IFAS | Freedom Writer | November/December 1996 | update.html

Religious Right update

Hush money

Asheville, North Carolina According to a cover story in World magazine (Oct. 26, 1996), conservative Christian donors strive to keep their philanthropy secret. The article said that many such donors see anonymity as the key to their strategic success. The author, Bob Jones IV, said a series of articles in The Los Angeles Times about the bankrolling of conservative Christian candidates "infuriated" a group of four Christian businessmen. [See "CNP leads the way in California," by Jerry Sloan in the January/February 1996 Freedom Writer.]

"These people aren't out for publicity," said Craig Hammon, executive vice president of Gordon College, "and more often than not, they don't like to see their names in print."

Those interviewed for the article, "Is Christian philanthropy Christian?" agreed that good numbers on conservative Christian philanthropy are hard to come by.

Christian conservatives tend to believe that life hereafter is more important than this life, so Christian philanthropists, as a rule, give to evangelistic causes. "While Christian donors care about the poor in general," according to Christian philanthropist Karol Emmerich, "many want to make sure that the delivery mechanism is done by Christians so that you don't end up with a full belly and a lost soul."

Emmerich is a member of a secretive group of conservative Christian philanthropists called The Gathering. The group held its annual meeting on November 1-2, 1996 behind closed doors at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia.

Author Jones added that there are "scores of wealthy believers looking for ways to use their earthly riches to advance the heavenly kingdom."

Christian philanthropists differ from their non-Christian counterparts in other ways, as well. For instance, some monied Christians believe they should dispose of all their wealth, a concept familiar to television evangelists. "The concept of sacrificial giving is not talked about in secular circles," Emmerich noted. "If you use the term, they don't know what you are talking about. I know few wealthy non-Christians who would consider giving away the majority of their wealth," a practice not uncommon among believers, she said.

There is also a major difference in the types of causes supported by conservative Christian philanthropists. "Many nonbelievers put a very large percentage of their donations into the arts," Emmerich said. "That's not where the bulk of Christian money goes. I'm seeing more support for conservative think tanks that aren't necessarily explicitly Christian, but support Christian values. Also, the breakdown of society and family has led to support for groups like the Council for National Policy, and Promise Keepers. That's a major wave."

CNP update

Williamsburg, Virginia The Council for National Policy held its fall meeting at the Colonial Williamsburg Lodge and Resort on November 8th and 9th, 1996.

CNP Executive Committee member Ed Feulner took a leave of absence from the Heritage Foundation to be a counselor to CNP member Jack Kemp's vice presidential campaign.

CNP member Howard Phillips accepted the presidential nomination from the U.S. Taxpayers Party. Herb Titus, former dean at Robertson's Regent University School of Law, was Phillips' vice presidential running mate. Phillips appeared on the ballot in 40 states, including New York and California.

Waitress can't sing

Clinton, Maryland A Jehovah's Witness who refused to sing "Happy Birthday" to customers in a Mexican restaurant was fired from her waitressing job. Cora Miller, 43, told the manager of a Chi-Chi's restaurant that her religion forbade the celebration of birthdays because the practice originated with atheistic kings.

Chi-Chi's, a restaurant chain, practices the custom of having waitpersons sing "Happy Birthday" to customers on their birthday. Miller refused to comply, although she volunteered to wait on tables or work in the kitchen during the singing.

Miller is suing Chi-Chi's for violating her civil rights. She is seeking back pay, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is seeking punitive damages against the chain, claiming that the restaurant acted with "malice or reckless indifference" to Miller's freedom of religion.

Evangelicals have impact on gambling

Colorado Springs, Colorado Two evangelicals have been appointed by Newt Gingrich to the nine-member National Gambling Impact Commission. Dr. James Dobson, of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, has been joined by Kay Cole James, a Focus on the Family board member. James is also dean of the Robertson School of Government at Pat Robertson's Regent University. Also appointed was casino industry executive J. Terrence Lanni, chairman and CEO of MGM Grand, Inc.

FRC comes out

Washington, DC The Family Research Council (FRC), co-sponsored a press conference for the "Second Annual Coming Out of Homosexuality Day" on October 11, 1996, with a new support group, Parents, Family and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX). Hosted by Michael Johnston, "a former homosexual" who is HIV-positive, the event was taped for C-SPAN. Speakers included: FRC cultural studies director Bob Knight; Lambda Report editor Peter LaBarbera; the Philadelphia Family Policy Council's Bill Devlin; Tom and Ann Taylor, who have a gay son; and "ex-homosexuals" Anthony Falzarano and Jane Boyer.

Scalia speaks out

Washington, DC Speaking at Catholic University's School of Philosophy this past October 18, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said it is "absolutely plain that there is no right to die." Scalia told the audience that courts should not recognize constitutional "rights" such as the right to abortion that did not exist when the Constitution was drafted.

Scalia's remarks stunned Court observers because it is generally ill advised for Justices to engage in public discussions about their positions on issues which are destined to come before the Court.

Man in Washington

Washington, DC "Today, though polls show millions of us are 'Christians,' who spend billions and billions of dollars, there is no Biblical/Christian media," according to columnist John Lofton. "There is no Biblical/Christian radio-TV network, no Biblical/Christian wire service, no such national news magazine (such as cite>Time/Newsweek)," he added.

One might respond, what about the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trinity Broadcasting Network, World and the New American magazines? "And those that purport to be such media are a joke, but not funny," Lofton says.

Writing in the Christian Reconstructionist magazine, Chalcedon (November 1996), Lofton suggests that God has constructed an "information highway" called the Internet, "over which can go the Gospel and solidly Biblical teaching regarding all areas of life."

Lofton has appealed to conservative Christian activists that he be their "Man in Washington," a "one-man Christian/Biblical news bureau." For a fee, he plans to e-mail subscribers a weekly Biblical perspective on the news. "There is no longer any excuse," Lofton wrote, "for serious Christians having to rely on our enemies for our news." Readers interested in contacting John Lofton may do so at jlof@aol.com.

Moyer's "Genesis" attacked

Asheville, North Carolina World magazine TV writer Pamela C. Johnson panned "Genesis: A Living Conversation," the ten-part series produced by Bill Moyers for PBS. World is a leading conservative Christian weekly magazine.

Referring to the producer as "Televangelist Bill Moyers," Johnson wrote that PBS "has pretensions of becoming a parachurch." She complained that the series "adapts the approach to studying the Bible pioneered by Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America." She explained that "Mr. Visotzky notes that the Scriptures detail both human foibles and high ethical teachings; but instead of juxtaposing human sin and God's holiness, the rabbi uses the occasion to apply Law-rence Kohlberg's psychological theory of ethics, which assumes that people grow more 'tolerant' as they mature."

Johnson whines that "There is only a small handful of conservative Christians, including a couple of evangelicals, but their voice can scarcely be heard. The mix changes with every episode, but the specious interpretations of Scripture do not."

"The participants represent a smorgasbord of religious choice," she wrote. They include: "Zen Buddhism, Islam, orthodox and reformed [sic] Judaism, mainline and liberal Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, existentialism, gnosticism, feminism, environmentalism, Holocaust theology, liberation theology, literary metaphysics, and atheism."

"The Bible is not treated as the authoritative Word of God, but as an interesting work of literature. The participants might just as well be discussing Masterpiece Theatre."

The reviewer seemed most upset that a Christian on the panel failed to mention Christ as a sacrifice for sin while discussing the story of Abraham when he was about to sacrifice his son.

When Seyyed Hossein Nasar, a professor of Islamic studies, espoused a firm position, "a new question is thrown onto the table and the viewer is taken off in another direction," Johnson noted. "Islam at least retains its doctrinal integrity. Judaism appears mired in endless dialogue and Christianity looks apologetic and confused."

Coalition called to eliminate schools

Raleigh, North Carolina "We must eliminate public education as it is structured today and reinvent it in a new form," according to Roxane Premont, director of the North Carolina Education Reform Foundation (NCERF). If successful, the "new form" of public education will ultimately result in private religious schools paid for by taxpayer money.

Premont addressed Christian Coalition members in a Saturday afternoon workshop at the annual Road to Victory conference last September in Washington, DC. Literature outlining the plan to eliminate public education was distributed during a workshop called "Vouchers and Tax Credits It's Time for Parents to Choose."

The first step in the proposed plan is to establish charter schools, which are, according to Premont, "public schools that operate independently of local school district jurisdiction and operate much like private schools."

According to NCERF literature: "Charter schools will provide a pool of independent schools that can readily be converted to private schools to meet increased demand for private education once voucher laws are passed. Charter schools that are converted into private schools will be initiated by those persons who want religious education.

"With charters the money goes directly from the state to the charter school. With vouchers it goes directly to parents who then take it to the school.

"What is called for is an incremental strategy that helps acclimatize the public to school choice readying them for phase 2 vouchers. Converting all current existing public schools to charter schools is the necessary transition. The creation of large numbers of charter schools will weaken our union-led opposition giving us the chance of passing vouchers."

Premont encouraged Coalition members to:

"Once we convert substantial numbers of traditional district-run public schools to charter schools," Premont wrote, "the majority of Americans will start to change their paradigm of how schools can be created, where they can be located, and who can run them."

Premont works closely with Vernon Robinson, also a leader in North Carolina's school choice movement. Robinson drafted North Carolina's first charter school law. According to Premont, "It is his vision to convert every North Carolina public school to a charter school.

Disney boycott

Tupelo, Mississippi Don Wildmon of the American Family Association (AFA) claims the conservative Christian boycotts of Disney have been effective, pointing to published reports of the Disney Channel's loss of 37 percent of its subscribers since June (down to 5 million from 8 million). The AFA also expressed concern about Disney-affiliated album by the "extremely satanic rock group" Danzig, titled "Blackacidevil." Meanwhile, the AFA continues to protest the "pornographic" hit television program, "NYPD Blue."

Record turnout

Washington, DC A post-election survey indicates that the largest number of religious conservative voters in a presidential election turned out on November 5, despite the fact that the voter turnout was low. According to a nationwide survey conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide, 28% of the voting public was a self-described born-again Christian. Fifteen percent of all voters said they are either members or supporters of the Christian Coalition.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.