IFAS | Freedom Writer | May/June 1997 | update.html

Religious Right update

Origin of the Samaritan Project?

Chesapeake, Virginia Earlier this year, with great fanfare, Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed announced the formation of the Samaritan Project. Ostensibly formed to bring Christian social relief to the inner city, the project, just like the Christian Coalition, was conceived years ago to advance the radical religious right's agenda.

When Pat Robertson ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988, Florida physician, Dr. Max Karrer, coordinated Americans for Robertson in that state. At the end of the campaign, the Florida organization was so solid that Karrer and others decided to keep it going, naming the group the Conservative Christian Coalition.

About the same time, a book by political strategist Colonel V. Doner was published by a subsidiary of the Thomas Nelson Co. The book drafted "a new agenda for Christian activism." Doner wrote, "What would a Christian conservative coalition [emphasis added] in power really do about the economy, national defense, nuclear war, hunger, poverty, AIDS, etc?"

Doner rejected the religious right's efforts to capture the White House. Instead, he described a bold new plan to bring the Christian Right into the next century. His 1988 book is called The Samaritan Strategy.

Then, exactly one year later, Pat Robertson launched the Christian Coalition with Ralph Reed at the helm. The Conservative Christian Coalition in Florida became part of the fledgling organization.

The Christian Coalition and the Samaritan Project appear to mirror Colonel Doner's "Christian conservative coalition" and The Samaritan Strategy. Much of the Christian Coalition and Samaritan Project game plan appears in Doner's book. So, it seems reasonable that these movements will play them-selves out in a similar fashion. Doner failed to respond to a request for an interview from the Freedom Writer.

While strong on social action, Doner's Samaritan Strategy advocates the same moral agenda as the Christian Coalition. For example, although Doner takes a sympathetic approach to people with AIDS, he refers to homosexuality as a sin, and calls for gays to be converted to Christianity, thus "liberating" them from homosexuality.

Doner assails abortion in his 1988 book, particularly the procedure widely known today as "partial birth abortion." Now, for the first time, this procedure is close to being outlawed.

"Pornography is not just poor literature," Doner wrote, "It is the fuel for almost unlimited sexual exploitation, sexism, homosexuality, and the rape and molestation of thousands of children." He adds that "soft core" pornography leads to violence, and calls for its elimination.

In conclusion, Doner wrote, "The Samaritan Strategy is the only method that will lead us to the results we desire...we need to urge Christian activists to volunteer their time in the community, meeting its real needs. In ten years, by the beginning of the twenty-first century, it will be Christians who are looked to in the local community for leadership and guidance."

Richardson seat filled by minister

Santa Fe, New Mexico In a surprise victory, the congressional seat vacated by UN Ambassador Bill Richardson, was won by Bill Redmond, a 43 year-old Christian minister who ran on a "family values" platform. Eric Serna, a Democrat, had been expected to win the special election, but Redmond beat him by a margin of 42 percent to 40 percent. Democrats held the seat for 14 years in a district where the Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two-to-one.

Published reports said the Democratic candidate was hurt by low voter turnout and defections to the Green Party, and that Serna tried to paint Redmond as a right wing extremist because of his opposition to abortion.

Board member assails non-Christians

Columbia, South Carolina A state Board of Education member, talking about displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools, had advice for those who might object.

"Screw the Buddhists and kill the Muslims," Christian Coalition member Dr. Henry Jordan said at a board meeting in May. "And put that in the minutes," he added.

The surgeon said later he thought the meeting was over, but a tape shows the committee proceeding to other items on the agenda. Later he commented, "What I want to do is promote Christianity as the only true religion."

Rep rejects church-state separation

Baton Rouge, Louisiana State Representative Tony Perkins spoke at the recently organized Baton Rouge chapter of the Christian Coalition. Speaking of the conservative philosophy of Thomas Jefferson, Perkins, a Republican, said that the former President's view on separation of church and state has been misunderstood.

Jefferson's position, according to Perkins, was that the state must not control activities of the church. The church, however, he said, is free to influence the government.

Bible not tax-exempt

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania A Commonwealth Court in Pennsylvania ruled in May that the state's sales tax exemption for Bibles and other religious material is unconstitutional. The court said that exempting religious materials violates the constitutional prohibition on establishment of religion. The ruling, which ends a 41-year exemption that also applies to hymnals, crucifixes, and other religious items, could yield as much as $900,000 per year in tax revenues.

Moment of silence ok in schools

Atlanta, Georgia The Federal Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit rejected a challenge to a Georgia law that requires public school students to begin their school day with 60 seconds of "silent reflection on the anticipated activities of the day." Although prayer is not mentioned or suggested, a high school teacher said the law amounted to "a school prayer law."

Bork defends censorship

Washington, DC Robert H. Bork, the frustrated nominee to the US Supreme Court and author of Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, recently told Christianity Today that he advocates censorship.

In his book, Bork claimed that the Supreme Court has played a role in the cultural decline of America. In the interview with Christianity Today he referred to the 1971 case, Cohen v. California, where a young draft opponent was a rrested for wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words, "Fuck the Draft." The Court ruled, "One man's vulgarity is another man's lyric," adding, "Who is to say what is obscene?"

After telling the magazine that he advocates censorship, Bork was asked what fine distinctions he made. "I don't make any fine distinctions; I'm just advocating censorship," he replied.

"Unfortunately, the Supreme Court, in service of radical individualism (I am talking about Cohen v. California), has set up three tests to get through to prosecute obscenity, and it's almost impossible to satisfy those tests."

"The original meaning of the free speech clause was," Bork said, "the protection of ideas and the circulation of ideas, not the protection of self-gratification through pornography and other stuff."

In response to free speech advocates who might say, "You are inhibiting my liberty and my right to express myself," Bork said, "Yes, that is precisely what we are after."

Bork said that there are signs that the evangelical movement is growing stronger, citing the Promise Keepers, and that the culture could be turned around in a way more to his liking.

"And one can hope," he concluded, "that the more orthodox people in Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism will stiffen their spines and do battle in those denominations."

Dobson backers encourage political involvement

Colorado Springs, Colorado Dr. James Dobson, founder of the multi-million dollar ministry Focus on the Family, is no stranger to politics. Now, according to Dobson, his backers overwhelmingly support the "public policy aspect" of Focus on the Family.

Dobson conducted an informal poll of readers of his monthly newsletter, asking them if they approved of his efforts to "defend Biblical morality and the traditional family at all levels of society." Of 160,000 who responded, 95% sent favorable letters, such as, "Thank you for defending what we believe to be true." Another 4% agreed with Dobson's political message, but wanted to hear it less often. Less than 1% replied, "Public policy is not a subject you should be dealing with. Please stick to topics related directly to family life."

Encouraged by the response, Dobson devoted his May 1997 newsletter to aspects of the Christian conservative political agenda. He attacked abortion, particularly so-called "partial birth abortion."

In response to the case of Judge Roy Moore, who opens his courtroom sessions with Christian prayer and posts the Ten Commandments on the wall, Dobson predicted a day when all branches of the US government will acknowledge the Ten Commandments.

Dobson went on to blame sexual abuse and harassment in the Army on the presence of women in the armed services. "Not one woman has made the rosters of the National Football League, National Basketball Association or the National Hockey League because winning depends on the size, the strength and endurance of the players. If that is true of athletes, how much greater are the demands of combat?"

And, although the federal budget for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has been cut drastically due to pressure from right wing extremists, Dobson claims that the NEA continues to fund "pornographic books, films that feature incest, oral sex, sadomasochism, sexual torture, child sex, and explicit homosexual encounters." Now, Clinton wants to increase the NEA's budget by $36.5 million, Dobson whines. "Given the utter paralysis of the Republicans on any social or moral issue except partial birth abortion," Dobson concludes, "we can guess who will probably win this latest confrontation!"

Road to Victory clones itself

Chesapeake, Virginia Since its inception six years ago, the Christian Coalition has held its annual convention in one location. The first two were hosted by Pat Robertson's Founder's Inn in Virginia Beach. Outgrowing that facility, the conference continued to grow each year at the Washington Hilton in the nation's capital.

This year, Road to Victory becomes a traveling road show with presentations in three major cities. The "Christian nation" speeches and grassroots training seminars will be held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis on September 12-13, the St. Louis Marriott Pavilion on October 10-11, and the Long Beach (California) Hyatt Regency on November 7-8.

The roster of usual speakers includes: Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, Mike Huckabee, Chuck Colson, Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, Bill Bennett, Henry Hyde, Dick Armey, Star Parker, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, and others.

Christian Coalition state affiliates received notices directing them to the particular city they are required to attend for their state organizing sessions. Invitations for two, waiving the $49 registration fee per person, were sent to tens-of-thousands of ministers.

While the shift in location affords more Christian Coalition members the opportunity to attend the sessions, it also exposes the conference to local media scrutiny and increased information gathering by church-state separationists.

Billy Graham speaks out

Montreat, North Carolina Interviewed on ABC's "20/20" in May, evangelist Billy Graham spoke out on abortion and homosexuality. When Hugh Downs asked Graham his stand on abortion, he replied, "I think abortion is a sin. I think it should be not be done except if the mother's life is in danger, if there's been a rape or incest or any of those things."

Downs then asked Graham his opinion about homosexuality. Graham responded, "I think the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin. But the Bible also teaches that pride is a sin, jealousy is a sin and hate is a sin. And so, I don't think that homosexuality should be chosen as the overwhelming sin that we're doing today."

Millions march for Jesus

Colorado Springs, Colorado According to the Pastor's Weekly Briefing, the 1997 Global March for Jesus held on May 17th attracted an estimated 10 million Christians from 100 nations worldwide. In the US, approximately one million marched for Jesus in 700 cities. Among the largest US rallies were: Nashville, 50,000; Oklahoma City, 20,000; Panama City, 15,000; Youngstown, 13,000.

'Deviant' art defunded

Charlotte, North Carolina County leaders concerned about the use of taxpayers' funds to promote "homosexual-themed art" voted to end funding for arts groups that emphasize "perverted forms of sexuality" in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The county commission voted 5-4 to cut $2.5 million in county funding for the Arts and Sciences Council, which funds arts projects. The commission decided that rather than giving money to the council, they will directly fund groups that meet community standards.

Tom Bush, who cast the deciding vote, said, "Do we give money to the arts and say, 'Spend it as you desire'? Do we not have a duty to be a steward of the public's money?"

The resolution says that funding is to be denied to projects which "promote, advocate or endorse behaviors, lifestyles and values that seek to undermine and deviate from the value and societal role of the traditional American family."

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.