IFAS | Freedom Writer | June 1996 | update.html

Religious Right update

Coalition on Dole running mate

Chesapeake, Virginia The "nonpartisan" Christian Coalition, which now claims 1.8 million members and supporters, recently sent a letter to its members saying "you can have a big impact" in determining the selection of Bob Dole's running mate. Ralph Reed, who signed the letter, said that it is important to America's Christian voters to have a vice president who supports school prayer, is antiabortion, favors a reduction in taxes and a balanced budget, and has "respect for our nation's religious heritage and traditional moral values."

The letter suggested that if Bob Dole were to win the presidency, it is probable that his vice president would someday be president. Although Reed emphasized that the Christian Coalition was not endorsing a particular candidate, it was important to let Dole know what sort of candidate Christian Coalition members would support for vice president.

Totally absent from the five-page letter was the familiar politically correct term, "Judeo-Christian." In a variety of applications, Reed's letter used the word "Christian" thirty-six times ("Christian Coalition" 15 times, "Christian voter" 15 times, and simply "Christian" 6 times).

Dobson's political consultant

Washington, DC Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council keeps Focus on the Family's James Dobson informed about Washington politics, including the presidential campaign. A May 7th confidential memo from Bauer to Dobson updates him on President Clinton's advertising campaign. "The Democrats' ad campaign, which has been running since last fall, continues. Ads are regularly on the air in about one-third of the country, areas that the Clinton team considers 'battlegrounds.' The concentration is on the Midwest, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Tennessee, Florida, and Iowa. The early ad buys were pro-Clinton, but now they are becoming more anti-Dole. When Dole attacked Clinton on appointing liberal judges, the Democratic National Committee had a response ad on the air in 24 hours. This 'rapid response' approach is going to make the Dole campaign's job very difficult."

Dobson, very concerned about the Dole campaign, has threatened to support a third party candidate if the GOP turns away from its "pro-life" position. Recently, Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed caused some to think he supports rewriting the GOP antiabortion plank. Dobson responded, "There is not a principled nor pragmatic reason for Republicans to abandon the current language as it is written. The present language is the clearest expression of pro-life principles and goals that we have had over the last twenty years."

Focus on the Family, headed by Christian psychologist Dobson, is a nonprofit ministry with an annual budget of approximately $150 million. Although the group is limited in its political activity, Internal Revenue regulations allow such groups to spend as much as 10% on lobbying, which is, in this case, significant. Family Research Council (FRC), headed by Bauer, is a former branch of Focus on the Family. The two groups split in order to protect the tax-exempt status of Focus on the Family. Another group, American Renewal, headed by Bauer, and located in the same offices, is the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council.

Moral Majoritarian shuns politics

Grand Rapids, Michigan Today, the Rev. Ed Dobson, a former board member of the now defunct Moral Majority, shuns politics. "The church's energy should be spent in redeeming the lost, not in rallying against them," he wrote in the May 20, 1996 issue of Christianity Today.

Dobson (no relation to James Dobson) says that he is constantly bombarded with requests to get his church involved in some political issue. As pastor of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, his church has developed a five-point, politics-free platform. First: "We should not expect or demand that the political system be Bible friendly." Second: "We have clear responsibilities to the political system, even when it is hostile toward us." Third: "We should keep the church out of partisan politics and political action." Fourth: "We should demonstrate the authenticity of the gospel where we live." Fifth: "We cannot expect politics to offer permanent solutions."

Dobson wrote that during the debate over the gay rights ordinance a person asked him when he was going to take a stand. He responded in Christianity Today, where he is a senior editor. "First, I make it my priority to share the good news....I fear that overt political involvement will lead to polarization and alienation from people who need to hear the gospel. Second, I must continue to develop a biblical, social conscience. The poor, the homeless, the abused, the imprisoned, and the sick (including HIV-positive people) must be within the circle of my love and touch."

"Finally,"Dobson wrote, "as a pastor, I will approach the area of political involvement with extreme caution."

CWA demonizes gays and lesbians

Washington, DC The Rev. Jim Woodall, Beverly LaHaye's vice president of management at her Concerned Women for America (CWA), considers demons to be the force behind the gay rights movement. Woodall, a participant in the clandestine anti-gay conference held at Glen Eyrie Castle in Colorado Springs in May 1994, [see August 1994 Freedom Writer] assailed gay rights in the April edition of CWA's Family Voice. He wrote that "Christians must be willing to spend time on their knees in prayer," concluding that "Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12-13)." The scripture Woodall quoted refers to a satanic hierarchy of demons, which some Bible-believing Christians think controls evil in the world. This theme was also referred to at the Glen Eyrie conference.

Another article in the same issue of Family Voice further castigates gays. Nina George Hacker, assistant editor for Family Voice, wrote that homosexuals average "between 10 and 1000 partners per year," and gay men "regularly swallow the semen and ingest the feces and urine of their partners...still, nothing under present law prevents active homosexuals with or without AIDS from working in food-handling professions, or with the elderly and young children, who are especially vulnerable to illness."

Viciously attacking gays is one of Concerned Women's top fundraising strategies. Almost every monthly fundraising letter from the group raises the issue of homosexuality. Abortion, sex ed, and feminism are CWA's other major fundraising themes.

Guilty before trial

Durant, Oklahoma A courtroom prayer caused a mistrial when a minister opened a doctor's murder trial with supplication to the Almighty. In a prayer before the court, the Rev. Wyndall Glenn asked for the guilty "to step up to the plate of justice" and implored that they be made to pay for their sins. He then spent several more minutes in the courtroom praying with the victim's family and blessing individual jurors, who are members of his church, in front of the defendant's relatives. Defense attorney Garvin Isaacs considered the prayer a condemnation of his client. The case has been moved about 30 miles away and court officials are examining the practice of having clergy pray at trials. (Source: National & International Religion Report, April 15, 1996)

Clinton, Buchanan snubbed?

Washington, DC The Christian Coalition has announced that its sixth annual Road to Victory convention will be held on September 13 and 14, 1996 in Washington, DC at the Washington Hilton. Noticeably absent from the Road to Victory flyer was Pat Buchanan, arguably last year's most popular speaker. Mike Russell, Christian Coalition communications director, told Freedom Writer Magazine that it produces four different flyers. One is designed to appeal to Catholics, one to evangelicals, another to mainstream denominations, and one to the general public. Russell said that he did not know whether or not Buchanan had been invited to speak. "Perhaps Buchanan will appear on an upcoming brochure," Russell said.

Putative Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole appeared on the brochure. When asked about balancing the conference slate by inviting the president, Russell confirmed that President Clinton had not been invited to speak, but that someone from the Democratic National Committee would be invited.

Evangelists to guard Olympics

Atlanta, Georgia One thousand evangelists will be wearing official Olympic security uniforms at the Olympic Games in Atlanta next month. As part of the official security staff, Youth With A Mission (YWAM) evangelists will direct crowds, greet visitors, and check credentials. While the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games has forbidden the young evangelists from preaching or passing out religious literature while on duty, the group plans to practice what it calls "friendship evangelism." "Then," as YWAM spokesperson Mark Evans said, "as God opens doors for us to share our lives with people whether as a friend off-duty or while we are on the job we'll let God work in people's hearts."

Sports enthusiasts from 197 countries will attend the 1996 Olympic Games. To reach out to the multicultural gathering, YWAM is recruiting 5,000 evangelists to spread the gospel during the games. Besides the 1,000 on security detail, the remaining 4,000 will be split among 400 ministry teams that will blanket the city. The volunteer evangelists must raise the funds to cover their support and travel expenses. Sixty percent will be from the United States. YWAM has 600 outreach centers in 135 countries.

Coalition scores in Massachusetts

Springfield, Massachusetts Christian Right candidates in western Massachusetts waged a successful campaign in their effort to become delegates to the Republican national convention in August. Greg Morgan, a conservative, who is waging a primary campaign to run against U.S. Congressman John Olver, a Democrat, organized individuals associated with the Christian Coalition and a Focus on the Family affiliate, the Massachusetts Family Institute. Morgan, his campaign aide, Donna Stein, and Paul Desilets, were selected as delegates to the national convention. Three others associated with Morgan's campaign were chosen as alternate delegates.

"We're the conservatives, and we're the mainstream of the Republican Party. One of our beliefs is pro-life," Morgan said. To run against Rep. Olver in November, Morgan must first defeat Sen. Jane Swift, a moderate Republican, in the September 17 primary.

Paul Desilets, one of the alternates, is best known for refusing to rent an apartment to an unmarried couple because he believes sex outside of marriage is morally wrong and that his complicity would "compromise his faith." The Massachusetts attorney general charged Desilets with violating Massachusetts' fair housing laws. Ultimately, Desilets prevailed.

The Massachusetts Christian Coalition, which claims 60,000 members, orchestrated a drive to send its members as delegates to the National Republican Convention. In April, Ralph Reed sent an urgent letter to the group's Massachusetts members.

"'Pro-choice' Republicans have organized a serious effort to force a retreat on the pro-life national party platform," he wrote, "and to pressure Senator Bob Dole to pick a pro-abortion running mate. Don't let the pro-abortion crowd nominate a 'pro-choice' candidate in San Diego or rewrite the national party platform."

Court thwarts magazine censors

Cincinnati, Ohio The First Amendment rights of booksellers and other retailers were vindicated in a decision issued by the U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio in Cincinnati on May 2, 1996. The court declared that the Hamilton County prosecutor had violated the First Amendment when he sent a letter to a Barnes and Noble bookstore warning that a display of magazines in the store violated state law. The letter, which said that the store was displaying magazines with sexual content in violation of the law, is "null and void" and must be withdrawn, Judge Herman J. Weber wrote in his decision. The letter "is a directive to the store to remove from display materials which the prosecutor has deemed on his own, without any judicial superintendence, to be objectionable," he said. Therefore, it is unconstitutional prior restraint on the exercise of the right of free speech. The judge ordered prosecutor Joseph T. Deters to pay the court costs in the case.

"This case is an important reminder to prosecutors that they can't take it on themselves to decide what booksellers may display," Oren J. Teicher, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and former chair of The Media Coalition, said. "It is an important First Amendment victory."

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.