IFAS | Freedom Writer | January/February 1997 | update.html

Religious Right update

Christian Coalition likes Newt

Cheasapeake, Virginia In its first "Action Alert" of the new year, the Christian Coalition lauded Newt Gingrich's reelection as Speaker of the House. "The Speaker is a friend of our agenda and of our grassroots supporters," the newsletter said. "We were also very impressed by his acceptance speech; he made references to God on many occasions."

Apparently Gingrich's references to God absolved him of any wrong-doing in the eyes of the Christian Coalition. "When you boil it down," the newsletter said, "the Speaker's error is a pretty minor one he used money from a non-profit group to reach out to college kids by teaching a college course." In fact, Gingrich's failure was about diverting non-profit money to promote his political agenda, and then lying about it to a Congressional committee.


CEE and the Republican Party

Costa Mesa, California Citizens for Excellence in Education (CEE), a group that claims to be following "the Lord's plans to bring public education back under the control of the Christian community," ridiculed a Freedom Writer report (July 1996) on the top ten organizations that work against the separation of church and state.

"The very liberal Institute for First Amendment Studies has released a 'study' of organizations which they say promote ideas counter to the 'constitutional provision' for a separation between church and state,' CEE wrote in the Fall 1996 issue of Education Newsline. The article mocked the idea that religious political extremists in these groups unofficially operate at various levels to promote 'an ultraconservative agenda' within the Republican Party.

Nonetheless, appearing in the same issue of CEE's newsletter was a back page article comparing some of the differences between the Republican and Democratic platform. Each of the planks listed from the Republican platform fell perfectly in line with the a genda of CEE. For example, the Republican platform states: "We encourage a reform agenda on the local level and choice among public, private, and religious schools. That includes the option of home schooling. We will continue to work for the return of vol untary prayer to our schools and will strongly enforce the Republican legislation that guarantees equal access to school facilities by student religious groups."


CNP members claim voter fraud

Shreveport, Louisiana Republican candidate Woody Jenkins claims he lost the U.S. Senate race to Mary Landrieu by 5,788 votes because of voter fraud.

"We found several hundred apparent fraudulent signatures," campaign manager Tony Perkins said, based on comparisons of signatures on voting books and on registration forms. The campaign claims that vote buying and voting without proper identification took place.

On January 7, 1997, The Times (Shreveport) published a story with the headline, "Investigators say some Jenkins' charges true." While the headline made it appear as if official investigators made the statement, that was not the case. The article stated: "Leaders of the Voting Integrity Project, Inc. said they confirmed some allegations made by the campaign of Republican Woody Jenkins."

The article failed to mention that attorney Neal Hogan, founder and head of the Voting Integrity Project, and Woody Jenkins, are both members of the secretive Council for National Policy. In fact, Jenkins was the group's first executive director. His friend Hogan spent ten days conducting his "investigation," and concurred with the charges brought by the Jenkins campaign.

State Commissioner of Elections, Jerry Fowler, who says he never heard of the Voting Integrity Project, reviewed the allegations and found nothing. "As far as the registrar's office is concerned, there is absolutely no voter fraud."


Drive to convert Jews

Nashville, Tennessee Last year, after the Southern Baptist Convention announced its plans to actively convert Jews to Christianity, B'nai B'rith launched a massive postcard campaign protesting the move. Individuals who registered their dismay to the Southern Baptists received a memorandum from Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee. Addressed to "Concerned Jewish Friends," and dated October 18, 1996, the memo stated:

"The Resolution of Jewish Evangelism, adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 11, 1996, states that "We are indebted to the Jewish people, through whom we have received the Scriptures and our Savior, the Messiah of Israel." I believe it demonstrates respect rather than a "a basic lack of respect for Judaism as a sister religion," as your communication asserts.

"The resolution does not suggest or imply that Jewish people should forsake their Jewish identity or their Jewish values. The Southern Baptists who adopted it believe, as did the apostle Paul who held his Jewish identity and values in high regard, that "there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men the testimony given in proper time" (1 Tim. 2:5-6). The Apostle Paul also taught that if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved" (Rom. 10:9-10).

"That belief, coupled with love and goodwill for all people, culminates in the earnest desire that our Jewish friends know Jesus as the Messiah.

"The resolution implies no coercion and no rejection, religious or social. It only affirms the communication of New Testament theology that grows out of Old Testament history and prophecy, in which Baptists have been involved for centuries.

"As examples of what can result when Jewish persons embrace Messiah Jesus, I encourage you to take note of numerous congregations of 'Messianic Jews' in the United States and Israel who celebrate their Jewish culture and historic religious rituals as well as their devotion to Messiah Jesus."


Religious bigotry

Rindge, New Hampshire Surrounded by natural beauty, Cathedral of the Pines, a nondenominational outdoor chapel, is popular with religious groups that rent the facility for special occasions. All religions, however, are not welcome.

Cathedral of the Pines recently limited its facilities to Christians, Jews, and Muslims after a Wiccan group wanted to use the premises to hold a wedding. Wiccans are modern-day practitioners of witchcraft.

Cathedral of the Pines depends upon the generosity of donors for its survival, and now some donors are troubled by the new policy. One, Boston College sociology professor Ritchie Lowry, says that if the Cathedral of the Pines doesn't reopen its doors to all religions, he'll ask it to return his donations. (From USA Today, 12/10/96)


Antiabortion messages in Cap'n Crunch

Ramsey, New Jersey For several months, customers of a Shop Rite supermarket have been horrified to find antiabortion flyers in various food products, including pretzels, cake mixes, and Cap'n Crunch cereal. While some of the packages appear to be tampered with, others showed no sign of tampering.

The graphic flyers depict illustrations of how the so-called "partial birth abortions" are performed. The front of the flyer shows a crucifix with the words "Christmas is the birthday of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Pray to him."

Bergen County police are aware of at least seven instances of this kind of product tampering at Shop Rite. No antiabortion group has taken credit for the bizarre campaign.


Is cancer God's punishment?

Santa Ana, California A recent survey indicates that many women believe cervical cancer is punishment from God. The survey, conducted by University of California at Irvine researcher, F. Allan Hubbell, found that nearly 25 percent of Orange County women surveyed believe that cervical cancer is punishment from God for an immoral life-style.

"There are women who believe that if you do something bad, something bad is going to happen to you," Hubbell said. "Women who believed that were less likely to use Pap smears than the women who didn't believe it."

Hubbell said that the study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, reveals a need for better education that respects cultural and moral beliefs and incorporates them into discussions of cervical cancer. Talking about the sexual causes of cervical cancer without knowing the shame that some women attach to it can drive women away from testing, Hubbell said. The survey was based on telephone interviews with 1,225 Orange County (California) women 18 and older.


Union-Leader confused

Manchester, New Hampshire The Union-Leader, New Hampshire's ultraconservative daily newspaper, gets its facts mixed up. In an article about the growth of the Christian Coalition in that state, the Union-Leader quoted attorney Robert Rabuck, the New Hampshire Christian Coalition's new chairman.

"I want to continue advancing the conservative, pro-family agenda the Conservative [sic] Coalition stands for," the paper quoted Rabuck as saying.

The article concluded with some interesting, and previously unknown, "facts." The Christian Coalition, it said, was "founded in Chesapeake, VA in 1989, when conservative Republican Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan [sic] named Rev. [sic] Ralph Reed to head it."

Several years ago, the paper published front-page headlines attacking the Institute for First Amendment Studies for keeping data on religious political extremists.


Anti-gay fireman suspended

Madison, Wisconsin For several years, Madison, WI, firefighter Ron Grier has handed out tracts offering a biblical case against homosexuality. Although no employee ever complained or gave back the tract, Grier's effort has drawn criticism from fire chief Debra Amesqua and the city council. As a consequence, he has been suspended for three months and ordered to take diversity training. Grier says he will refuse to undergo the training, which could result in the loss of his job. (From The Pastor's Weekly Briefing, 1/3/97)


Reed outlines Coalition agenda

Virginia Beach, Virginia Dismissing the fact as insignificant that the Christian Coalition has not yet won the White House, the group's executive director explained his game plan in the Christian American (Sept/Oct 1996).

He said the Christian Coalition has always emphasized "grassroots activism and local and state government." "We believe," he continued, "in building a 'farm team' of school board members, state legislators, county commissioners, mayors and other office-holders who are about the business of restoring the economic and moral health of their own communities. If we do that, America will continue in a more conservative, pro-family direction no matter who wins the White House."

"Someday, perhaps 10 or 20 years hence, one of those pro-family, Christian conservative school board members or state legislators will rise to a governorship or to the Senate and eventually to the presidency."


Deer hunters claim discrimination

Mount Victory, Ohio Two Amish brothers are challenging an Ohio law requiring all hunters to wear orange clothing. Samuel and Joas Bontrager say that being forced to wear the bright colors violates their religious beliefs which disallows bright clothing. An Ohio appeals court upheld the brother's 1994 convictions which came about after they were cited while hunting deer on their father's farm. The case is before the Ohio Supreme Court, which will decide whether or not there is a compelling state interest in protecting citizens by requiring them to wear orange when hunting.


Law discriminates against gays

Fairfax, Virginia George Mason University canceled plans to operate a gay student center because of the state's anti-sodomy law. The school's board voted 6-5 against hiring a part-time staffer to run a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center. While there was no indication students would be engaging in sexual activities at the center, opponents said it would be an affront to the religious and moral beliefs of some students, and would celebrate behavior that is illegal under Virginia law.


True love couldn't wait

Batavia, Ohio "True Love Waits" is a program conceived to encourage Christian teens to preserve their virginity until marriage. Keith Luecke, 33, the former youth pastor at Monterey Baptist Church, led the "True Love Waits" program at his church.

The young pastor took a liking to one member of the group, a thirteen year-old girl who began dating Luecke's son. Apparently he liked her too much. Luecke was recently sentenced to a minimum of twelve years in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping and corruption of a minor. His wife is divorcing him, and he plans to resume his relationship with the now fifteen year-old when she turns eighteen.


On the air

Great Barrington, Massachusetts The Institute for First Amendment Studies launched the new year by promoting the separation of church and state on radio stations across the nation. In recent weeks, Freedom Writer publisher Skipp Porteous made guest appearances on radio talk shows in New Orleans, Cincinnati, Denver, Austin, Lexington (KY), and Northampton (MA).

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.