IFAS | Freedom Writer | September 1996 | update.html

Religious Right update

Veterans group promotes Coalition

Winter Haven, Florida The controversial Christian Coalition voter guides seem to be showing up everywhere these days. A Freedom Writer subscriber sent us a piece of mail he received from a veterans' organization to which he belongs. The group, American Ex-Prisoners of War, mailed Christian Coalition Congressional Scorecards out with its July, 1996 newsletter.

The Freedom Writer subscriber is Jewish and served with the U.S. Army in World War II. He was captured by the Germans and held in a POW camp. As a new member of American Ex-Prisoners of War, he was displeased with the group's mailing.

In an attempt to reach Owen Boothroyd, Jr., commander and editor for the American Ex-Prisoners of War, Freedom Writer spoke to his wife, Anna Boothroyd. "The voter guide doesn't have anything to do with whether you're Jewish or Catholic or Protestant," she said. "The Christian Coalition is the only one we know of that spends the money to produce these guides showing how our congressmen voted. It has nothing to do with religion, it's a favor to the community," she added. The Christian Coalition voter guides have caused considerable controversy since their inception. Many view them as blatant campaign literature for the Republican Party. Now, with its lawsuit against the Christian Coalition, the Federal Election Commission agrees.

Impeach the Supreme Court?

Washington, DC A full-page ad appearing in Roll Call (June 24, 1996) featured the headline: "Is the Supreme Court pushing America toward civil war?" The ad, sponsored by Loyal Opposition, a group headed by Randall Terry, attacked members of Congress as "cowards," and called for the impeachment of six U.S. Supreme Court justices: Kennedy, Souter, Breyer, Stevens, O'Connor, and Ginsburg.

Terry attacked them because, the ad said, they have "unleashed a flood of pornographic filth on the nation...banished corporate Bible reading and the posting of the Ten Commandments from government schools ... drove corporate prayer from government schools ... legalized the slaughter of unborn children ... struck down the American people's attempts to keep homosexuals (practicing unspeakable perversions) from having special rights.

"We urge our fellow, God-fearing Americans," the ad went on, "to demand of their congressmen that they impeach these six members of the Supreme Court." If Congress fails to take action, "disgust and cynicism will creep into the American public, and your cowardly inaction may help inch us close to that black chasm into which no sane man desires to look, and few dare."

Terry is the founder of the radical antiabortion group Operation Rescue, and he views many Religious Right groups, such as the Christian Coalition, as too moderate.

Fundamentalists protest at bookstore

Monroe, Louisiana Police arrived at nearly the witching hour to disperse a group of fundamentalist Christians protesting a bookstore's celebration of Anne Rice's latest novel of the supernatural. Employees of Books-A-Million called police at 11:33 p.m.; after asking the protestors four times to stop harassing customers.

The protestors were all members of the Eagle's Nest Church. One of the protestors said that the idea to demonstrate originated earlier in the evening during a prayer meeting at the church. A spokesperson for the group, Everett Aaron, said the prayer group felt led by God to demonstrate at the bookstore.

Published reports said the party at the store was orderly, "There was no alcohol or anything bad...just cake, costumes, and door prizes. It was all in good fun." The store held the party to promote Rice's 16th novel, Servant of the Bones, a fictitious book about a spirit named Azriel and his centuries-long existence.

"We won't let witchcraft and Satan into our community," Aaron said. "The staff [of the store] is all dressed up in black. That's just one sign of the darkness they are promoting. We came out to show these folks the light."

He said that he understood that the book was about a vampire. After being told that the central character was a wandering Hebrew spirit, and that the book had no vampires, he remarked that people who read Rice's books are "opening the door for Satan to come in."

The demonstrators stayed until the party ended after 1 a.m. Police made no arrests.

Baptist clergy go for GOP

Greenville, South Carolina Political preferences of Southern Baptist clergy have changed radically over four presidential elections. In 1980, 33% of Southern Baptist clergy preferred the Republicans; but by 1992, 72% leaned towards Republican, said James Guth, a political science professor at Furman University, in Greenville, South Carolina.

Religious Freedom Restoration Amendment

Washington, DC The so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Amendment is back before the House of Representatives after languishing for seven months. House majority leader Dick Armey's proposed amendment forbids the federal and state governments from denying "equal access to a benefit, or otherwise discriminate against any person on account of religious belief, expression, or exercise." If adopted, it would allow religious charitable groups, day care centers, and schools to be eligible for public funds or vouchers, the National Association of Evangelicals' Forest Montgomery told the National & International Religion Report. The proposal also specifies that the constitutional amendment does not authorize the government to "coerce or inhibit religious belief, expression, or exercise."

Some religious groups contend that the amendment is unnecessary and violates the separation between church and state. "I'm a born-again, Bible-bred, Texas-born Baptist preacher. And that's why I oppose any government meddling in my religion," James M. Dunn of the Baptist Joint Committee said.

Dunn and representatives of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Church, and Unitarian Universalist, Buddhist, and Jewish groups voiced their opposition at a news conference. They said the proposal is part of a Republican effort to use religion as a tool to garner votes in the November elections. (Source: National & International Religion Report, August 5, 1996)

Robertson assails religious leaders

Virginia Beach, Virginia Television evangelist Pat Robertson responded angrily to religious leaders opposed to the Religious Freedom Restoration Amendment. "Ladies and gentleman," he said on the July 24, 1996 broadcast of his "700 Club," "I think this [amendment] is one of the key things...and it, just frankly turns my stomach to hear a gentleman who says he represents the Baptist Joint Committee when I happen to know as a Southern Baptist that the largest denomination in the country has withdrawn funding from his organization and does not fund him to have him come up and say 'I'm against children praying in school. I mean it's...when we see the vendetta [emphasis his] against religious faith that is being carried on in the schools of America, it's nothing short of appalling.

"Because I happen to be the president of Jay Sekulow's organization [American Center for Law & Justice] and I know the numbers of cases that come in. We have something in the neighborhood of forty to fifty complaints a week of persecution or discrimination against people of faith. And some of them are Jewish, some of them are Catholic and some of them are Protestant. There has been a vendetta by the people with a liberal mindset."

After a little more ranting, Robertson urged his viewers to call their congressmen and senators and let them know that they want the Religious Freedom Restoration Amendment added to the U.S. Constitution.

Survey reveals strong Christian nationalism

New York, New York A new public survey of Americans aligned with the Religious Right reveals a strong current of "Christian nationalism," that is, the belief that America's political troubles can be alleviated by making a Christian outlook more central to government. The survey, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, "A Survey of the Religious Right: Views on Politics, Society, Jews and Other Minorities," compares the attitudes of 507 Americans aligned with the Religious Right and 503 other Americans.

The survey found that those aligned with the Religious Right constitute 14 percent of the total American population. Compared to other Americans, they are more likely to be from rural areas and the South, older, less educated, less financially well-off, and more likely to call themselves Protestant and Republican.

Majorities of those aligned with the Religious Right agree that "Christians should get involved in politics to protect their values" (76 percent), that a constitutional amendment should be adopted "declaring that the United States is a Christian nation" (48 percent), and that "on most political issues there is one correct Christian point of view" (44 percent). Likewise, pluralities of those aligned with the Religious Right disagree with the statements that the "religious views of politicians are not relevant in determining...fitness for public office" (47 percent, as against 33 percent of other Americans), and that "religious leaders should not try to influence how people vote in elections" (42 percent, in contrast to 27 percent of other Americans).

Barton admits errors

Aledo, Texas According to Church & State magazine (July/August 1996), "Christian nation" propagandist David Barton (see June 1996 Freedom Writer) has issued a statement admitting that the following twelve quotations attributed to prominent historical figures in his 1992 screed Myth of Separation, are either false or, at best, questionable. Barton's observations about the quotes are in parenthesis.

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!" Patrick Henry (questionable).

"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." George Washington (questionable).

"Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise. In this sense and to this extent, our civilizations and our institutions are emphatically Christian." U.S. Supreme Court, Holy Trinity vs. U.S. (false).

"We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves ... according to the Ten Commandments of God." James Madison (false).

"Whosoever shall introduce into the public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world." Benjamin Franklin (questionable).

"The principles of all genuine liberty, and of wise laws and administrations are to be drawn from the Bible and sustained by its authority. The man therefore who weakens or destroys the divine authority of that book may be assessory [sic] to all the public disorders which society is doomed to suffer." Noah Webster (questionable).

"There are two powers only which are sufficient to control men, and secure the rights of the individuals and a peaceable administration; these are the combined forces of religion and law, and the force or fear of the bayonet." Noah Webster (questionable).

"The only assurance of our nation's safety is to lay our foundation in morality and religion." Abraham Lincoln (questionable).

"The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next." Abraham Lincoln (questionable).

"A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or eternal invader." Samuel Adams (questionable).

"I have always said and always will say that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make us better citizens." Thomas Jefferson (questionable).

"America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America (definitely not in the book; perhaps in more obscure writings; questionable).

Kemp scores with Christian Right

Washington, DC "I am a Christian who believes in the inerrancy of God's Holy Word as proclaimed in the Bible and in Christ Jesus as Savior," said Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp in a 1987 interview with "Christian Voice Scorecard." Christian Voice was the first group to judge candidates by their biblical viewpoints.

In the interview, Kemp expressed his opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, a Balanced Budget Amendment, condom distribution in schools, and gay rights. He voiced support for school prayer and a moment of silence, tax credits for parents who send their children to religious schools, and a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. Kemp sponsored the Humphrey-Luken Unit Human Life Amendment.

"As President," he said, "I would make declarations on the key moral and political issues of the day based on the Judeo-Christian foundation of our liberty and our constitutional rights, including the freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom of enterprise, and the inalienable right to life."

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.