extremely useful material.
Some of this material is found each month in Freedom
Writer. Sometimes it is passed on to a wide range of media with
whom we share information. Other material is held in our extensive
vertical files for later use by researchers, journalists, or special
IFAS projects. If you would like to become this kind of activist, here
are some tips:
- The local paper is a good source of information about what the
Radical Religious Right is doing in your community. Tidbits collected
from local papers from around the country help us at IFAS to see the
- Read your local paper looking for political news — especially
school board news and local elections. Look for controversies over sex
education; book censorship in schools and libraries; and art
censorship in schools, galleries, and museums. In some states watch
for controversies about nude beaches. The hard right
sometimes organizes around this issue.
- Read meeting notices to find information about "right to life"
groups, the Christian Coalition, and other groups.
- Letters to the editor reveal the pulse of the community. Outspoken
conservative Christians often end up as local leaders when the
Religious Right comes to town. Letters to the editor are often based
on literature from national groups.
- Clip articles and letters. If you want to keep a file of local
activity for yourself, make copies of what you clip. Be sure to note
the date of publication, newspaper, and page number. Mail the copy or
original to IFAS. We will properly catalogue the information for
immediate or future use.
- Write letters to the editor yourself. Don't allow the Radical
Religious Right to have the last word on everything. If you feel
strongly about a subject, write a letter. Stick to facts in your
letter. Don't attack people with whom you disagree, attack ideas with
which you disagree. Don't be afraid to use humor when appropriate.
Keep your letter reasonably short — certainly not over 250 words. Use
your maiden name, middle name, or some other variation of your name if
you wish to remain somewhat anonymous.
- Clip and mail magazine articles about the Radical Religious Right
to IFAS. We review many magazines but cannot cover them all. Both
secular and religious periodicals offer important information.
- Listen to the radio as a way to track the pulse of your community.
Local talk shows allow you to hear the opinions and views of others.
- Call local talk shows if you feel compelled, and share your views
(anonymously, if you prefer).
- Christian radio stations often present an overview of the Radical
Religious Right both locally and nationally. Local Religious Right
activists often appear as guests on shows, or are mentioned in the
local news. Some have their own programs. National groups such as
Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, or
the American Family Association buy time on local stations.
- Write to national groups requesting to be on their mailing list,
or write to them if you want specific information about their
organization or viewpoints. Again, you can use a variation of your
name, or just make up one if you wish. You may feel more
comfortable using a post office box instead of a street address. Don't
send them any money. If you are a student, mention it. Groups are
usually very responsive to requests for information from students.
Mail periodicals and other literature you receive to IFAS.
- Watch Christian television networks such as Christian Broadcasting
Network, Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the Keystone Inspiration
Network. Skip over purely evangelistic stuff and look for shows with
some political content.
- Tape programs you find particularly interesting. Note the date,
time, and channel of programs you tape for later reference. Also make
note of who appears on the program.
- "The 700 Club" is especially useful. Pat Robertson frequently
makes outrageous and newsworthy comments. Several people regularly
view "The 700 Club" for IFAS and send us the tapes with notes
describing the contents. However, we always need more people to
monitor "The 700 Club."
- Look in the Yellow Pages to find the location of Christian
bookstores in your area.
- Visit the stores near your home, or in an area where you plan to
be. Christian bookstores are fascinating. The personnel in these
stores will be nice to you. Be sure to check out the prophecy section
and sections dealing with social action, such as abortion and gay
- Look for a bulletin board, either at the back of the store or at
the front. There will probably be lots of free literature; help
yourself. Visiting Christian bookstores can be lots of fun, especially
if they sell bumper stickers.
Finally, if you just want to help spread the word, here's what you can
do. Sign up new subscribers to Freedom Writer. If you
sign up 10 or new subscribers, all you have to do is collect $10 from
each, and send IFAS a check for the total. (Include each name and
address, of course.)
- Visit conservative churches if you are brave and possess
self-assurance. Many larger churches are open every day. You can drop
by and pick up literature; often much of this literature is highly
political. Some larger churches even have their own Christian
- If you find a politically active church, you can often find out
who the local Religious Right is supporting for school board or some
other office. Just say you're new in the area and are wondering who
you should support for school board, or whatever. Church members often
readily volunteer the information you are seeking.
- In your research you will learn of local Radical Religious Right
meetings. Make a careful note of when and where these meetings are
scheduled. Attend some meetings if you are the adventurous type.
(Don't be afraid, no one will hurt you in any way at these meetings!)
- Collect literature and other information. If possible, take note
of who attends. If attendance or membership lists are available be
sure to pick them up. Mail what you collect to IFAS.
So, there is much you can do as a home-bound activist. If we all do
our part, together we can make a difference!
© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.