IFAS | Freedom Writer | March 1996 | update.html

Religious Right update

Interfaith Alliance forms in Oregon

Portland, Oregon Oregon religious leaders recently announced the formation of a state chapter of the Interfaith Alliance (TIA), an organization that provides people of faith with a mainstream alternative to the divisiveness and intolerance of the extreme Religious Right. Reverend Rodney Page, executive director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, stated, "We pledge to promote the positive role of religion as a healing and constructive force in public life, and to challenge those who manipulate religion for partisan political gain."

Mainstream religious leaders from across the country organized the Interfaith Alliance in 1994 to speak out against the divisive use of religion in the public sphere, including political campaigns. TIA's goal is to ensure that an alternative faith-based voice is heard in the public debate. The national grass roots movement now encompasses 16 state chapters and over 20,000 members.

Bishop assails Catholic Alliance

Albany, New York Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of the diocese of Albany, assailed the Christian Coalition's new Catholic Alliance. Bishop Hubbard, writing in The Evangelist, said that he found many aspects of the Catholic Alliance literature disturbing. He specifically mentioned "the clearly partisan tone of the documents; the blatant untruths contained in the voter scorecards; and the inference that the Alliance speaks for the Holy Father and thus is officially 'Catholic,' and the organization's stated purpose of giving 'America's 50,000,000 Catholics a voice in government.'"

"I am particularly concerned about the organization's stated purpose of representing the Catholic community before Congress, state legislatures and other governmental bodies." Bishop Hubbard continued, "I believe that this Alliance will create massive confusion, not only among lawmakers in local, state and federal government, but also among the Catholic faithful, as to who it is that speaks legitimately on matters of public policy for the Church in the United States."

Hubbard said the organizational structure of the Roman Catholic Church communicates official church positions in the name of the bishops, not through Pat Robertson's Catholic Alliance. He said that there are issues on the Christian Coalition's agenda with which the Catholic Bishops agree, such as abortion, and there are issues with which they disagree, such as welfare reform and the death penalty. He also implied that Robertson's group holds a "Christian position" on the balanced budget amendment and term limits, issues on which the Conference of Bishops holds no position.

"What is interesting, too," Bishop Hubbard said, "what is not on the agenda of the Coalition; for example, legislation to protect poor children or immigrants."

Long-distance discrimination

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma LifeLine, a division of AmeriVision Communications, Inc., an alternative long-distance telephone company, gives 10% of its income to a number of Radical Religious Right organizations. The top 13 groups supported and funded by LifeLine are American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Christian Coalition, Rutherford Institute, Moore Foundation, Advancing Church Ministries, World Magazine, Reap, Oregon Citizens Alliance, Illinois Family Institute (Focus on the Family), Indiana Family Institute (Focus on the Family), American Center for Law & Justice, and "Jay Sekulow Live." Each month AmeriVision gives these groups over $274,000, and will distribute $3,300,000 to them in 1996.

Another group, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has dropped LifeLine, and is urging other Catholics to do the same. LifeLine denied Catholic Answers, the largest apologetic and evangelization organization in North America, an account because they "spread and defend the Roman Catholic Faith."

Persecuted for objecting to Christian film

Rogue River, Oregon After opposing a Christian film that was to be shown at a January PTA meeting in this southeastern Oregon town, James and Ann Gold have experienced frightening acts of anti-Semitism and a possible attempt on their lives. The film they opposed declared that the founding fathers intended America to be a Christian nation. The Golds objected to the film and threatened to "get the entire Jewish community up in arms about it."

Since then, the Golds' home has been burglarized, and vandalized inside and outside four times with anti-Semitic graffiti and other acts of vandalism. Someone called several times, yelled "Fuck you!" and hung up.

Then, on January 15, Ann Gold a Mormon suffered minor injuries after hitting a tree when brand-new brakes failed on her car. Authorities are investigating to see if someone tampered with the brakes.

Members of the community have come forward offering the Golds support. Mayor Jerry Lausmann of Medford offered to let the family stay in an apartment he owns. On February 11, the social action committee of Temple Emek Shalom, in Ashland, held a rally in support of the Golds. Twelve conservative churches in the area signed a statement declaring "no more hate."

Also, the FBI is reportedly investigating the incidents; and Mayor Lausmann set up a fund totaling almost $6,000 for anyone furnishing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the criminal acts.

NPR under fire from Wildmon

Tupelo, Mississippi After apologizing on the air for a comment made by Andrei Codrescu, National Public Radio (NPR) is still taking heat from the Religious Right. In one of his popular commentaries, heard on some 300 public radio stations, Codrescu belittled the fundamentalist Christian doctrine of the Rapture, the belief that any day now millions of Christians will fly into the air to meet Jesus. "The evaporation of 4 million who believe in this crap would leave the world a better place," Codrescu said.

His comment drew immediate fire from the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association. Codrescu apologized "for the language but not for what I said." Nevertheless, Wildmon is demanding that NPR fire Codrescu for his comment.

Wildmon said that relatively few people listen to NPR and most who do make above average incomes. "This is a case of the poor being taxed to provide entertainment for the rich," Wildmon said.

The Christian Coalition's Ralph Reed asked for two minutes of air time on "All Things Considered" to offer an opposing view. NPR turned down his request. The Christian Coalition said it will step up lobbying efforts to defund NPR, which receives some federal support.

Chaplain's prayer causes dissension

Topeka, Kansas A guest chaplain's prayer caused an uproar in the Kansas House in January. The Rev. Joe Wright of Wichita's 2,500-member Central Christian Church, offended many of the legislators with a stinging prayer.

"We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values," Wright prayed. "We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have killed the unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable."

One legislator walked out; others sat down in protest. "I have never heard, in 10 years, as divisive, sanctimonious, self-serving, overbearing a prayer as I heard this morning," said Delbert Gross, a Republican legislator.

House minority leader Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat, issued a written statement. The prayer, he wrote, "reflects the extreme, radical views that continue to dominate the House Republican agenda since right-wing extremists seized control of the House Republican caucus last year."

The controversy once again brings up the question of whether public prayers by chaplains are necessary, or even appropriate, at the opening of legislative meetings.

Bauer suggests third party

Washington, DC Gary Bauer, head of the Family Research Council, a group affiliated with Focus on the Family, lashed out at the Republican Party because he thinks the party places economical issues over moral issues. He said the GOP has to decide whether moral issues or economic issues should be primary.

"It is a major, major battle, not just this year, but over the next few years," he said. He warned that conservatives will leave the party if it abandons "prolife and profamily" issues and go form a new political party. Bauer joins a growing list of third-party advocates, including Dr. James Dobson and Howard Phillips.

More Christian Coalition lies

Virginia Beach, Virginia The Rev. Mel White, Pat Robertson's former ghostwriter who fell out of favor after saying he is gay, recently held a press conference in Virginia Beach to confront Robertson for his ongoing anti-gay rhetoric to raise funds. Among a film crew, White recognized a Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) producer. Although welcomed at the event, the man denied he was with CBN. But the truth came out when someone spotted "Property of CBN" on a videocamtripod.

And Pat Robertson continues to tell tall tales in his fundraising letters. In a recent letter to Christian Coalition members, Robertson said, "the U.S. government still spends tens of millions of dollars on the National Endowment for the Arts which makes a point of funding anti-Christian and pornographic 'art' projects...projects designed specifically to offend and outrage Christians and religious people." Robertson also claimed that prayer has been "outlawed from our schools."

Back to the golden age?

Pittsfield, Massachusetts Radical Religious Right leaders, such as the Rev. Jay Grimstead, of the Coalition on Revival, want to bring America back to some imaginary "Golden Age," often referred to as the 50s.

What were the 50s like, anyway? Editor David Scribner recently discovered a revealing article from a 1958 issue of the Berkshire Eagle. The 38-year-old story was based on a press release from the Pittsfield Federation of Teachers explaining the problems teachers faced in public schools. The list included:

Reconstructionist goal for education

Boise, Idaho Samuel L. Blumenfeld, a Christian Reconstructionist writer, outlined the educational goals of the influential Reconstructionist movement. His rhetoric is clearly aimed at promoting homeschooling.

"The reconstructionist goal," he wrote, "is to restore God's sovereignty over family, church, and civil governments, and to restore the family's moral and religious responsibility for the education of its children. In other words, parents have the right to delegate to other godly persons the educating of their children, and they retain the right to educate their children at home which is now much easier to do than it was in colonial days.

"It is clearly sinful for Christian parents to put their children in public schools where the knowledge of God is not taught, and where ungodly attitudes are inculcated. When Christian parents put their children in schools that do not consider themselves to be under God's law, they are disobeying a Biblical commandment. There is no escaping that judgment. In the Reconstructionist view, Christian parents who place their child in a public school are committing a sin, not because there are no Christian teachers in that school, but because that school is not under God's law. As Dr. Rushdoony writes: 'To control the future requires control of education and of the child. Hence, for Christians to tolerate statist education, or to allow their children to be trained thereby, means to renounce power in society, to renounce their children, and to deny Christ's lordship over all of life.'"

Christian youths love their MTV

Colorado Springs, Colorado Citizen, the political magazine of the Focus on the Family ministry, published an article in its February 19, 1996 issue called "Breaking the Culture's Grip." The article lashed out at popular magazines, television, and music.

It came down especially hard on MTV, saying "MTV promos, cartoons and videos feature homosexual couples...and regularly features homosexual cast members...and a sexually suggestive game show...as well as New Age, liberal dogma."

The most interesting tidbit brought out in the article concerned the viewing habits of evangelical Christian teenagers. "According to surveys conducted by the Barna Research Group [a Christian organization], Christian teens are actually more likely to watch MTV than their non-Christian counterparts." Why, is anybody's guess.

Coalition rates senators

Virginia Beach, Virginia The Christian Coalition released its "election year kick-off edition" of its 1996 Congressional Scorecard. "A score of 100% means the Congressman supported Christian Coalition's position on every vote. A score of 0% means the Congressman never supported a Christian Coalition position."

Only three senators distinguished themselves with a 0% rating. They are Senators Moynihan (D-NY), Leahy (D-VT), and Murray (D-WA).

Scoring a 100% Christian Coalition rating are Senators Murkowski (R-AK), Kyl (R-AZ), McCain (R-AZ), Brown (R-CO), Coverdell (R-GA), Craig (R-ID), Kempthorne (R-ID), Coats (R-IN), Grassley (R-IA), Dole (R-KS), McConnel (R-KY), Abraham (R-MI), Grams (R-MN), Lott (R-MS), Ashcroft (R-MO), Burns (R-MT), Smith (R-NH), Helms (R-NC), Faircloth (R-NC), Dewine (R-OH), Inhofe (R-OK), Nickles (R-OK), Santorum (R-PA), Thurmond (R-SC), Pressler (R-SD), Thompson (R-TN), Hutchinson (R-TX), Gramm (R-TX), Bennett (R-UT), Hatch (R-UT), and Thomas (R-WY).

Ratings were based upon the following litmus tests: balanced budget amendment (supports); taxpayer-funded abortion (when included in health insurance policies for federal workers) (opposes); nomination of Henry Foster for surgeon general (opposes); pornography on the Internet (includes so-called "indecent" material, not just legally obscene material) (opposes); line item veto (supports); lifting ban on gays in the military (opposes); ban on immigrants with HIV/AIDS virus (supports); condoms for children (minors) without parental consent (opposes); taxpayer-funded pornography (support for the National Endowment for the Arts) (opposes); term limits on Congress (supports).

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.