Archive for June, 2005
Rev. Billy Graham’s last crusade in New York last week spawned a great deal of hagiographic reporting on the career of the famous evangelist. But one of Graham’s less reported legacies is his catalytic role in the formation of the modern Christian Right.
James Ridgeway, longtime Washington correspondent for The Village Voice reports this week that “If there is any one person responsible for George W. Bush’s presidency it is Billy Graham. It is safe to say that Graham, old and sick now, is the most politically adroit religious figure of our time.”
Ridgeway, who is a reader of FrederickClarkson.com and Bruce Prescott’s Mainstream Baptist has a succinct round-up of some of the more significant leaders of the Christian Right including Tony Perkins, Albert Mohler, Ralph Reed, and Ted Haggard.
Here is what he write about Haggard: “Pastor of Colorado Springs’s large New Life Church and head of the National Association of Evangelicals, with a membership of 45,000 churches, Haggard talks to the president or his advisers regularly. His is the most powerful religious lobby in the U.S. Pastor Ted believes in the military as a public service and backs preemptive war. “My fear,” he tells Harper’s, “is that my children will grow up in an Islamic state.”
By long standing tradition, the judging of the Theocrat of the Week competition at FrederickClarkson.com is shrouded in mystery. (Usually reliable sources have informed us however, that sometimes last-minute Googling may be involved.) Nevertheless, we dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists are pleased to announce our Theocrat of the Week: Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Perry recently made a splash by staging the signing of a piece of legislation at a church. Plans to film the event for his reelection campaign commercials were called off after the news of Perry’s plans generated controversy.
“There are lots of reasons to go to church on Sunday,” Rev. Robin Lovin, a Methodist minister and a professor of ethics at Southern Methodist University told The New York Times , “but making laws isn’t one of them.”
“‘Signing a bill into law in a church,’ he added, ‘is a pretty clear symbol that the church is at the service of the state or the state is at the service of the church and either way we’ve crossed an important line that has a long history in both politics and theology.’”
However, this bit of grandstanding was by itself, insufficient to earn Perry the coveted title of Theocrat of the Week.
Our judges were impressed with the governor’s response to a rather adversarial interview with KTRK-TV reporter Ted Oberg. Upon the conclusion of the interview, Perry said, “Adios, Mo-Fo.” We hasten to assure readers that this shockingly vulgar outburst was definitely not the reason for our judges’ recognition of Governor Perry. What put Governor Perry over the top, was that he later telephoned Mr. Oberg to say that he spoke “without malice.”
In this one bold stroke, Governor Perry rescued the expression “Mo-Fo” from the arsenal of profanity. Leading theocrats, such as James Dobson, Alan Keyes, and Albert Mohler have greeted the governor’s remarks with the sanctification of silence — thus we may be assured that Mo-Fo may now be used by all without fear of anyone taking offense.
In that spirit we at FrederickClarkson.com are also pleased to report that among the ripple effects of Governor Perry’s inspired Christian leadership has been the stimulation of the free market in the Lone Star State.
“Adios, Mo-Fo” tees and such must-have, malice-free products as Adios, Mo-Fo thongs, trucker hats, and coffee mugs by Austin political blogger pinkdome.com — are reportedly selling briskly.
I regret having to say this, but the Christian Alliance for Progress is off to an inauspicious start.
The new organization, presenting itself as a voice of the “Religious Left” has received some national and international press coverage, and it has set out some well articulated issue statements from a progressive Christian perspective. It says it wants to form a national progressive grassroots political organization. It has also been duly denounced by the Christian Right.
But there is one really big problem.
The group’s Director of Religious Affairs and principal spokesperson, Reverend Timothy F. Simpson, thinks and acts just like a leader of the Christian Right in one important respect. He publicly accuses the Democratic Party and “the left” of being anti-religious and suppressing religious expression. It is a baseless accusation and I hope he will abandon it.
In an interview with The American Prospect, here is what Simpson said:
“One of the great problems of the Democratic Party,” he said, “is that the 5 percent or so [of its members] who don’t want any religious rhetoric at all, and who do not represent the mainstream of American political or religious life, have been allowed to call the cadence in the [party]. And when that happens, Democrats get their butts kicked. Because people in this country are believers.”
“For Republicans and Democrats, he said, openness to religion ‘is clearly the winning strategy in this, the most religious of the Western industrial democracies. You just cannot ask people to check their faith at the door of the public-policy arena and expect to resonate with any significant segment of the electorate, because that’s not where people are. And folks on the left have just got to deal with that.’”
“Simpson characterized Democrats who are opposed to the injection of religion into politics as ‘extremists,’ saying that he can call for more religion to influence politics while still advocating a clear separation between church and state.”
“‘What we think the extremists in the Democratic Party fear, and rightly so, is a Christian takeover,’ he said. ‘We’re trying to emulate the style of [the Reverend Martin Luther] King, which is more to speak to the government than to become the government — which is what the folks on the right are doing.”
I am particularly struck by Simpson’s claim that “extremists” are calling the shots with regard to religion in the Democratic Party. Its a curious, and I think reckless use of the term.
The press release announcing the formation of Christian Alliance for Progress denounced “the extreme rhetoric and political agenda of the Religious Right.” The organization’s foundational Jacksonville Statement further denounces the “extremist political goals” of the Christian Right. If the leaders of the Democratic Party are extremist and the Christian Right is extremist, what does extremist really mean?
Rhetoric aside, the simple fact is that religion and religious expression has never been banished from the Democratic Party and Simpson presents no evidence that it has. Who is this supposed group that has “called the cadence” in the party with regard to religion? And who are these “extremists” and in exactly what ways are they extreme?
Perhaps at this point you are thinking, well, maybe Simpson was misquoted or having a bad day. Unfortunately, he said similar things at a press conference at the National Press Club on the occasion of the public launch of the Christian Alliance for Progress. Here is a quote from, the nationally syndicated Knight-Ridder newspapers account:
“Simpson said at the Press Club launch, ‘There is a sector of folks on the left that have been enormously vocal about (stressing secularism), that have shouted down the vast majority of folks on the left who are people of faith, who do believe in God.’”
This, friends, is hokum.
Simpson has no evidence that the Democratic Party or anyone in it is opposed to religion or its expression in public life. There is no evidence that more secular people on the Left have “shouted down” anyone from the Religious Left. (It has certainly never been my experience.)
Could the Democratic Party (and for that matter, all other sectors of society, handle the matter of religion better? Why yes, as a matter of fact it could. But Simpson’s divisive rhetoric is no help at all.
Simpson seems to have internalized one of the central message frames of the Christian Right of the past quarter century. (I discussed this frame in detail in chapter 8 of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, and some of the problems that result.)
For all of the good things the Christian Alliance for Progress stands for and has set out to do, it will gain little traction if one of its main themes is to attack Democrats and the Left as anti-religion and engaging in suppression of religious expression. We already have plenty of people who do that. We call them the leaders of the Christian Right.
Eric Rudolph is a convicted and confessed domestic terrorist. As summarized by the Associated Press, “Rudolph is scheduled to be sentenced to multiple life terms July 18 after pleading guilty in April to the deadly bombings at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998. He also admitted bombing a women’s clinic and gay bar in Atlanta in 1997.”
Rudolph spent five years simultaneously on the FBI’s Most Wanted List and on the lam in the backwoods of North Carolina, hiding out from the feds. Now he has published part of his story of life on the lam on the web site of the Army of God, a group many consider to be a domestic terrorist organization. Many of its members have been convicted of crimes against abortion providers, including murder, attempted murder, arson, bombing and kidnapping. They are hailed on the site as “Heroes of the Faith.”
Rudolph is listed among the “Prisoners For Unborn Children” who are defined as “Those incarcerated for saving unborn babies about to be murdered by babykilling abortionists.”
The AOG reports that the 5,500 word piece is “Eric Rudolph’s story while on the lam. Recently transcribed from a handwritten copy he sent.”
Its the tale of a survivalist and a revolutionary — acquiring the food he needed to survive in the woods, eluding capture, and living to fight another day. “Preparation is the key to success in most human endeavors, Rudolph writes, “but this is especially true when attempting to move two tons of grains twenty miles with no transportation or equipment, and doing this right under the noses of the two hundred F.B.I. agents who were looking for me.” Rudolph also discusses how he had planned to attack another abortion clinic as well as the FBI’s Rudolph-hunting headquarters, but he was unable to do so.
Rudolph suggests that his first story, won’t be the last. “But just wait until you hear about the time the cops took me to get some gas for my stolen truck. Maybe next time.”
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Charles Stone, who was one of the lead investigators in the Rudolph case, says “Based upon the information contained in this, there’s no doubt it was written by Eric.”
Curiously, the newspaper reported only that the story “was posted on a Web site operated by an anti-abortion group head quartered in Virginia.” But it was not hard to guess which one. Rudolph’s are not the only writings by major criminals published by the Army of God.
Currently, the AOG has posted the entire text of a book by convicted murder Paul Hill, titled Mix My Blood with the Blood of the Unborn.
In 2001 AOG posted stories by Clayton Waagner while was on the FBI’s most wanted list. I wrote at the time on Salon.com: “Waagner, who escaped from the DeWitt County Jail in Clinton, Ill., in February and has eluded capture since, says he’s been driving across the country stalking abortion clinics, assembling a cache of weapons and compiling dossiers on clinic staff in order “to kill as many of them as I can.” Clayton made his threats on the ‘Clayton Waagner Message Board,’ hosted by the antiabortion Army of God.”
“‘Pray,’ he asks his supporters, ‘that every one I kill causes a hundred to quit.’”
…”‘Thanks to some very generous bank financing’ — an apparent reference to the Harrisburg heist (and, the FBI believes, possibly others), Waagner says he is ensconced in a ‘very secure safe house’ and has assembled ‘the tools I would need to wage war.’”
“Waagner is far from a populist antihero, merrily thumbing his nose at the cops. His beliefs and plans are more comparable to those of the grimly methodical Timothy McVeigh, the Aryan Republican Army and other violent far-right revolutionaries of the past decade, including, of course, the Army of God, a shadowy, loosely affiliated band of antiabortion terrorists who’ve taken responsibility for assorted clinic violence. Waagner envisions himself pitted against ‘the most powerful country in the world’” — a country that views him as a terrorist.”
“They’re right,” he declares. “I am a terrorist. And that’s the reason I’m posting this letter.”
The Army of God continues to celebrate the criminal exploits of the likes of Hill, Rudolph, and Waagner. Meanwhile, prochoice leaders, and former undercover FBI agent Mike German, believe that the support network that spawned and supported them needs to be further investigated.
Human Rights Watch, one of the largest rights organizations in the world, issued an 85 page report last week declaring that the lack of access to abortion violates a woman’s human rights. The Human Rights Watch position is seen as a harbinger of increasing sensitivity to womens reproductive rights concerns among international human rights organizations. But with the exception of a news story by Asjylyn Loder on Women’s eNews and a news brief in Ms. Magazine Online — there was nothing in the American media about this remarkable development. (At least nothing that I could find.)
Women’s eNews reports that the human rights group “has thrown its weight behind a woman’s right to choose, simultaneously releasing a report on Argentina recommending liberalized abortion laws there and filing a brief in support of a Colombian case trying to appeal that country’s strict abortion ban.”
“The moves bolster challenges to abortion bans in Colombia and Argentina and raise the pressure on other rights groups that have so far skirted the issue.”
“Reproductive rights advocates hope the will mark a shift in the mainstream human rights community, which they say has long avoided explicit support for reproductive rights–especially abortion–for fear of political backlash.”
The New York-based Human Rights Watch “believes that decisions about abortion belong to a pregnant woman without interference by the state or others. The denial of a pregnant woman’s right to make an independent decision regarding abortion violates or poses a threat to a wide range of human rights.” The organization reports that about 40 percent of all pregnancies in Argentina end in abortion and illegal abortion has been the leading cause of death among pregnant women for two decades.
“Historically,” states the HRW report, titled Decisions Denied Women’s Access to Contraceptives and Abortion in Argentina, “successive governments have legislated on matters related to contraception and abortion as if women were instruments of reproduction and not equal human beings, contributing to an underlying sense among service providers and policy makers that birth control and reproductive health care are somehow illegitimate, immoral, or even illegal. The consequences for women’s health and lives are serious, sometimes literally fatal.”
“While Argentina’s current government is making important strides toward addressing a number of the abuses exposed in this report, its efforts to date continue at times to be undermined by public health officials who are opposed to reform, or who fear retribution if they implement the needed reforms.”
“As detailed in this report, women who want to use contraceptives face a series of imposing, sometimes insurmountable restrictions and obstacles. These barriers include domestic and sexual violence at the hands of intimate partners which authorities are not moving aggressively enough to prevent and remedy. Another obstacle is blatantly inaccurate or misleading information, too often propagated by health care workers themselves. A third is that many poor women simply cannot afford contraceptives and government promises of assistance are often not reaching those who need it most.”
Women’s eNews also reports that “Abortion is the third-leading cause of maternal mortality in Colombia, according to Women’s Link Worldwide, an international nongovernmental organization dedicated to advancing reproductive rights through international human rights law… Colombian law bans all abortions, even in cases of rape or when the life of the pregnant woman is at risk.”
The horrors of the current situation in Aregentina and Columbia should give pause to those who think that overturning Roe vs. Wade would not be that big a deal — and maybe cause them to consider more seriously the consequences of the policies that the theocratic, procriminalization lobby is seeking to impose in the United States.
Meanwhile, the silence in the American media is chilling.
Periodically, we here at FrederickClarkson.com are compelled to recognize an individual in American politics or government whose efforts on behalf of theocracy are, well, extraordinary. This week we recognize the efforts of U.S. Rep. John Hoesttler (R-IN) who has pushed through legislation in the House that would deny funding to enforce the ruling of a federal court which declared that a display of a monument to Ten Commandments in a court house in his district was unconstitutional. He also declared on the House floor, that “Democrats cannot help denigrating and demonizing Christians.” Finally, in a House committee meeting, he referred to “the mythical wall [of] separation between church and state that’s been erected by the courts.” (Although he did not say this last item this week, our judges have ruled that it counts since the remark came to our attention this week.)
Here are the details.
The National Jewish Democratic Council reports: “During a debate… surrounding an amendment by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) to fully examine allegations of proselytizing and religious intolerance at the United States Air Force Academy, six-term Republican Rep. John Hostettler (IN) rose to assert that ‘Democrats can’t help denigrating and demonizing Christians.’ [Rush transcript.] Rep. Obey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, interrupted Hostettler’s deeply disturbing remarks and demanded that they be formally retracted; Hostettler ultimately agreed to retract one sentence from his diatribe.”
“Earlier in his remarks, Hostettler discussed the drive by Democrats to erase every ‘vestige’ of Christianity from America; he also prefaced his remarks by noting that ‘The long war on Christianity today continues on the floor of the House of Representatives.’ During a meeting of the House Armed Services Committee on May 18th, while debating a similar amendment by Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), Hostettler referred to ‘the mythical wall separation (sic) between church and state that’s been erected by the courts.’”
Regarding Obey’s amendment, Americans United for Separation of Church and State reports that Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) plans to strip the bill of the amendment and replace it with a watered down version.
Meanwhile, Hosteller has been active on another front as well. The Interfaith Alliance reports: “Last week, as the House debated an appropriations bill for the Departments of State, Justice and Commerce (H.R.2862), Rep. Hostettler (R-IN) introduced an amendment to prohibit any funds from being used to enforce Russelburg v. Gibson County. A federal court in that case ruled that a courthouse in Rep. Hostettler’s district containing a Ten Commandments display violated the First Amendment and had to be removed. During the debate, Rep. Hostettler stated that the ruling was unconstitutional, and inconsistent with ‘the Christian heritage of the United States.’”
“Following the court ruling, Rep. Hostettler wrote President George W. Bush, asking for support to deny law enforcement from carrying out the order. The matter was referred to the U.S. Department of Justice, which informed Hostettler that law enforcement officials are obligated to enforce court orders under federal law. President Bush has said that he will uphold the court’s ruling that Rep. Hostettler seeks to defy.” (Hostettler says he is “disappointed.”)
“Rep. Hostettler sponsored a similar amendment regarding a Ten Commandments monument in Alabama in 2003 that passed the House but was rejected in the Senate.”
It remains to be seen what the Senate will do about Hostettler’s current effort.
Congratulations to Rep. John Hosttetler, Republican of Indiana — Theocrat of the Week.
Nominations from readers for Theocrat of the Week are always welcome, and may be e-mailed care of this web site.
The Associated Press (via Salon.com) reports that Ralph Reed, the founding and former executive director of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition has announced that he is running for Lt. Governor of Georgia.
Much is rightfully being made that Reed has had many unsavory dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff who stands accused of ripping off Indian tribes who were lobbying to be able to operate casinos. While its possible that opponents in the Republican and in the Democratic Parties, (not to mention sitting grand juries and Congressional investigations of Abramoff’s affairs) may be able to make the charges stick, to count on this would be unwise.
The fundamental lesson of Reed’s tenure at the Christian Coalition is the organization matters. People who believe that the tinge of scandal, or of ties to people who make extreme or outrageous statements (like Robertson) will trump skilled and sustained organization, and the growing power of the Christian Right, have missed the most important lessons in politics of the past 15 years.
Meanwhile, the Lt. Governor’s office in Georgia is thought to be a powerless office. So why would Reed, the current chairman of the state GOP want the job?
The AP reports: “Marshall Wittmann, who worked with Reed at the Christian Coalition but now works for the Democratic Leadership Council, thinks Reed wants to be president.”
“‘He knew he couldn’t go from the Christian Coalition, so he became a political consultant, then Georgia GOP chairman, then coordinator for the Bush campaign. The next logical step is to win a political office. This is what’s available, but it’s clearly a stepping stone to higher office,” Wittmann said.”
It should be noted that Lt. Governor is a statewide office — which means developing a statewide campaign infrastructure, which can be deployed into a race for governor or senator down the road.
Recently, the Ohio Restoration Project announced plans to mobilize conservative Christian voters towards the 2006 elections. The principal beneficiary appears to be Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell who is running for the Republican nomination for governor. (I referred to this in passing in Part I, which described Blackwell’s involvement in a dominionist seminar at Cedarville University on June 17th.) The story has been widely reported, including by the New York Times, and much blogged, for example by Bruce Prescott at Talk to Action.
But there was one part of the Ohio Restoration Project action plan that was strikingly familiar to me. It incorporates a feature of two pivotal events in the development of the contemporary Christian Right — the Washington for Jesus rallies held on the mall in Washington, DC in the 1980s. Interestingly too, they may very well also follow the model of abuse of non-profit tax-exempt organizations that accompanied these events.
The Ohio Restoration Project is a carefully planned campaign to maximize conservative Christian voter participation in the 2006 elections. The project will among other things engage people through a series of “pastor policy briefings” for large numbers of leaders and followers in the largest cities in Ohio, coupled with advertising featuring comments from Ken Blackwell. And they want to recruit some 2,000 “Patriot Pastors” to lead the way. They also intend to ensure that Christian Right voter guides from any of several groups (Christian Coalition, American Family Association, etc. are in widespread use. They aim for 4 million. Of course some of this would have happened anyway, but they are providing an organizing focus that will not only ensure mere distribution, but generate interest and enthusiasm. There are plans to build e-mail lists, host “non-partisan” voter registration drives in churches, all of these activities are intended to build a political network that will influence the 2006 elections and beyond, and seize control of Republican party organizations in every county in the state.
As the New York Times reported, “In a manifesto that is being circulated among church leaders and on the Internet, the group, which is called the Ohio Restoration Project, is planning to mobilize 2,000 evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic leaders in a network of so-called Patriot Pastors to register half a million new voters, enlist activists, train candidates and endorse conservative causes in the next year.”
“The initial goal is to elect Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a conservative Republican, governor in 2006. The group hopes to build grass-roots organizations in Ohio’s 88 counties and take control of local Republican organizations.”
This represents a new, and possibly dynamic wave of energy and organizing. Its got a well thought out plan, that builds on existing models, including the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, and more. Far from being an original, out of the blue scheme, it shrewdly and knowledgably builds on and applies Christian Right organizing models of the past generation.
A highlight of the campaign, going into the fall elections, is an event they will call “Ohio for Jesus” rally set for the spring of 2006. They hope to have top Christian Right leaders like Pat Robertson and James Dobson join Kenneth Blackwell as headliners for the rally.
The model comes from ground-breaking rallies in Washington, DC in 1980 and again in 1988. These events called Washington for Jesus, had similar political messages, but disingenuously claimed to be apolitical. They were transparently aimed at the political mobilization of evangelical Christians in general and charismatic and Pentecostals in particular. I wrote about these events in my 1997 book, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, from which this discussion is adapted.
These events — pivotal events in the history of the development of the Christian Right — were also integral to the political mobilization of Pentecostals and charistmatics that became the base for the electoral ambitions of Pat Robertson, and later the core of the Christian Coalition that built on Robertson’s unsuccessful run for the presidency. These were historic events in part because Pentecostals and charismatics had previously been largely apolitical. It took a multi-year and multi-institutional, multi-campaign effort to gradually orient them to political and electoral engagement.
Washington for Jesus, held in the spring of 1980 in the run up to the fall elections, was originally billed as a “prayer rally” — but controversy erupted when a political declaration which was to be released at the supposedly apolitical event, leaked to the press. The declaration, drafted by rally leaders, including Pat Robertson, Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ, and Demos Shakarian of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, claimed, among other things, that “unbridled sexuality, humanism and Satanism are taught [in the schools] at public expense” and “our currency has been debased… and our armed forces weakened.” The manifesto also called for “laws, statutes, and ordinances that are in harmony with God’s word.” Some, seeking prayer not politics, dropped out. In the name of unity, the declaration was dropped as well.
Nevertheless, Bill Bright called the event “the single most important day in the history of the United States since the Declaration of Independence.” Rally coordinator Ted Panteleo said “I think President Reagan was elected as a result of what happened up there.”
Soon after the WFJ rally for “Godly government,” the non-profit Freedom Council was organized by Pat Robertson, who provided cash, mailing lists and office space at the headquarters of his Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN.) Ted Panteleo, the founding director… said in 1982 that they were organizing in every congressional district toward “a Christian president, and a Christian government.”
U.S. News and World Report reported that CBN pumped $8.5 million into the Freedom Council, which concentrated its efforts in states likely to boost Robertson’s 1988 GOP presidential primary efforts: “early voting states like Michigan and Iowa where Robertson’s campaign has subsequently done so well” the magazine noted.
By the fall of 1987, the Internal Revenue Service and the press were probing for links between the Freedom Council and Robertson’s as yet undeclared candidacy. That October, the Freedom Council shut down, and the results of the IRS investigation were never made public. Four months later Robertson ally Rev. John Giminez of Virginia Beach, VA announced Washington for Jesus 1988 — with Ted Panteleo as coordinator. Former Freedom Council officials later admitted that they fronted for the Robertson campaign. “The entire process was to create a launching pad for Pat Robertson’s bid for the presidency,’ former Council executive director Dick Minard told NBC News.”
While the model, borrowed from the pioneers of the Robertson wing of the Christian Right is obvious, one thing that is remarkable about Ohio for Jesus is how it is so openly a front for the electoral ambitions of Ken Blackwell. The participation of churches in this effort may very well jeopardize their 501(c)(3) tax status conferred by the IRS. Tax-exemptions for churches require being scrupulously nonpartisan with regard to use of church resources.
Interestingly, partisan abuse by partisan Christian Right groups is not new in Ohio. In 1996, in response to concerns raised by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Ohio Roundtable, then the leading Christian Right political organization in the state, and an affiliate of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, was forced to drop their biased voter guide. One wonders if the reasonable constraints placed on non-profit organizations regarding electoral activity are enforceable in today’s political climate. Focus on the Family has a national network of state level “Family Policy Councils.” The current recognized FOF affiliate in Ohio is the Cincinnati based Citizens for Community Values, which is also very active.
In any case, the Ohio Restoration Project plan as written is fraught with the likelihood that churches or other tax exempt organizations could stray well over the lines drawn by the IRS. It may very well be that this is intentional. There is a similar effort underway in Texas to recruit and mobilize “patriot pastors.” Interestingly, Focus on the Family is promoting this effort, and an article in its magazine suggests possible collusion with the Republican Party.
“Internal data from the Republican National Committee shows that an estimated 40 percent of Christians — that’s about 24 million people — are not registered to vote. Considering that just over 100,000 votes enabled four pro-choice candidates for the U.S. Senate to defeat pro-life candidates, church voter registration is a key force in changing our nation’s future.”
Christian Right attorney Matt Staver is quoted in the article claiming that no church has ever lost its 501(c)(3) tax status over electoral work. While this is not so, available evidence suggests that this election cycle will see a further pushing the envelope of non-profit tax abuse by Christian Right groups fronting for Republican candidates for office.
It is said that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. The Christian Right has learned from and is building on its own history. This is an example of how and why the Christian Right is the best organized faction in American politics. They have developed and evolved models of political organizing appropriate to the constituencies they are seeking to organize. They persist across the election cycles. They plan ahead. The rest of society has pretty much yet to come to terms with the sea changes in politics brought about by the Christian Right — which only benefits from being underestimated and misunderstood.
The theocratic Christian Right in Ohio promises to gather a lot of attention in the run up to the 2006 elections. The controversial Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell is the movement’s apparent choice for governor.
Plans by a group called the Ohio Restoration Project to mobilize conservative Christians on Blackwell’s behalf has been widely reported, including by the New York Times.
But Blackwell is trolling for support in other precincts of the Christian Right as well. He is a featured speaker at a Christian Right conference on Friday, June 17th at Cedarville University, a Baptist school in southwestern Ohio.
The conference is transparently seeking to persuade conservative Christian businessmen to become political activists and political donors. “This conference is for folks who earnestly desire to make a difference in their generation through economic means,” according to the description on the conference web site. “They want to learn how to win in the marketplace and win big so they can leverage their resources and influence on behalf of a Kingdom agenda.”
The event is sponsored by “Business Reform” magazine — which brags about its line up of speakers: “It would cost you thousands for a day with them, but you and up to three friends can join them June 17th at Cedarville University from 8 -5 with a single $49 subscription to Business Reform magazine.”
Whatever else it may be, it is an event with dominionist Christian Right overtones. One of the featured speaker is Rev. Dennis Peacock, a longtime theocratic activist, whose organization Strategic Christian Services says it brings a “Biblical Worldview” to business. In a recent column posted on his web site, Peacock attributes the nation’s problems to “our increasingly anti-Christ culture where secular humanism has gutted our cultural morality and worldview with a perjurious historical revisionism worthy of the Hitlers and Stalins whose ambitions we claim to have not only defeated but transcended.”
Peacock was a founder and leader of the Coalition on Revival, which led a series of theological conversations in the 1980s that have been pivotal in animating, and setting the more decisively theocratic direction of the Christian Right.
Another seminar speaker is Dr. Gary Cass, who heads the Center for Reclaiming America, a political arm of Rev. D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries. For ten years, Kennedy has held an increasingly influential political conference at his church in Ft. Lauderdale. This year, the Christian Science Monitor ran a feature story about the conference.
“In material given to conference attendees,” according to the Monitor, Kennedy wrote: “‘As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government… our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors — in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.’”
The Center for Reclaiming America, the Monitor reported, “aims to increase its 500,000-strong ‘e-mail army’ to 1 million, and to encourage Christians to run for office. It has plans for 12 regional offices and activists in all 435 US House districts. And a new lobbying arm in Washington will target judicial nominations and the battle over marriage.”
“‘If they don’t vote our way, we’ll change their view one way or another,’ executive director Gary Cass tells the group. As a California pastor, Dr. Cass spearheaded efforts to close abortion clinics and recruit Christians to seek positions on local school boards. ‘We’re going to take back what we lost in the last half of the 20th century,’ he adds.”
The title of Cass’ Cedarville talk is: “Winning the Culture Wars.”
Of course, just because Mr. Blackwell is speaking at a conference with Cass and Peacock, does not mean that he necessarily shares their views. On the other hand, this is yet one more example of the way that the ambitious Blackwell, who is running for governor in 2006, is positioning himself as the candidate of the Christian Right.
[This is part I of a two part series on Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and his relationship to the Christian Right. Crossposted at Talk To Action]
Two Anti-gay campaigners from Massachusetts, Brian Camenker (of the Parents Rights Coalition and the Article 8 Alliance) and David Parker were in Maine on June 13th and 14th for six city “Wake Up” tour by Christian Right groups. The tour sought to gain attention for thier effort to gather enough petition signatures to stop implementation of a new law that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, credit, housing, education, and public accommodations. The law is due to take effect on June 28th.
According to an article in the Morning Sentinel Parker and Camenker were the guests of the Christian Civic League at one stop on Tuesday “to alert Mainers to what’s happened in other states with progressive gay-rights laws.”
Parker as the father of a child in the Lexington, MA public schools, complains about a picture book that depicts a same sex couple as parents; and he wants to be able to remove his son from any possible reference to homosexuality in school. Here in MA, we often allow children to begin to understand that there may be different kinds of families in the world. Parker and Cameneker, however, are obsessed with “the gay agenda.” Parker was arrested when he refused to leave school property until he got his way in the matter.
Here is what the Coalition for Marriage says on its web site about the “hidden agenda of the homosexual rights movement:”
“When the homosexual rights movement succeeds in their effort to gain absolute power, they will vent their fury on men of God with all the rage of the crowd gathered outside Abraham’s door in Sodom and Gomorrah.”
The nasty crusade is not going unopposed. “As Parker and Camenker told their stories,” reported the Morning Sentinel,” a small group of people holding signs stood silently in the back of the room to show their opposition to the event. Members of Waterville’s First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, said they want the public to know that not all Christians agree with the civic league’s efforts.”
Mainers might be interested in MA blogger Marry in Massachusetts’ eye-opening take on Parker’s tale. They might also be interested in knowing about the noxious electoral activities of Camenker’s Article 8 Alliance last year, and again this year during special elections for the MA House of Representatives.
Its hard to beat Maine’s Coalition for Marriage for absurd and inflammatory rhetoric, but the Article 8 Alliance is certainly in the running, as Cecilia d’Oliveira, a resident of a town that knows them well showed in a letter-to-the-editor.
Here is part of what she wrote: “The Article 8 Alliance has aligned itself with David Parker in his effort to undermine the inclusive and welcoming nature of Lexington’s public schools. Article 8 may also have been instrumental in creating the incident in order to generate press coverage sympathetic to their political views. So perhaps residents would be interested in learning more about this group.”
“The Article 8 Alliance is an organization that is behind multiple pieces of harmful anti-judicial and anti-gay legislation. One proposed bill would actually require all parents to “opt-in” before a teacher could even mention the same-gender parents of a student!”
“If you go to the Article 8 Web site and click on their MassResistance blog, you will find many inflammatory quotes, some about our town. Here are four examples: 1) ‘the jackbooted thugs currently in control of the Lexington schools;’ 2) ‘the fascists of Lexington are marching in lockstep!;’ 3) ‘Lexington lemmings;’ 4) ‘Lexington LGBTQI Fourth Reichers.’”
( A Tip o’ the Hat to fellow MA blogger .08 Acres and a Donkey for pointing the way on this story.)
[Crossposted at Talk to Action]