IFAS | Freedom Writer | May 1996 | update.html

Religious Right update

Dole on thin ice over abortion

Washington, DC Snubbing the conservative Christians who helped him win the Republican nomination for president, Sen. Bob Dole declared that abortion is not a litmus test for his vice presidential choice. "We're all Republicans. We can be pro-choice, pro-life," Dole said.

Calling it a "terrible mistake," Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, told National & International Religion Report that such a choice by Dole would show a lack of seriousness about the issue. At 72, if Dole wins the election, he may not complete his term, and even if he does, it is likely that his vice president would succeed him.

"Pro-life Christian voters will not accept candidates who act like conservatives in the primaries but move to the center in the general election, Focus on the Family's Paul Hetrick said. "That's not going to cut it. As far as the pro-life vote goes, it just doesn't fit."

A number of conservative Christian leaders, including James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship, Bill Bright of Campus Crusade, sent a message to Dole and other Republican leaders urging them to protect the pro-life position of the party. Some of these leaders have warned of a mass exodus from the GOP to a third party. The party most-often mentioned is Howard Phillips' U.S. Taxpayers Party. (Source: National & International Religion Report, April 1, 1996)

Palau on politics

Chicago, Illinois After Billy Graham, 61-year-old Argentine-born Luis Palau is probably the world's most popular evangelist. Based in Portland, Oregon, Palau is especially well-known overseas. Out of respect to Billy Graham, Palau waited until the 1990s to preach in America.

Palau began an eight-week crusade in Chicago on April 4, 1996. With a $2.2 million budget, and the participation of more than 1,500 churches in the Chicago area, Palau hoped to attract 500,000 people.

In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Palau was asked, "What are your opinions about Christians being involved in politics?"

"Those who are called to enter the political arena should take it as a ministry from the Lord. I don't care if he or she is left wing, right wing, an atheist, or a religious leader; I always tell politicians, 'Your position is a delegated authority from God and you are a minister of God' (Romans 13). So I encourage them to think of justice and righteousness, and to defend the poor and the needy. That's the role of a politician.

"I think that Paul, if he were here, would encourage young people to be the salt and light in public places. But politics has its limits. Don't expect from politics what politics cannot deliver. Don't confuse the kingdom of God with party politics." (Source: Christianity Today, April 8, 1996)

Culture war casualty

Washington, DC Public support for freedom of expression is being diminished by the growing number of politicians who have adopted the right wing strategy of exploiting culture war issues for political gain, according to a report just released by People for the American Way. The fourth edition of Artistic Freedom Under Attack documents 137 challenges to artistic expression in 41 states and the District of Columbia. Of those challenges, 73 percent were successful in having artwork removed or restricted in some way.

To portray more accurately the breadth of the culture war in America, researchers for the first time included in this year's Artistic Freedom Under Attack incidents involving popular culture such as television, films, music, and advertisements, in addition to the fine arts that have been the report's traditional focus.

"Culture warriors are going after free expression in television and films and even cyberspace," said People for the American Way research director Matthew Freeman. "Rather than viewing new technologies like the Internet as an opportunity to inform, engage, and challenge one another, self-appointed morality watchdogs are working to diminish those opportunities through censorship. And by grossly distorting the nature of most material available, they have eroded the public's natural opposition to censorship."

The Christian Coalition, American Family Association, and other Religious Right political organizations continue to lead a national assault aimed at silencing individual artists and undercutting public support for continued funding of arts and culture; that effort continues to spread at the local level, the report says.

Artistic Freedom Under Attack 1996 also includes information and assistance for those who want to confront and defeat challenges to the arts in their communities. The activist's kit includes: information about the First Amendment and artistic freedom, guidelines for coalition-building, working with the media, organizing grassroots campaigns, and more. People for the American Way may be reached at (202) 467-4999.

Threats to clinics persist

Kansas City, Missouri Since 1993, five people have been killed and eleven wounded at clinics across the country. Sixteen months after the massacre by John Salvi III at a Brookline, Massachusetts clinic that left two dead and five wounded, abortion providers find themselves working in virtual armed fortresses. Clinics are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for armed security guards and high-tech security equipment, including metal detectors and closed-circuit TV systems.

Although there hasn't been a shooting in almost a year and half, antiabortion terrorism continues. In 1995, six acts of arson were reported at clinics in California and two in Florida, one of which destroyed a St. Petersburg clinic.

In January of this year, a Chicago-area man was convicted of robbing an armored car to finance antiabortion activities. He said he planned to kill at least one doctor by August 22, 1996.

In spite of these continuing activities, the Department of Justice recently dropped its investigation into the possibility of a nationwide conspiracy against abortion facilities and doctors. Abortion providers still believe such a conspiracy exists.

"All of our information certainly points to a violent national campaign to stop legal abortion," said Vicki Saporta, director of the National Abortion Federation. "These people are meeting, plotting to do violent acts and encouraging one another. They exchange information, they target physicians. It's just outrageous that the government would back off of this." (Source: "Fear lingers at abortion clinics," by Judy Thomas, The Kansas City Star, March 10, 1996)

The Rapture Amendment

Anaheim, California Millions of fundamentalist Christians embrace a doctrine called "the rapture of the church," which literally involves born-again Christians flying off into the clouds to meet Jesus when he comes. Meanwhile, after Jesus takes the believers off to heaven, unbelievers are left behind to duke it out with the Antichrist.

What is to happen with all the property the faithful leave behind after all, they would be declared missing persons? In many states, the heirs of a missing person must wait five years to receive any distribution of property. In the meantime, state probate courts decide what to do with the property.

Meanwhile, after the rapture takes place the Antichrist would gobble up all the property the Christians left behind. Challenged by this dilemma, Dennis Watson, an Anaheim, California attorney, figured out a way to provide for loved ones who might be left behind. It's called "the Rapture Amendment."

The Rapture Amendment would be signed, notarized, and attached to a Christian's revocable trust document. The amendment would not be effective until and unless the rapture occurs. Still, Watson admits, there is no guarantee the amendment would be effective.

"I think it is important to try and do what we can to help those who will become believers after Christ comes and takes his church," Watson said. "Revelation 7:14 speaks of a great crowd of people in heaven who will have been killed during the tribulation period [an event that Christian Bible teachers say will come after the rapture]. I hope someone there will be able to thank us for our efforts in assisting him or her to avoid the otherwise economic necessity of accepting the mark of the beast."

Of course, one would have to choose a "post-Rapture Trustee" an unbeliever who would be able to take charge after the rapture. "I certainly do not envy the job of a post-rapture trustee," Watson said, and he suggests that Christians ask an unbeliever "whom you have some credibility with" to serve in such a position. (Source: Southern California Christian Times, March 1996)

Pornography research

Colorado Springs, Colorado Several years ago members of the evangelical National Religious Broadcasters held its annual meeting in a Washington, DC hotel. The hotel offered pay-per-view in-room movies, including adult fare. After the conference, someone took the trouble to find out how many of the radio and TV evangelists took advantage of the adult movies. It seems that more than half of them did. When asked to explain, one evangelist said, "Research!"

Several years ago, after Skipp Porteous had an article on religious political extremists published in Penthouse, a number of Christian radio stations called for an interview. Porteous learned that those stations gratefully receive "advance copies" of Penthouse.

The folks at Focus on the Family in Colorado have been keeping up with their research, too. The March 22, 1996 issue of The Pastor's Weekly Briefing, in a column called "Stats, Stats, Stats," reports on the rise in production of hard-core pornographic videos, and the sales and rental income from the X-rated films. The article lists as its source Adult Video News, a slick, full-color, sexually explicit magazine produced by the adult film industry.

Is striking children a family value?

Costa Mesa, California The Rev. Bob Simonds, of Citizens for Excellence in Education, expressed his dismay when a fellow minister and his wife were denied the privilege of adopting a baby.

In his quarterly newsletter Education Newsline (Spring 1996), Simonds wrote: "When Reverend Ted Norton and his wife Joyce, tried to adopt a one-year-old boy in need of a home, they knew they'd make great parents, as Christians who'd raised four children of their own. They were surprised when county social services denied their petition upon finding out that the Nortons believe in spanking as a form of loving discipline (not in anger or abuse). The county based its reasoning on a state law banning the use of 'corporeal discipline' on foster children. The Nortons are working to have the California law changed."

It is no wonder that conservative Christians sanction the striking of children as a means of "loving" discipline. In his 1970 best-seller, Dare to Discipline, Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family wrote that spanking is "a painful disciplinary measure to make a vivid impression." When spanking doesn't work, he writes, "The spanking may be too gentle. If it doesn't hurt it isn't worth avoiding next time." Dobson recommends "a firm thump on the head or a rap on the fingers."

In a Q&A section of the book, a parent asks if spanking will teach her child to hit other people or make him a violent person. In his response, Dobson compares spanking to the pain a child suffers in accidents such as touching something hot or being bitten by a dog. These acts teach a child to "avoid those mistakes again," and, according to Dobson, "doesn't make him a violent person." He adds that "spankings should be reserved for his moments of greatest antagonism."

However, many sociologists believe that spanking indicates that the parent is out of control, not the child. Even dog trainers teach that one should never strike a dog, lest that dog learns to bite in self-defense. Is a child any different?

Dare to Discipline is still in print and available in Christian and mainstream bookstores. Over 2 million copies of the book have been sold.

Robertson admires African system

Washington, DC In his new book, The Most Dangerous Man in America?, Rob Boston reveals Pat Robertson's admiration for a Religious Right leader in Africa.

"Robertson has a special interest in Zambia. Zambian President Frederick Chiluba is a Robertson associate who, in 1991, officially declared the country a 'Christian nation,' and followed this up by changing some of the nation's laws to reflect the new Christian status. Robertson hailed this action while interviewing Chiluba during a taped segment that aired during the April 25, 1995, edition of 'The 700 Club' and lamented the fact that no such declaration can occur in the United States. "Your country is a standard for not only Africa but the rest of the world,' gushed Robertson. Following the interview he asked the audience, 'Wouldn't you love to have someone like that as president of the United States of America?...The term 'Christian nation' seems to scare a lot of people in this nation of ours, but what Chiluba said is that it gives us a yardstick to measure the performance of the government. Otherwise we have no yardstick.'"

Boston pointed out that anyone wondering what Robertson's "Christian nation" in the United States would look like need only to look at Zambia. Since Chiluba took office all public schools have become saturated with fundamentalist Christianity Muslims and Hindus were told that they would have to build their own schools; state-run radio and television has been taken over by Christian fundamentalist religious programming; all abortion was outlawed police shut down every clinic and many doctors and staffers were attacked and beaten; an antipornography crusade was launched, and fundamentalist ministers and missionaries were given license to work with the police to publicly burn any material deemed obscene.

In his book, Boston adds that "the country is now swarming with fundamentalist Christian missionaries, many of them affiliated with the radical Christian Reconstructionist movement...[which] Under their plan, the harsh legal code outlined in the Old Testament would be the basis for U.S. law."

In a related matter, on April 1, 1996, the following item appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times: "Ugandan rebels who say they want to rule the country by the biblical Ten Commandments killed 15 people when they ambushed two trucks on a road in northern Uganda over the weekend, the army said. The Lord's Resistance Army a Christian fundamentalist guerilla group set the trucks ablaze, a spokesman said. The attack, the latest in a series by the rebels led by Joseph Kony, a former religious teacher, took the death toll this month to 239."

Garbage collecting unconstitutional

Barrington, Rhode Island For nearly 50 years, the city of Barrington has provided free weekly garbage pickup for churches and synagogues. The American Civil Liberties Union has now filed a lawsuit against the community, claiming the practice is an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Town manager Dennis Phelan told Pastor's Weekly Briefing the city will discontinue the practice after Easter. But trash collection isn't the only city-provided service upsetting the ACLU. "The town has made it a habit to go to churches after snowstorms and plow their parking lots," explained Phelan, a practice that will continue until resolved in court, if necessary. (Source: The Pastor's Weekly Briefing, March 29, 1996)

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.