IFAS | Freedom Writer | July 1996 | update.html

Religious Right update

Christian Coalition Live

Chesapeake, Virginia "Christian Coalition Live" is the monthly satellite broadcast to Christian Coalition chapters around the nation on the third Tuesday of the month. On the program, Ralph Reed conducts live interviews with members of Congress. In response, Christian Coalition members call in to express their concerns and ask questions.

The program features leading Republican members of Congress who talk about pending legislation and issues of interest to Christian Coalition members.

The May 21 edition of the program featured the presumptive Republican candidate for president, Sen. Bob Dole. As Freedom Writer went to press, Speaker Newt Gingrich was scheduled to appear with Reed on the June 18 program. Each broadcast concludes with motivational action tips for Christian Coalition chapters.

Some groups and individuals desiring to watch the program have been stymied because the satellite coordinates have been changed each month and are released only to Christian Coalition chapters. This practice has also led to confusion for Christian Coalition chapters, which often schedule their monthly meeting around the broadcast.

The national office recently announced that from now on the same satellite and transponder would be used each month to carry the broadcast. If you have a dish, you can pick up the program at 8 p.m. (Eastern Time) on the third Tuesday of each month on the Galaxy k-4 satellite, transponder 12 (channel 13). From the northeast, aim the dish low on the horizon toward the west. To help identify the Galaxy 4 satellite, look for a Chinese program on one of its channels.

Road to Victory excludes Jews

Washington, DC Trampling its policy of "casting a wider net," the Christian Coalition has excluded observant Jews from participation in its annual Road to Victory political convention in Washington, DC, scheduled for September 13-15, 1996. September 13th marks the beginning of the holiest days of the Jewish year, which start with Rosh Hashana and conclude with Yom Kippur. These days are devoted to prayer, solemn festivities, and rest from work.

The Christian Coalition claims to promote the Judeo-Christian culture, but the group is obviously ignorant of the signifcance of Jewish holidays to Jews. While the scheduling error is probably not intended to be anti-Semitic, it smacks of insensitivity.

Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition, has spent years trying to convince American Jews that the Christian Coalition is not anti-Semitic. Each year, politically conservative Jewish leaders participate in the Road to Victory conference. The 1996 Road to Victory list of invited speakers includes Rabbi Daniel Lapin, an Orthodox Jew. In all likelihood, Rabbi Lapin will be unable to attend. In past years other ultraconservative Jewish leaders have included columnist Don Feder, film critic Michael Medved, lobbyist Marshall Wittman, social activist Beth Gilinsky, and Marshall Berger, former White House liaison to the Jewish community. This exclusion may widen the ever-deepening rift between American Jews and the Christian Coalition.

Pro-family leaders support plank

Colorado Springs, Colorado A full-page ad appeared in The Washington Times on May 15 in which 12 pro-family leaders proclaimed their "solidarity in supporting the 1996 readoption of the principled pro-life plank in the Republican Platform." The pro-life plank, in place since 1976, calls for the addition of a human-life amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A new platform is adopted by party delegates every four years, and the pro-family leaders who sponsored the ad "pledge to redouble [their] efforts to assure that the admirable and principled pro-life plank...is readopted without any change."

Those who signed the ad included Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, Judie Brown of the American Life League, Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries, Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women for America, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission, Richard Neuhaus of First Things, Adrian Rogers of the Southern Baptist Convention, Phyllis Schlafly of the Republican National Coalition for Life, Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, and J.C. Willke of Life Issues Institute. (Source: The Pastor's Weekly Briefing, May 17, 1996. The language is taken verbatim.)

Dole insults Phyllis Schlafly

St. Louis, Missouri Phyllis Schlafly, head of the Eagle Forum and the national chairman of the Republican National Coalition for Life, lashed out at Bob Dole following his call for "tolerance" and "diversity."

"Bob Dole is trying to have it both ways by urging that the pro-life plank in the Republican Party Platform be expanded to include a 'declaration of tolerance for divergent points of view,'" Schlafly said in a June 7 press release.

"It is insulting and unacceptable to single out the pro-life plank as the one which should be qualified by appeals to 'tolerance' and 'diversity.' There are many issues on which Republicans have diverse points of view such as NAFTA/GATT, the Mexican bailout, troops to Bosnia, immigration, MFN for Communist China, term limits, and taxes, to name a few.

"Bob Dole's straddling statement shows that he is gravely miscalculating the pro-life commitment of the delegates to the Republican National Convention. We do not want anyone to believe that our party has waffled on its commitment to constitutional protection for unborn babies or weakened its resolve to overturn Roe v. Wade.

"Dole's press release appears to be designed to appease pro-abortion Governors Christine Whitman, Pete Wilson, and William Weld. His lecture on tolerance and call for 'civility' are more appropriately directed at those of his friends, such as Senator D'Amato, who have showered hateful epithets on Pat Buchanan.

"The Republican Party has been the pro-life party for 20 years. That difference between the Republican and Democratic platforms has attracted millions of voters to support Republican candidates."

Ralph Reed's worst nightmare

Chesapeake, Virginia In an interview promoting his new book, Active Faith, appearing in the May/June issue of the Christian Coalition's magazine Christian American, Ralph Reed shared his thoughts on Colin Powell and the Republican National Convention in August.

"Pro-life delegates will be well represented [at the convention]," Reed proclaimed. "If someone were forced to predict, I think they would conclude that the pro-life plank is going to remain in the platform.

"Bob Dole may not be viewed by pro-lifers as a champion on the level of a Pat Buchanan or a Henry Hyde, but he has a pro-life voting record."

In his book, Reed described a meeting his boss Pat Robertson had with Colin Powell. In the Christian American interview, Reed was asked, "Do you think Powell will be invited to be the Republican vice presidential nominee?"

"[Powell] is unequivocal, adamant he does not want it," Reed responded optimistically.

"You cannot gloss over the differences between Colin Powell and pro-family Americans. On issues such as the sanctity of innocent human life, voluntary prayer in public schools, and welfare reform we clearly disagree. If Bob Dole selects him, and I do not expect he will, it will be extremely problematic at the very least, and at the worst it will fracture the Republican Party."

"Day Without Divorce"

Beaumont, Texas The management of two Christian radio stations took it upon themselves to pressure local judges to withhold divorce decrees for a day.

"We felt convicted [sic] by the fact that the Christian community's divorce rate is the same as that of the world," said Ralph McBride, KTFA/KOLE owner and general manager. (Actually, according to George Barna, the born-again pollster as cited in a recent column by Chuck Colson the divorce rate among evangelicals is 27 percent, 30 percent for Christian fundamentalists and 23 percent for nonbelievers.)

The station's management asked more than 300 local businesses and churches to support them in an effort to persuade eight judges in three counties to withhold divorces on a given day. The judges agreed.

One judge, Bill Beggs, said, "[Our action] says that God, biblical values and morality haven't been forgotten by those who administer the law."

The event attracted extensive publicity; as a result, the Christian stations are working with other communities to plan their own "Day Without Divorce." Focus on the Family, which is leading a national crusade to roll back divorce laws, is helping to promote the campaign.

Top ten groups influence GOP

Great Barrington, Massachusetts In the first study of its kind, the Institute for First Amendment Studies (IFAS) linked ten national conservative Christian Right groups to the GOP. The organizations cited in the study are promoting ideas counter to the constitutional provision for a separation between church and state.

As the 1996 presidential campaign shifts into high gear, IFAS National Director Skipp Porteous released the findings to national media and public policy groups. The study was conducted over a two month period by IFAS.

The groups include American Family Association, Chalcedon, Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Free Congress Foundation, National Association of Christian Educators/Citizens for Excellence in Education, and the Traditional Values Coalition. The secretive Council for National Policy, a virtual Who's Who of ultraconservative Republicans, is where many of the groups interact with the GOP. Three times a year, the CNP conducts secret meetings at different locations such as Orlando, St. Louis, and San Diego.

Although the ties are unofficial, religious political extremists in these groups operate at various levels promoting an ultraconservative agenda within the GOP. With members and chapters in every state, these organizations have enormous national reach.

These top ten Christian Right groups reach an estimated audience of 40 million conservative Christian voters through churches, Christian radio and TV, and direct mail. Using a three-pronged strategy, these groups exercise their power by influencing the Republican Party from within, registering new GOP voters, and, ultimately, backing GOP candidates through biased voter guides.

In one example cited in the study, the Christian Coalition recently directed its members to elect antiabortion delegates to this summer's Republican National Convention in San Diego. A May mailing from Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed included a "Ballot on the Vice Presidency for Christian Voters," noting, "Now that Bob Dole has locked up the Republican nomination for President, the most important question is...WHO WILL BE THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE FOR VICE PRESIDENT?...Will the Republican Vice Presidential nominee be pro-life, pro-family and a strong voice for traditional moral values? Or will he or she be liberal on social and moral issues?..." The Christian Coalition told its members (allegedly 1.8 million) that they can have "a big impact" on Bob Dole's decision to select an antiabortion running mate.

In another example, "The Pastor's Weekly Briefing" (May 10, 1996) from Focus on the Family notes that four prominent Republican governors don't support the language of an antiabortion plank. The response from founder James Dobson: "The present language is the clearest expression of pro-life principles and goals that we have had over the last twenty years."

Virtually all of the groups studied exhibit varying degrees of intolerance, and support the concept of 'a Christian nation', either overtly, by objective, or innuendo. Democracy works best when the voters represent a broad spectrum of society. However, as Paul Weyrich, head of the Free Congress Foundation, once explained, "I don't want everybody to vote. Quite frankly, our leverage goes up as the voting population goes down."

Nonprofit's political activities

Birmingham, Alabama The Alabama Family Institute, a nonprofit affiliate of Focus on the Family, has apparently stepped over the line into Republican partisan politics. A memo obtained by Freedom Writer indicates that Christian "family" organizations are becoming more political as they push their "Christian America" agenda.

Gary Palmer, the group's director, wrote: "The ramifications of a Republican defeat go far beyond the usual politics of partisanship. This is a battle for the future of the nation which will determine whose philosophy will guide us: liberal socialism or conservatism. You can forget the social and moral issues and the culture war, it will all be irrelevant if after only one term the conservative dominated Republican Congress is turned out of office. From that point on it will be a war that we cannot win."

Dated Nov. 17, 1995, Palmer sent his 9-page memo to Focus on the Family's other 36 state affiliates in an effort to drum up support for Newt Gingrich and the Republican's budget.

"What effect do you think it would have on Speaker Gingrich if he began receiving faxes from thirty-seven state based organizations saying, 'Hold on, we're coming'? How much would it mean to the morale of Gingrich, Armey, DeLay and all the other Republicans who are standing firm if Jim Dobson called and said, 'Don't give up, we're coming?"

"In the past," Palmer continued, "we have been almost totally absent on issues outside the social or moral category. In many instances we have left our friends in Congress and in our state legislatures to resolve some of the toughest economic and domestic issues as best they could while we waited impatiently for them to get to 'our issues.' What we haven't realized is that, trite as it may sound, all public policy is family policy."

Institute for Family Studies

Colorado Springs, Colorado Focus on the Family, the ministry of psychologist James Dobson, has developed the Institute for Family Studies to "train future leaders in the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our country was founded."

Situated on the Focus on the Family campus in Colorado Springs, the Institute trains interns from various Christian and secular colleges. Last semester 30 students received the intensive training, earning 16 college credits each. Next year the Institute plans to enroll 80 students.

Courses included in the internship are family studies practicum, the family and the contemporary philosophical climate, leadership development and family studies, life span developmental issues, and the family and social policy.

In spite of the extensive use of the word "family," the Institute is political in nature. For example, the family and social policy course assists students "in developing an evangelical political philosophy in order to build a common vision for the good of the American family."

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.