IFAS | Freedom Writer | October 1996 | update.html

Religious Right update

CNP meeting in San Diego

San Diego, California - On the eve of the Republican National Convention, the Council for National Policy (CNP) held its own closely guarded conference. With a record attendance, the meeting was closed to the public and the media.

Two members of the Republican platform committee, Kay Cole James, a member of the faculty at Pat Robertson's Regent University, and Phyllis Schlafly, head of the Eagle Forum and founder of the Republican National Coalition for Life, addressed the group about the inner workings of the platform committee.

During the platform committee meetings a week before the convention began, the Christian Coalition's Ralph Reed, and other Religious Right members of the committee, grabbed national headlines. They successfully removed from the Party's platform language about "tolerance" for other viewpoints, and cut off attempts to remove the plank calling for a constitutional amendment banning abortion.

Kay Cole James told CNP members how party officials tried to keep her away from the media. "At one point during the process," she said, "after the deals had been cut downstairs, the media was desperate to get some comments from us about where we were. So, in order to protect the process, to make sure we didn't speak out of turn, someone came down and said to me, "They want to see you upstairs."

"About three of us had been tapped and invited to this important secret meeting upstairs. We went, and were ushered into a room and we sat there. After about ten minutes I said, 'Can you tell us what this is all about?'"

"Well, I don't really know," the person responded.

James said this went on for about an hour.

"Someone finally came in and said, 'You're free to go now.'

"They just wanted to make sure we didn't talk to the media," James said.

Then Phyllis Schlafly spoke. Both James and Schlafly mentioned that they are part of a group known as "The Fearless Four."

"Five years ago we decided to start the Republican National Coalition for Life," Schlafly said, "with the specific mission of maintaining the prolife plank of the Republican platform, because I believe it is important for our goal of protecting the right to life for unborn babies to have this sort of official national statement that will legally protect human life. It's the only thing we've got to hang our hat on."

In the next few days, after accepting the nomination, and in an obvious effort to distance himself from radicals in the party who controlled the platform committee, Bob Dole said he hadn't even read the Republican platform.


CNP reserve fund

Grand Rapids, Michigan - Citing a need to be "prepared for a rainy day," the executive committee of the secretive Council for National Policy (CNP) recently launched a drive to build a $100,000 cash reserve fund.

Two men, Rich DeVos, a CNP past president, and head of Amway, and Foster Friess, CNP vice president, and founder of the Life Enrichment Foundation, which supports Christian causes, each agreed to put up $25,000 in matching funds.

In a September 4, 1996 letter to more than 500 CNP members, DeVos and Friess wrote, "CNP is currently in very good financial shape...but right now CNP isn't prepared for a rainy day. Your additional contribution will be 100% tax deductible, your CNP organization will become financially sound and you'll be assured CNP will be here to stay."

CNP members pay $1500 a year for membership, plus a suggested contribution of $500 to CNP Action, Inc., the group's lobbying arm.

In secret meetings held three times a year, the Council for National Policy brings together top conservative politicians, corporate heads, and Religious Right leaders to discuss strategies for implementing the hard right's agenda.


Road to Victory '96

Washington, DC - The Christian Coalition's annual convention convenes in the nation's capital as Freedom Writer goes to press. "The Road to Victory" conference, held at the Washington Hilton, is expected to draw up to 3,000 Christian Coalition activists.

This year the group comes together under a cloud. With a lackluster Republican candidate, the Christian Coalition's prospects for victory look bleak. Also, because of the Federal Election Commission's lawsuit charging the Christian Coalition with illegal partisan activity, a number of ministers have expressed reservations about involving their churches in the organization.

Speakers at this year's conference include: Republican vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp, Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, Sen. Jesse Helms, Rep. Dick Armey, Rep. Tom DeLay, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Oliver North, Bill Bennett, and Phyllis Schlafly. Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed will also speak.

At least one invited speaker, Gary Polland, of Houston, Texas, was forced to turn down the invitation because it was scheduled on the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Polland, former head of the Anti-Defamation League's Houston, Texas office, now chairs the Republican Party in Harris County, and works closely with the Christian Coalition. He was fired from his ADL post because he endorsed a newspaper ad attacking the ADL for its book, The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance & Pluralism in America.

Look for a full report on "The Road to Victory" conference in the November Freedom Writer.


Response to FEC suit

Colorado Springs, Colorado - The Federal Election Commission has formally charged the Christian Coalition (CC) [see article in the September Freedom Writer] with violating federal election laws. The FEC filed a suit in the U.S. District Court claiming that the Coalition failed to report expenditures it made in 1990, 1992, and 1994.

Mike Russell of CC called the allegation "a completely baseless and legally threadbare attempt by a reckless federal agency to silence people of faith and deny them their First Amendment rights."

"The FEC has a Democratic majority," observed Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, "leading some insiders to believe that this in the beginning of an effort to cripple Christian conservatives just as the 1996 campaign heats up." Bauer also noted that labor unions continue to pour millions of dollars of dues into advertising campaigns around the country against conservative members of Congress while the FEC remains silent or looks the other way. (From The Pastor's Weekly Briefing, August 2, 1996)


Robertson contradicts Hardman

Tarzana, California - The day after the Federal Election Commission filed its suit against the Christian Coalition, Sara Hardman, the group's California director, sent out an urgent fundraising request.

"Since the beginning of Christian Coalition," she wrote, "we have been careful not to encourage the election or defeat of specific candidates. We do encourage people of faith to register and vote, volunteer in campaigns and lobby their elected officials. And we work hard to recruit and train grassroots activists.

"We ought to win a gold medal for helping awaken the great American mainstream of conservative citizens to their civic responsibilities. Instead, we have been the victims of a relentless barrage of strategic and systematic harassment from the failed liberal establishment.

"The liberal establishment is taking this action at precisely this time because they know we have been successful in getting people of faith to the polls, and we're planning the biggest effort ever to turn out Christians this fall."

Hardman then requested a "vote of confidence - a special check to help Christian Coalition of California print voter guides this fall." She said, "We'll lick this lawsuit...and turn back the remnants of liberalism this fall at the polls."

Leaders of the Christian Coalition find themselves backtracking about the group's political activities. However, on November 15, 1993, Skipp Porteous appeared on the Michael Jackson Show on KABC radio in Los Angeles with Pat Robertson. Porteous said, "As a nonprofit organization, the Christian Coalition is not to be involved in partisan politics."

Robertson responded that Porteous has "made a crusade of going against the Christian Coalition. He says things that really aren't true."

"Such as?" Jackson responded.

"First of all," Robertson said, "the type of organization before the IRS, we can support candidates if we so desire. Secondly, finding quality candidates and getting them elected, I think that's about as American as Mom and apple pie."


Abortion among evangelicals

New York, New York - In a survey involving 9,985 women who had abortions, the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that 18 percent of them described themselves as "evangelical" or "born-again."

The study found that women in their early twenties accounted for one-third of all abortions. About two-fifths of all abortions were among women of color.

The survey was the most extensive study on abortion in a decade. It was published in the August issue of Family Planning Perspectives.


Responsible citizenship

Monroe, Louisiana - "Positive change in our nation as in our communities results from conscientious persons translating high hopes and noble ideals into political actions," according to C. Welton Gaddy, pastor of Northminster Church here. Gaddy is author of the book Faith and Politics: What's A Christian To Do?

"A church that periodically calls people to consider civil service as a viable form of Christian vocation faithfully serves God, its members, and the larger community," Gaddy wrote.

However, the Baptist minister warns about improperly mixing politics with religion. "Political endorsements by a church compromise the mission of that church," he said. "Even when discussing politics, a church has an obligation to remain a church, not to attempt to function as a political action group. Besides, the cause of God does not stand or fall on the basis of the election of one person to an office or the passage of a certain piece of legislation.

"Responsible citizenship," Gaddy concludes, "consists of praying for political leaders, obeying laws, and staying informed on community needs as well as voting in an election."


A Noble intention

Fort Worth, Texas - A well-known former radical who turned against racist, paramilitary groups has given up his fight against the right wing.

In 1977, Kerry Noble and his wife moved to Zarephath-Horeb, a church in northern Arkansas that later evolved into the "Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord." The group eventually became, in Noble's words, "a racist, paramilitary, violent cult."

In 1985, federal agents broke up the group, sending some of its members to prison. Noble served 26 months in prison and another 34 months on parole. During that time, he said, with the help of his wife, family and friends, he was able to turn his life around.

Then the Branch Davidian incident in Waco, Texas, and the Oklahoma City bombing, opened the door for Noble to work with law enforcement agencies and other groups dealing with the dangers of right wing extremism. During that time he began writing The Noble Report, a publication that exposed right wing fanaticism.

Now, after just six issues, Kerry Noble has abandoned The Noble Report because it was too depressing. "I discovered that dredging through the current right wing propaganda depressed me. I found I had no desire to pollute my mind with this garbage again." He also said that he didn't want the publicity that it would take to promote his organization and newsletter.

Noble said there are "many tremendous organizations in America fighting racism and hate crimes," and he doesn't envy the work they have to do. Meanwhile, Noble hopes to return to the Christian ministry, which, he said, "is the main focus of my life."


Christian Coalition adds to decline

San Angelo, Texas - A Baptist minister accused the Christian Coalition of contributing to the moral decline of America. In an article in the magazine Texas Baptists Committed, David R. Currie, pondered over the question, "Why isn't Billy Graham a member of the Christian Coalition?" After all, he said, both Graham and the leaders of the Christian Coalition believe America is in a state of moral decline.

"My guess is because he does not believe the approach of the Christian Coalition will be successful in bringing about a moral renewal," Currie wrote.

"Graham," he said, believes the solution lies in "individuals repenting, committing their lives to God and turning that commitment into action in homes, neighborhoods and the society." But, Currie wrote, "The approach of the Christian Coalition seems to be in forcing moral renewal by making it against the law to not follow Christian morality. That will never work."

"The fact is," Currie continued, "the Christian Coalition is contributing to the moral decline with its emphasis that the public school system be abandoned in this country."


Radical GOP state platforms

San Diego, California - The Republican Party's national platform, largely written by the Radical Religious Right, is considered extreme, even by many Republicans. Yet, it pales in comparison to many state GOP platforms.

(Source: An August 9, 1996 Scripps Howard News Service article by Joan Lowy)


Competing with Christian Coalition

Fort Lauderdale, Florida - Televangelist D. James Kennedy, pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, has formed the Center for Reclaiming America. Kennedy believes that America was founded by God to advance Christianity.

According to Ed McAteer, an associate of Kennedy's and a co-founder of the Moral Majority, the Center for Reclaiming America will "identify, organize, educate, and give direction to people on how to be effective citizens." He also said the Center would "encourage conservative Christians to become active in area politics and would monitor un-christianlike behavior in elected officials and their staffs."

The Center shares the name of the Reclaiming America conference Kennedy holds each March in Fort Lauderdale.

While many conservative Christians have found a home in the Republican Party, Lewis Keller, chairman of the Broward County (Florida) Republican Executive Committee doesn't like mixing religion and politics. "I still believe in the separation of church and state," he said, "I think each has its place."

Last year Kennedy founded the Center for Christian Statesmanship in Washington, DC, a ministry to elected officials. Its office is located in the Heritage Foundation building.


Vouchers not for religious schools

Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Just days before the start of school, a Wisconsin judge ruled that Milwaukee's poor may not use school vouchers to attend religious institutions, despite a decision by the state legislature that would have permitted it. One talk radio show responded to the judicial action by encouraging listeners to send in contributions. People gave generously and a foundation chipped in with matching funds, raising enough for all 4,400 students to receive scholarships that will cover half the cost of their religious school tuition.

This story, from The Pastor's Weekly Briefing (August 30, 1996) demonstrates that the private sector can support religious schools without governmental assistance.


Candidates send mixed messages

Pittsfield, Massachusetts - Peter Abair and Paul Babeau, two GOP candidates for state senate, have voters confused. In 1988, Babeau, at 19, was an antiabortion crusading North Adams city councilman who worked with Americans for Robertson. Today, Babeau says he is pro-choice.

"At the time Pat Robertson called me," Babeau said. "He definitely flattered me and impressed me, as the youngest elected official in this state. I met him a couple of times in New Hampshire and that was the extent of my involvement in the campaign."

"I've gone from more conservative to more moderate, a Massachusetts Republican," Babeau said.

Abair, who is antiabortion, claims Babeau changed his position for political reasons. But that's not the only difference between the two candidates.

Paul Babeau favors a constitutional amendment banning flag burning. Abair has been accused of being in favor of flag burning.

"I think anyone who desecrates the American flag is a first-class jerk," Abair responded.

However, Abair says you can't pick and choose when it comes to the Bill of Rights.

"I detest flag burners, the KKK, and neo-Nazis alike, but the Constitution gives them all the right to act like idiots. That's my opinion."


Cardinal tempts New York City

New York, New York - As a partial solution to New York City's overcrowded schools, John Cardinal O'Connor has suggested the city send 1,000 children to Catholic schools. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani supports the idea.

"His offer essentially is to take some number of children that are in the bottom 5 percent in terms of performance," the Mayor said, "and take them for a period of time that will be agreed upon and get them up to reading level, math level and educate them throughout."

School Chancellor Rudy Crew said that he is willing to consider the plan, provided no tax money is involved. He said he would be more comfortable using private dollars to support the plan. The Catholic schools would receive full tuition of between $2,000 and $3,000 a year for each student. As proposed, the program would be voluntary for families with children in the bottom 5 percent of their classes.

The proposal raises serious constitutional questions involving the separation between church and state. The program would necessarily give public school officials a degree of control over parochial school teaching standards and curriculum. Non-Catholic children would be exposed to religious symbols and Catholic teaching; concern has been expressed over the parochial schools limited sexuality education courses.

"I have been a lawyer much longer than I have been a mayor," Giuliani said, "and I can figure out any number of constitutional ways to accomplish this."


Religious holidays

Boston, Massachusetts - On August 20, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck down part of the state's anti-discrimination law, ruling that employees cannot refuse to work on religious holidays.

In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that the law is a violation of the separation between church and state because it forces the state to determine religious obligations.

The case came before the court when two women, Kathleen Pielech and Patricia Reed, who worked as parimutuel clerks at a racetrack, were told that they would have to work on Christmas Eve in 1992. Their request to have the night off was denied, so they just didn't show and were both subsequently fired. As devout Roman Catholics, the women sued the racetrack.

In court, both sides produced priests who had differing opinions about whether a Catholic should work on Christmas Eve. The law "effectively compels courts, in cases where the dogma of an established church or religion is disputed, to ascertain the requirements of the religion at issue," wrote Justice Francis P. O'Connor.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.