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`Sleazy Stunt' By Small Religious Right Group Falls Flat In Senate Race.

An effort by a small Religious Right group to circulate rumors that First Lady and Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is a lesbian fell flat in September after the national news media declined to pick up the story.

The Christian Action Network (CAN), a Religious Right group based in Forest, Va., held a press conference in New York City Sept. 7 to announce plans to place ads in the New York media suggesting that Clinton is gay. The organization freely admitted that it had no hard evidence for the allegation but cited ongoing "rumors."

Americans United, which has monitored CAN for the past 11 years, said the action was a typically sleazy move by the group and its president, Martin Mawyer, a former employee of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's now-defunct Moral Majority.

"The Christian Action Network's rhetoric is so extreme that people may be tempted to dismiss the entire organization as a joke," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "But there's nothing funny about hate-mongering. Religious groups should elevate political discourse, not drag it down into the gutter. I call on all responsible Christian leaders to condemn this organization's vitriol and smear tactics."

CAN's fund-raising letters encourage hatred of homosexuals, make outrageous claims about public education and other targets and float improbable scenarios about a possible United Nations takeover of America.

Lynn cited the following examples:

* A January 2000 mailing asserting that CAN faces "voluntary bankruptcy" and may soon go out of business. The letter begged for $20 gifts and insisted that "the sheriff may come in any day and SEIZE our equipment, desks, phones and even chairs."

* A March 2000 letter written by Mawyer's wife, Bonnie, blasted Disney for allowing gay groups to visit Disney World. The letter asserts, "Now I have learned that the radical, perverted homosexuals and lesbians are already promoting their `2000 Disney Gay Day' -- with Disney's help! And they are timing it to occur in June -- right when children out of school will be flocking to Disney-owned parks! This proves the true intent of these homosexuals: they are after our children!!"

* A February 2000 mailing soliciting support to help conservatives keep control of Congress. The letter read in part, "I am not ready to give this great nation over to one-world government extremists ... radical, disease-carrying homosexuals ... or anti-family lesbian feminists ... or hate-mongering atheists who despise our religious beliefs ... or the ACLU who would deny us our free speech rights ... or anti-American U.N. globalists!"

* A September 1998 letter that sought to raise funds from CAN supporters because Mawyer had been in a traffic accident on Virginia's "Interstate 29" (there is no such road in the state) two years earlier. Mawyer claimed the organization's van was damaged and was trying to raise funds for a new one.

CAN's Mawyer appears to be following closely in the footsteps of Falwell, who helped Mawyer get his start. Falwell too has engaged in ethically dubious activities, including selling a videotape charging President Bill Clinton with involvement in the drug trade and arranging murders.

Concluded Lynn, "With this un-Christian and frankly sleazy stunt, Mawyer has managed to match his old boss Jerry Falwell," said AU's Lynn. "That's no easy accomplishment."

Mawyer, in a press release, asserted, "The question of Hillary Rodham Clinton's sexual preference is important. If someone cannot be trusted to abide by the laws of nature -- they should not be involved in passing laws for the nation."

Mawyer apparently hoped the charges against the first lady would win mentions in the national media and boost his obscure group's low public profile and sagging budget. He announced plans to run the ads attacking Clinton in several New York cities, but reporters did not see the effort as a serious one. Mawyer's plan backfired badly when the national and New York media ignored the event.
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2000
Words:638
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